The Rise of Kalimantan Green Warriors: Rebuilding youth’s connection with nature

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Sumarni Laman

Our busy lives frequently make us lose touch with nature and slowly disconnect us from landscapes and forests. We spend more time hooked up to digital gadgets and the online world than we do building a connection with nature. Connectedness with nature is crucial not only to our wellbeing but also to Mother Earth. It can be a driving force in ecology restoration because – as Schultz (2002) explained – if a person feels connected to nature, he or she is more likely to care for and protect the environment. Therefore, through a leadership program called “The Rise of Kalimantan Green Warriors,” Youth Act Kalimantan encouraged young people to spend more time in peat swamp forests in order to learn about peatland ecosystems and to rebuild their connection with nature. 

The Rise of Kalimantan Green Warriors equips local champions with the skillset and knowledge to join the frontlines of ecosystem conservation. Every selected participant in this one-month leadership program should finish various missions to graduate as a ‘green warrior.’ This includes conducting social media campaigns to raise awareness about deforestation, engaging people to plant trees, restoring burned peatlands, and learning how to be firefighters that protect peatlands. This program allows youth to experience nature by exploring peat swamp forests and living with the Indigenous Dayak community in order to enrich their knowledge of peatlands and Dayak wisdom in protecting valuable ecosystems. 

More than 100 young people from all across Kalimantan Island have applied to join the Rise of Kalimantan Green Warriors, and only 20 participants that showed great passion for the environment were selected in the first and second program. Muhammad Taufik -a university student and local firefighter-and Muhammad Andi, a teacher, were among the selected participants. Here is their story in joining this program   

“When I first put my foot on the peat swamp forest to carry out our mission of finding a particular tree, a chill ran down my spine as a childhood memory flashed before my eyes, recalling how I used to explore forests with my father in order to source food,” says Muhammad Taufik, “The trees, air, songs of birds, and muddy soil brought back the feeling of connectedness with nature because it has been a long time since I play in the lust forest. This experience fueled my passion to do more for forests because in my hometown we don’t have many forests anymore”.

Taufik and his team distributed food and logistics to Hanjalipan village that experienced big flood in September 2021

In September, together with other Green Warriors Taufik ran a flood-relief mission to help villagers affected by flooding in remote areas. Due to heavy rain and reduced water catchment areas, many parts of Kalimantan island are impacted. 

The experience of spending time in nature and connecting with the Indigenous Dayak elders has deeply inspired many of the green warriors to embark on their green mission. For instance, Muhammad Andi, a recent graduate who just began his career as an elementary school teacher, has initiated the SMILE project, which integrated green studies and Indigenous Dayak wisdom into the school curriculum. 

“My students were very enthusiastic to learn about forests through storytelling using the Dayak Ngaju language. I hope this project can nurture their love of nature,” he says.  

Muhammad Andi engaged his students to plant tree in their school SDIT Alam IKM Al Muhajirin

Taufik and Andi are great examples of how rebuilding a connection with nature can inspire people to become “stewards” on the frontlines of ecosystem protection. We hope more and more young people develop a deep relationship with nature.

To find out more about the Heartland Project and support our movement, please visit our website www.ranuwelum.org  and find us on Instagram @youth_actkalimantan.

Sumarni Laman

The Heartland Project

The Heartland Project focuses on different areas that are closely related to the Indigenous Dayak living system. First, the Tumbang Nusa village, located in Pulang Pisau regency, a source of hotspots for 23 years. The second area for the project is in Talekoi village, located in South Barito regency, which still has a lush forest, under the threat of forest fires.

 Instagram: @sumarni_laman

 Twitter: @sumarnilaman

Want to connect with Sumarni? Write to restorationstewards@gmail.com

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Supporting partners

Under the banner of Generation Restoration, the Youth in Landscapes Initiative (YIL) and the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) launched the Restoration Stewards program in 2020 to support and highlight the work of six young restoration practitioners and their teams, dubbed ‘Restoration Stewards’. The year-long program provides funding, mentorship, and training to deepen the impact of these projects.
In 2021, the Restoration Stewards and their teams will be supported to further develop their project and will become ambassadors at both global and local levels. Globally, the Restoration Stewards will share their journey in a series of vlogs and blogs documenting their stories of inspiration and challenges. Locally, they will spark a restoration movement, creating pathways to connect, share, learn, and act for more sustainable landscapes.