Himba Raya: A small step to bring back peat-swamp forest

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20 February 2022
Eka Cahyaningrum

“Restoration of peatlands is a low-hanging fruit and among the most cost-effective options for mitigating climate change.”

IUCN UK Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands Full Report, IUCN UK Peatland Programme

Peat swamp forests

Tropical peat swamp forest is a unique ecosystem that is under enormous threat from human activities from logging, including drainage and subsequent fire, conversion for agriculture (for example oil palm), and wildlife hunting. Perhaps more than any other forest ecosystem, tropical peat swamp forest is susceptible to the synergistic effects of multiple human disturbances because of the balance that exists among vegetation, peat, and hydrology (Hudson et al., 2018; Posa et.al., 2011). Nevertheless, these peatlands have experienced annual wildfire disasters over the last 20 years due to the disturbance of its hydrological function through logging and canal constructions.

Tropical peat swamp forests are a unique ecosystem that is under enormous threat from human activities such as logging, conversion to agriculture, drainage, fires, and wildlife hunting. Logging and conversion to agriculture have badly degraded an enormous area of peat swamp rainforest. This has led to significant carbon dioxide emissions and annual fires. As a result, nearby communities have experienced the negative health impacts of wildfire smoke.

HIRAI project area in Pulang Pisau District

HIRAI and Restoration Stewards

I am a biologist by profession and have been working in primate behavior research for the last four years. While I was working in Central Borneo, I joined the firefighting team during the 2019 fire. At the time, I felt that what I was doing was not enough as there are so many more components of conservation that I wanted and needed to learn to be able to do something. That is why I started to become interested in the landscape approach to conservation and restoration.

Triggered by the urgency of the climate crisis for humanity, I am collaborating with other youth leaders in Central Kalimantan to establish Himba Raya Indonesia (HIRAI). HIRAI aims to raise awareness of environmental degradation and the need for solutions that support local communities in the region.

Pilot planting in HIRAI’s project area
Restoration Activity

Our objective is to restore the peat ecosystem that has been damaged by forest fires. This is important for the carbon sink and hydrological cycle in the surrounding areas. Peatlands are the source of many rivers and are important for water storage and supply as well as the mitigation of droughts and floods. Our project will play an important role in restoring these vital ecosystem services. 

Other than ecological restoration, this project will involve the local community in the surrounding area by making them the owners and implementers of this project. As the project grows, we will expand our work with the village by providing education and training and involving more people in the restoration and fire prevention project. We hope the community will develop a greater understanding that economic resilience can be achieved through conservation and restoration.

Follow our journey through our Instagram @ikaa_cahya and @hirai_foundation and website at himbaraya.org.

Eka Cahyaningrum

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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.