• 08/11/23

Keeping hope alive with Coconut Shells

  • Community
  • News
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In a simple house where Wahid, his wife and four children live, in Babirah village, Pulau Hanaut sub-district, East Kotawaringin, there is a specially decorated booth which serves as a showroom for his own creations of coconut shell crafts. There are flower-shaped table decorations, key chains, and ashtrays in the shape of coconut trees that catch one’s attention. These crafts are beautiful, creative, and delicate, especially when compared to the wooden souvenirs sold in Jakarta or Bali. The workshop is located at the back of the house, furnished only with a bench and some simple tools for cutting and carving coconut shells.

Wahid (47 years) is an example of a villager who is tenacious, creative, and persistent. Like many other residents in Babirah village, apart from farming and cultivating crops, Wahid also started his life by going in and out of the forest to cut trees and hunt. He never once hesitated to burn land in the forest to facilitate his hunting.

“Dry season is the best time for hunting because animals will come out looking for water. During this period, it is also easy to burn the land so that new shoots grow and become food for deer, making it easier to catch them,” Wahid recalled. During the planting season, he also cleared land for farming by burning.

Logging trees, hunting, and burning land were what Wahid did daily to provide for his family for many years. In 2016, he met with the RMU team, who at that time entered Babirah village to approach illegal loggers and land burners in a persuasive way through a social management program. Although he refused at first, Wahid was more open-minded compared to the other residents. He gradually realized that nature was changing over time and was not as friendly as it used to be. The fertility of the soil was decreasing, and some forest fires forced him to move his house. Large floods were also damaging his crops, while the longer dry season made water scarce. It crossed his mind that the activities he had been doing could be contributing to these issues

The approach taken by the RMU team strengthened his determination to stop cutting wood and hunting and to focus more on farming and cultivating coconuts. Aware of the risk of forest fires arising from his practice of slashing and burning to clear land, he was willing to try farming without these techniques and without chemicals. Now, his rice harvest from one planting season is enough to meet the needs of his family for a year, while he also now grows vegetables.

 “Here, after the rice is harvested, farmers have to wait for six months for the next planting season. Farmers usually start planting together and harvest once a year,” he explained.

Not wanting to simply wait for the next planting season, Wahid put his creativity into the coconut shells from the abundant copra industrial waste in his village. It started when one of his children, who was in high school, had difficulty with a school assignment to make handicrafts from coconut shells and asked for his help. With no previous experience, he experimented tinkering with the shells to help his beloved son, and it turned Wahid discovered his new talent and passion: becoming a coconut shell craftsman. Now, he has been pursuing this activity for six months, and his work is favored by the local community. Several schools have ordered coconut shell souvenirs from him, generating extra income for his family. His work is also marketed through the STA cooperative (School for Farming Agroecology) facilitated by RMU.

Deputy Head of the Pulau Hanaut Zone from RMU, Donnal Setiawan, hopes that more villagers will follow Wahid and stop going into the forest to log, start farming without burning and chemicals, and use their creativity to generate income for their family.

"I admit that it is not easy. We never stop inviting residents and facilitating them, but not all have the will, tenacity, and creativity like Pak Wahid. It takes time and different approaches with each person.”

Wahid is living proof that residents have the option to live side by side with nature without harming or exploiting it. He also proves that having the will, tenacity, and creativity can ensure your family’s needs are not only fulfilled but guaranteed.

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