• 08/11/23

From Logger to Broiler Breeder

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On a distant coast of Central Kalimantan, at the southern tip of Pulau Hanaut District, lies a tiny village inhabited by 1,293 people. Desa Satiruk is a village that can only be accessed via rivers and canals using a ces boat, a motorized wooden canoe that can carry four passengers. As we sail through the red-brown water canal – the color of peat water – towards Satiruk Village - the views of lush peat swamp forest trees, rows of coconut trees with their leaves like a canopy, and wooden stilt houses are a feast for the eyes.

As in many other villages around the Katingan Mentaya Project concession area in Central Kalimantan, wood is still the main building material. Limited access and purchasing power mean the residents have yet to turn to cement, bricks, or other commonly used building materials. Due to its remote location and limited infrastructure, buying wood from nearby towns such as Samuda or Sampit costs a lot. As a result, the community either takes wood from the forest or orders it from local loggers.

This became one of the sources of resistance faced by the RMU team when they first worked together with the community in Satiruk Village.  “Coming across loggers in the forest is like meeting a hen who is protecting her chicks and is ready to attack anyone she feels is disturbing,” an RMU staff member on Pulau Hanaut recalled the first time he entered the area. For a logger, the forest is the main source of income to feed his family, and they will fight hard to defend the territory. Needless to say that at first, they saw the presence of RMU as a threat, and tension arose.

Just like most of the residents of Satiruk village, Ardani (47 years) was a farmer and an active logger. Together with his son, he went in and out of the forest to cut meranti and punak trees around Tatah Idak – the canal leading to the forest area where Satiruk loggers search for wood. This canal was used as a means of transporting felled wood, by floating it. The canal has now been dammed and can no longer be used to transport logs, and you can see many tree stumps left over from logging activities.  When meeting Ardani at his simple stilt house on the bank of Handil Simpang, he seems friendly and likes to smile and tell a lot of stories. Behind his optimism and open perspective, there is also a long story of his life's struggles.

"I really wanted to finish school, but I couldn't because of limited funds," was the first thing Ardani said. “Being a logger is one way to earn quick income. When I was still a logger, I knew that logging was prohibited, but what else could I do? My income from planting rice and coconuts was not enough to support my wife and three children." He admits that there were times when he was fed up with the high risk of illegal logging, and he had heard stories about the threat of deforestation due to logging activities. He also realized that he had to find other alternatives to support his family.  "I want to raise broiler chickens," said Ardani, "but I don't have the capital and knowledge for that."

When a man has a strong determination, the universe will work together to realize it. This proverb seems to apply to Ardani. In September 2022, one of RMU's social staff, Ali, was assigned to Satiruk Village to engage and empower local residents. One of the big missions was to encourage loggers to put away their chainsaws and switch to other occupations that do not harm nature. Ali explored Satiruk, going from house to house to get to know the residents. Not all of them accepted his presence with open arms; however, with Ardani, the reception was good. Ali, who has a cheerful nature and passionate spirit, met Ardani, who received the RMU team positively, and over time, his trust in the team strengthened.

From a casual chat with Mr. Ardani in his hut during breaks, I caught a very strong desire to let go of the chainsaw and his aspirations to become a chicken breeder,” said Ali. They soon began to work together to realize this dream.

“The first challenge is getting the purebred chickens, which must be imported from Java, with the risk that some may die on the way. RMU helped to procure the breed, while Mr. Ardani agreed to build the chicken coop. My job was to facilitate and accompany Mr. Ardani until he could run his farm," said Ali. They had to fight their way through the large waves crossing the Mentaya River to bring in 200 domestic chickens. Ali also helped find a market and provide assistance until Mr. Ardani, who had never raised chickens before, was able to run his farm independently.

“I also learned a lot from this process, through consulting with animal husbandry experts, as well as a lot of browsing information from the internet. My knowledge has expanded considerably. Together with Mr. Ardani, we struggled through the winding process of starting and running his farm," said Ali. "We faced many challenges, starting from the availability of drinking water for the chickens during the dry season when the rainwater reservoirs are running low to the struggles of getting food and vitamins. The nearest source is Samuda, about 35 km from Handil Simpang in Satiruk, and should be transported using a small ces boat.”

The result never betrays the effort. The first 200 chickens provided by RMU grew into broiler chickens, which were purchased by a seller at a good price. The income from the sale was enough to independently buy another 200 chickens and support his family. Currently, Ardani is doing good business from selling chickens to local residents and Pasar Samuda. The limited conditions at Satiruk indeed continue to be a challenge for him. However, with a firm determination to give up chainsaws and replace them with his current profession, Ardani hopes that he will continue to be able to overcome them and become a successful chicken breeder. He also hopes that his children and grandchildren will be able to complete their education, which used to be only a dream for him.

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