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Learning Site - Tahura Bukit Soeharto

The Tahura Bukit Soeharto forest region has been degraded through the occurrence of forest fires, illegal logging, illegal mining and illegal occupation for agriculture and housing. As a result, the biodiverse landscape has been severely altered. The habitat of many important and red list species such as Orang-utans has been damaged and reduced. In response, several activities have now been initiated to restore and conserve the landscape for protection of flora and fauna, recreation, research and education, benefitting both community and environment. Since the project had to start from scratch, primary aims were identifying the actual condition of the park to fully understand the management options for restoration and understanding more about local people perceptions. Also campaigning on the importance of restoration, conducting research and developing sustainable activities with the involvement of local people are important focal points of the project. So far, achievements include an improved availability of basic information about the current condition, availability of an activity plan for restoration activities and a decreased threat from forest fires and illegal activities. One specific general lesson learned so far describes the importance of an honest external actor in coordination and facilitation in the process of management improvement, which role in this case is fulfilled by Tropenbos International.

Major physical characteristics

The major vegetation types in the Tahura Bukit Soeharto region are lowland dipterocarp forest, Kerangas forest, Coastal forest, Shrub and primary and secondary forest. Approximately half of the surface is covered with forest (48%), the other half is occupied by shrubs (22%) and grasslands (30%). The climate is of a very wet character, Type A in the Schmidt and Ferguson system. This means that an annual precipitation of 2000-2500 mm is normal, which comes with a mean temperature of 20-30 degrees Celsius and high levels of 81-95% humidity. Soil structures have been formed on marine sediments, and are mostly classified as acrisols. Tahura Bukit Soeharto is known for its richness in biodiversity, with important floral families such as Dipterocapraceae, Myrtaceae, Myristicaceae and Verbanaceae. Over 31 mammal species have been identified, as well as at least 84 bird species now appearing on the biological counter. Some important faunal species include the highly endangered Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), Bekantan (Nasalis larvatus), Trenggiling (Manis javanicus), Punai (Treron species) and Jalak (Acridotheres cristatellus).

Current land use

Currently, research is taking place on what the current land use and its division precisely is. What is known is that certain forest areas have been assigned a specific function. This includes research forest areas (3.504 ha), education and research forest area (20.271 ha) and education and training forest area (4.310 ha).

Major causes of degradation

Several causes have contributed to the degrading and deteriorating of the forest landscape. First of all, forest fires in 1983 and later in 1997 have had devastating effects. Illegal logging has additionally resulted in a loss of standing biomass. Add illegal mining (high deposits of coal in the region still forms a threat) and illegal occupation for agriculture and settlement and the recipe for high-pace destruction is complete. The negative effects that arise from this devastation are numerous. Not only has it become increasingly difficult for local inhabitants to survive in these changing conditions affecting their livelihoods, but also a decrease in biodiversity (flora and fauna) due to a loss of habitat has occurred. An overall loss of ecosystem structure and function has been observed.

Vision and strategy

The vision behind the conservation and restoration in Tahura Bukit Soeharto is stated as follows: “To conserve the landscape for the protection of flora and fauna, recreation, research and education for the benefit of both community and environment”. The comprehensive strategy that has been developed in order to achieve this is threefold:
(1) Identifying actual condition of the park to fully understand the management options for restoration of landscape functions;
(2) Identifying local people perceptions who reside around Tahura Bukit Soeharto through need assessment surveys and identify stakeholders perception through multi-stakeholder meetings;
(3) Consistently campaigning on the importance of restoration of the park and ensuring that people and environment are beneficiaries.

Concrete restoration activities

So far, different activities have actually been realised or are currently being realised, of which four are mentioned here. A first important activity involves identifying the current condition of the park using LANDSAT images or any other available satellite image of the park and implementing comprehensive ground analyses. This basic output, including current land use conditions (what surface is still in forest condition - primary and secondary -, what surface shrubs and grasslands, what changes are taking place such as conversion into agricultural area) is required as a basis. Secondly, activities were organised aimed at identifying the perceptions of local people who stayed around Tahura Bukit Soeharto through need assessment surveys and identifying stakeholder perceptions through multi-stakeholder workshops. Thirdly, it was attempted to consistently promote the importance of services provided by the park to public and for improved management of the park. Finally, a constant emphasis has been put on conducting research, organising workshops etc. to enhance the effectiveness and successfulness of activities.

Stakeholders and Interest

Perhaps one of the successes of Tahura Bukit Soeharto restoration project so far has been its ability to involve many different stakeholders. The government is delivering important contributions through different departments: Dinas Kehutan Provinsi Kaltim as a management authority, Dinas Kehutan Kukar as a district management authority, Balai Teknologi Perbenihan (Wanariset Samboja) as a supporter of restoration activities and Balai Pendidikan / Pelatihan Kehutanan Samarinda providing education and training capacity. Also NGOs play an important role in the process: Tropenbos International as the process facilitator, BOSF providing the rehabilitation model, WWF providing capacity for the conservation of forest and JICA delivering rehabilitation efforts. Also local people and organisations are closely involved. Two universities are actively contributing to the project: Maluwarman University for knowledge support and Wageningen University for knowledge development.

Biggest successes

The project members put forward three major successes so far. First, there is the availability of basic information about the current condition inside and around Tahura Bukit Soeharto area (types of land cover). Also the availability of activity plan (short, medium and long term) for restoration activities including the financial means required, assigning responsibilities of activities is a major achievement. The third success is more of a general character, but certainly not less important: decreasing threats from forest fires, illegal logging, illegal mining, and illegal occupation due to an improved management of the area

Restraining factors

Although a lot has been achieved in a relatively short amount of time, advancements could possibly have gone smoother if the following problems would not have been encountered: first an unconsolidated budget due to lack of coordination and synergy among stakeholders and second the fact that management of part of the park remains unclear because areas haven’t been assigned for specific purposes yet. Also detailed information about the current conditions in Tahura Bukit Soeharto remains limited, which makes it difficult to measure progression.

General lesson(s) learned so far

Experiences in the field have taught (at least) one very important thing: the role of an external actor in coordination and facilitation – acting as an honest broker – is an important part of the process of improving management. Tropenbos Indonesia programme has indicated its support to act on this role.

Name of landscape:
Tahura Bukit Soeharto
East Kalimantan, Indonesia

61.850 ha

Prof dr. Afif Ruchaemi

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