Katingan Mentaya Peat Swamp Update

August 3, 2021

The Katingan Mentaya Project is a conservation enterprise that is founded on the understanding that forest environments, wildlife and local rural communities can be closely connected and to improve one element, you must engage all three.

The project team, which is headquartered in the river port town of Sampit, just west of the protected forest area, engages in a range of outreach activities across the region that aim to discourage environmentally destructive activities, such as illegal logging, slash and burn land clearance and poaching. But to truly embed non-destructive, sustainable practices, the team recognizes the need to help provide people with alternative livelihoods that respect and safeguard the natural environment, while allowing communities to develop a sustainable economy.

Of the 34 communities dotted around the forest, people typically make their living from small-scale agriculture and traditional freshwater fisheries. And with a high concentration of the population living under the national poverty line, the project needed to develop a program specifically designed to lift the poorest out of poverty (SDG1 No Poverty).

Among the initiatives is the provision of microfinance loans to support local businesses. It is run by local communities, where a proposal is submitted, which is then reviewed by the head of the local cooperative in the village (SDG16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions). It is predominately run by and for women (SDG5 Gender Equality).

In Mekarti Jaya village, of East Kotawaringin, there are around 100 recipients to the microfinance program. One of the recipients, Dessy, was a small shop owner who sold everyday household products to neighbors. Passionate about cooking and baking, Dessy had ambitions to start a culinary business, particularly crafting traditional cookies, though she had trouble attaining the capital required to start her business.

The project team is currently using three different approaches in this area: On hearing about the KMP microfinance program from a neighbor, Dessy manage to have her application approved in time for Eid al-Fitr, a time when traditional cookies are particularly enjoyed right across Indonesia.

Dessy’s business has since become very successful. She sells up to ten jars of traditional cookies each day and her house always smells faintly of the sweet treats.