Dry season forest fires have burned in Kalimantan for over two decades, destroying millions of hectares and harming the lives of Dayak people. As the Indonesian government refuses to monitor the fires, communities are responding with the support of international non-profit organisations like Rainforest 4 Foundation.
Forest and peat fires have burnt in Kalimantan every dry season for over 20 years, however, the combination of El Nino and droughts from the climate crisis have created a critical situation.
Dayaks are the first people of the Kalimantan island, the part of Borneo that is now part of Indonesia. There are more than 400 subtribes with a population of 4.2 million speaking many different languages. They have lived with and protected their forests for thousands of years. Now they have to respond to the annual fires that mostly occur in and around oil palm concessions. These fires create an air pollution problem, resulting in serious heath issues.
The Ranu Welum Foundation is a non-government organisation created and managed by Dayak youth. Based in Kalimantan, they respond to fires with community-led initiatives. Their media team use cameras, drones, and GPS equipment to track and record the fires, which helps keep communities informed. They also have a 40-member firefighting team ready to respond with firefighting equipment, water pumps and protective gear.
Ranu Welum has been supported by Rainforest 4 Foundation since 2019. The AUD $14,339 provided has supported the stability of the organisation and its programs, with funds being applied to firefighting in the dry season and at other times enabling the purchase and management of land including the planting of 4,000 trees.
Despite being a small organisation, Ranu Welum has achieved some impressive outcomes. They have trained 227 green leaders and 187 Indigenous filmmakers, mobilised 3,000+ volunteers, and helped over 11,000 villagers during climate disasters. They've also produced 74 Indigenous films, purchased and protected 21 hectares of the forest and planted 23,051 trees.
Borneo Island itself is home to significant biodiversity with 222 mammals (including 44 endemic), 420 birds (37 endemic), 100 amphibians and 394 fish species (19 endemic). In the past 20 years, more than 50% of Kalimantan's rainforest has been depleted. Seventy-eight percent of Central Kalimantan alone has been given to logging, coal mining and palm oil plantations. To make matters worse, peat forest fires have been happening yearly since 1997. In 2015, peat fires released 2.5 billion tons of carbon. In 2019, 530,000 hectares of forest was burned.
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