If planted with care, a bamboo seedling has the potential to restore degraded land, mitigate climate change, and generate income for rural communities. Unfortunately, however, like most other young plants, they are usually wrapped in a material that is causing a global pollution crisis: plastic.
Practical, strong and inexpensive, the small black plastic bags known as polybags are used to protect and transport delicate young seedlings. They are a common sight on any landscaping or restoration project — including those supported by the Environmental Bamboo Foundation.
Recognizing that it was time to make a change and reduce consumption of plastic polybags, in 2021 EBF began collaborating with women’s empowerment organizations in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), to produce an environmentally-friendly alternative made of natural fibers. 20 villages in seven districts in Flores are part of EBF’s Bamboo Village program, and last year their goal was to produce 2.8 million bamboo seedlings — a green alternative to the plastic polybags was urgently needed.
NTT has long been home to a rich weaving tradition, and woven textiles play a vital role in cultural life. This meant ripe ground for the production of a viable, biodegradable woven seedling bag made from natural fibers commonly found in Flores.
In Nginamanu Village in Ngada Regency, EBF collaborated with Du Anyam — a social enterprise empowering and improving the health of women in rural areas through the production of beautiful woven products — to guide bamboo farmers in the weaving of polybags made from bamboo fiber.
In Du Village in Sikka Regency, bamboo farmers now weave polybags from the fibers of banana trunks and coconuts, as well as from coconut palm leaves. As part of its push towards biodegradable polybags, EBF is also mapping areas with plentiful natural fiber resources across NTT.
Arief Rabik, President Director of EBF, has emphasized that the environmentally-friendly polybag innovation will eventually be implemented in the 20 villages participating in EBF’s bamboo plantation and reforestation programs across Flores.
“Gradually, we will replace plastic polybags with natural fiber polybags. This year we are aiming for 10 percent of all polybags used to be made from natural fibers,” he said. “The use of natural fibers will also have a positive impact by strengthening the handicraft industry in villages and providing additional economic opportunities for natural fiber weavers.”
About Du Anyam:
Working closely with the talented women artisans of Indonesia, Du Anyam creates wicker products through the most authentic craftsmanship. With the goal of economically empowering and improving the health of these women in rural areas around Indonesia, Du Anyam is a brand built upon the values of its founders.
The three pillars of Du Anyam are: Empower Women, Promote Culture, and Improve Livelihood.
At the end of 2020 the Environmental Bamboo Foundation implemented a bamboo nursery program that places women at the center. We started with something very simple: we wanted to share our experiences about how to grow bamboo. At that time, women who wanted to learn about bamboo or grow bamboo seedlings became our first partners. What started as simple turned out to be a leap of thought and hope among the women, later known as Mama Bambu (Bamboo Mamas).
The Meaning of Land and Bamboo for Ngada Women (an introduction)
Ngada culture adheres to a matrilineal system. In a matrilineal society, the successors of the mother’s line are seen as very important. As a result, family relationships are much closer and more pervasive among residents who are descended from the maternal line.
Traditionally, Ngada women are entrusted with the right to control Ngia Ngora (customary land) and Napu Bheto (bamboo forest). So caring for the bamboo clumps also means caring for ancestral heritage, preserving customs, and conserving ecology for all generations.
When the Ngada woman defends her bamboo forest, she is not only doing it for herself. For Ngada women, taking care of bamboo means protecting her community and future generations from destruction.
The Mama Bambu program not only provides space for women to be physically present in every decision-making regarding bamboo conservation and utilization in Ngada, but more than that Mama Bambu presents the views and values of sustainable use of bamboo.
Celebrating International Women’s Day in Bangka Wela
With slightly trembling hands, Maria Danus held a piece of paper containing a welcoming speech that she had prepared together with some of the caretakers of a bamboo farmer group for the commemoration of international women’s day. Being the chairman of the committee was Maria Danus’ first experience and delivering a speech in front of village guests was something that had never crossed her mind. “I was very nervous when I read the speech. But I am proud to be able to carry out my duties for International Women’s Day with the other women,” said Maria Danus.
The first International Women’s Day commemoration was held in Bangka Wela Village following the success of the Balang Leca Bamboo Farmer Group in producing 8,000 bamboo seedlings in no more than 3 months. In this activity, the Belang Leca bamboo farmer group invited the village community, representatives of BKSDH (Forest Resource Conservation Center) and FMU (Forest Management Unit), as well as farmer groups from neighboring villages to plant bamboo seeds around a spring in Bangka Wela village.
“We are very happy to commemorate Women’s Day and proud of ourselves for doing many things and getting a lot of knowledge,” said Liana Wati Hayati, secretary of the Balang Leca Bamboo Farmer Group. The whole series of events to commemorate international women’s day was organized by the Belang Leca Group. “We divide the tasks, there are those who take care of food, cleanliness, lead the prayers, sing the PKK (women’s organization) song, and prepare bamboo seeds to be planted,” added Liana.
The Belang Leca Bamboo Farmer Group is a partner of the Environmental Bamboo Foundation in a family-based bamboo nursery program in Bangka Wela Village, Ngada Regency, East Nusa Tenggara. Because the nursery activities are family-based, in carrying out various activities, family members work together and share roles.
“Finding bamboo seeds is difficult and takes a long time. That’s why we share roles. The fathers went to the bamboo forest to collect bamboo branches, the children filled the soil into polybags, and the women chose seedlings, planted them in polybags, and kept them in the nursery,” explained Antonia Mbue, head of the Balang Leca group.
By sharing roles, nursery work becomes lighter and faster to complete. “At first, we thought we could only produce 2,000 bamboo seedlings because the time was short,” said Antonia. “However, after successfully producing 2,000 seedlings within a month, we became more confident and then committed to producing 6,000 seedlings in the following month,” continued Antonia.
In less than three months, the Belang Leca bamboo farmer group succeeded in producing 8,000 seedlings. These seeds will later be planted on critical lands in Ngada Regency, East Nusa Tenggara once they are strong enough.
Knowledge Sharing Among Mama Bambu
Every month the Bamboo Mamas who are members of the Belang Leca bamboo farmer group hold an arisan (community savings gathering). The purpose of the arisan is to save and share the good practices of each group member.
The arisan event is held in turns, from one Bamboo Mama’s house to another. Every Mama will share good practices on how to care for and produce good seeds. Each group member may ask questions and share experiences. For example, the soil in polybags should not be too dense or the seedlings should not be planted too deep.
The Mama Bambu program not only focuses on economics and conservation but also builds the confidence of its members. “The Mama Bambu Arisan is an initiative of the Balang Leca Bamboo Farmer Group which indirectly trains their ability to speak in public, think critically and express opinions in group discussions”, explained Septiani Maro, Coordinator of Manggarai Regency.
Bamboo Money Strengthening the Role of Bangka Wela Women
This family-based nursery program in Bangka Wela also applies an ecological fiscal transfer in which each member of a bamboo farmer group receives an aid of 2,500 rupiah for each successful seedling. Within three months of implementing the family-based nursery program, the Balang Leca bamboo farmer group received a total of 15 million rupiah. The money received is used for various needs of Mama Bambu families, most of which is for the education of their children.
Antonia Mbue admitted that the money she received was used to finance her child who is studying Pharmacy in Malang, East Java. “I am very proud of the results of our hard work in this program because our economic condition is now better. We can send our children to school with bamboo money. If we didn’t have this activity, we might have become workers in Kalimantan,” said Antonia.
When women become the center, and are not only seen as beneficiaries of a program such as this family-based nursery, a Mama Bambu can play a role in deciding the use of money for family members. Moreover, in the community, the success of a family-based bamboo nursery has made Bangka Wela village proud and has ensured the Bamboo Mamas’ roles will be taken into account during decision-making in the village.
A webinar was held on 13 April 2022 to discuss strategies for integrating gender issues into agrarian reform and social forestry programs and policies.
This webinar aimed to identify problems and challenges in the implementation of agrarian reform and social forestry, obtain information and lessons learned from good practices in integrating GESI strategies in the implementation of agrarian reform and social forestry, and formulate strategies for accelerating the implementation of gender-responsive agrarian and social forestry reforms.
Yayasan Bambu Lestari took part in this webinar and shared good practice and strategies for integrating gender issues into its activities in East Nusa Tenggara.
A total of 48.8 million Indonesians live in forest areas. 10.2 million of them live below the poverty line and depend on forest resources for their lives. Agrarian conflicts and land disputes are issues that are often experienced by people living in or around forest areas.
There are at least two triggers for the agrarian conflict: the lack of precise laws and policies governing agrarian issues, both related to views on land, land status and ownership, land rights, as well as methods for obtaining land rights; and inaction and injustice in the process of resolving land disputes, which ultimately lead to conflict.
The government seeks to narrow the inequality of land tenure and ownership through the agrarian reform program, a national priority program to develop Indonesia from the margins and improve the quality of life of the people. There are three forms of agrarian reform: asset legalization, land redistribution, and social forestry.
Agrarian reform is also the answer to strengthening the space for land management by women. Their involvement and role in the form of a management space will greatly help improve the community’s economy.
Equal participation is a form of gender justice in the development process, including through social forestry by taking into account the experiences, needs, and barriers experienced by men and women. Therefore, gender integration in agrarian reform and social forestry should be able to ensure equal participation and rights between women and other community members by considering the important role of women in realizing sustainable forest management.
“This requires working together and synergizing efforts to create a women-friendly and child-friendly Indonesia. We ask for your support on how to accelerate the integration of gender issues into the context of agrarian reform and social forestry,” said the Deputy for Gender Equality at the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection (PPPA), Lenny N. Rosalin, S.E., M.Sc., M.Fin.
Gender mainstreaming has been reflected in the general policies and technical operational policies of social forestry within the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, so that a greater role for women in social forestry is made possible in the regulations.
“Until now, about 1 million households have access to social forestry and 141,000, or 13% of them, are women. We hope that in the future the number can increase to 30 to 40 percent.” said the Director-General of Social Forestry and Environmental Partnerships of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Dr. Ir. Bambang Supriyanto.
Suggested steps to achieve gender equality and social inclusion in agrarian reform and social forestry policies and programs include: 1. Critically examining the substance of a series of policies and programs and their implementation to find out the position in the GESI mainstreaming stage 2. The position in that stage of empowering women, vulnerable groups and marginal people 3. Overcoming various sources of barriers to the participation of women, vulnerable and marginalized groups so that empowering participation can be realized 4. Create the basis for building more equal power relations 5. Encourage equal decision-making (control) processes.
Gender Equality and Social Forestry: our experience with Mama Bambu in NTT
At the end of 2020 the Environmental Bamboo Foundation implemented a bamboo nursery program that places women at the center. These women pioneers are known as Mama Bambu ( Bamboo Mamas).
We started with something very simple: bamboo. At first, we wanted to share our experiences about how to grow bamboo. At that time, women who wanted to learn about bamboo or grow bamboo seedlings became our first partners.
What started as simple turned out to be a leap of thought among Mama Bambu: if we plant bamboo, we take care of the environment, and if we plant bamboo, we will have a source of bamboo not only for our daily needs but it can be legacy for our next generation.
In 2021, 388 Mama Bambu managed to produce 2.5 million bamboo seedlings. This number of seedlings can be planted on an area of 72,000 hectares for both ecological purposes (restoration of critical land, conservation of water resources, prevention of landslides, carbon sequestration) and economic purposes (material resources for industry/bamboo crafts).
The success of this nursery program shows that women are able to take an active role at the forefront of environmental conservation efforts as well as participate in the adaptation and mitigation of climate change. Women must also be given a main role in the Social Forestry schemes.
The Mama Bambu experienced increased knowledge about environmental conservation, gained new skills in making bamboo seedlings and natural fiber polybags, and are able to use digital media to find and exchange information. We distributed smartphones and provided training on how to use them.
There was an increase in economic capacity and financial control among Mama Bambu, all of whom received an incentive of Rp.2500/seedling which is a source of additional income for families experiencing economic difficulties due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Typhoon Seroja. We facilitated the creation of individual bank accounts for each Mama Bambu so that they have direct access and control over the incentives they receive.
Increased knowledge and new sources of income gave each Mama Bambu the confidence to be actively involved in decision-making processes at the family and village levels. In various dialogues with government officials, including the District Head (Bupati) and Governor, each Mama Bambu was able to clearly describe what they had achieved.
In a month celebrating World Water Day and International Day of Forests, we are very aware of the incredible benefits bamboo agroforestry can bring to degraded landscapes. Did you know that one clump of bamboo can hold over 5,000 liters of water in the topsoil?
5 THINGS WE’D LIKE TO SHARE
We’re excited to share some of the highlights from the last month, including news from the wider community.
Time with the Minister for Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises: Grateful to have had valuable time with Pak Teten Masduki to talk about bamboo. Pak Teten has been very supportive of our efforts to create a bamboo restoration economy. Here he is with Arief Rabik at a recent exhibition.
Very proud that our Board’s Chairman Arief Rabik was appointed to the Advisory Board of the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. The Board’s main objective is to offer relevant perspectives and schools of thought in response to the challenges of implementing the UN Decade, as well as inspire and amplify the UN Decade’s goals through diverse channels and networks.
The amazing people at Petersham Nurseries in the UK are running a fundraiser for our Bamboo Village Initiative. Each restaurant will be adding a cover charge in support of 1000 Bamboo Villages to help restore 2 million hectares of degraded land in Indonesia through a village-based bamboo industry.
The Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry is preparing for the G20 meeting with activities supporting the Climate Change Working Group. Watch to find out more.
Welcome to our new series of interviews with people doing incredible things with bamboo. From entrepreneurs to scientists, community facilitators, and bamboo farmers, we will be bringing you diverse stories and experiences through our Bamboo Pioneer interviews. Our very first one is with Singgih Kartono, who is not only passionate about bamboo and bike design with his company Spedagi but also about starting a village revitalization movement based on bamboo! He is the mastermind behind the incredible Pasar Papringan concept. Read on to learn more.
I was born in a village and bamboo is a very abundant plant in my village. When I was a kid, I liked to make toys, and the most easily available material for making toys was bamboo. Unlike wood, bamboo is easier to split and cut.
Bamboo is very close to our lives. Almost all village households, furniture, agricultural tools, and even houses use bamboo material. Our closeness to bamboo once made me not see the advantages and uniqueness of bamboo. Even as a designer, I had a time when I stopped the use of bamboo material in my works and switched to wood.
I started making bamboo bikes in early 2013 after seeing and being amazed by the bamboo bikes designed by Craig Calfee from the United States. His bike is not only made of bamboo, it also has great design and is very well made and assembled.
Bamboo in Indonesian villages
Bamboo in Indonesia faces the exact same problems that Indonesian villages face: boredom and inferiority.
The boredom arises because bamboo has been familiar to us for a long time and is very close to our daily lives. In the village, people have experiences with bamboo from birth to death. From kitchen and household utensils, agricultural tools, houses, buildings and construction of tombs also use bamboo.
Bamboo is also seen as something that is closely related to poverty and this view creates feelings of inferiority. For example, many novels describe poor families with ‘the ones who live in bamboo houses’.
In the concept that I developed at Spedagi Movement, I see the future as the past in a new form.
Let’s say the past is that bamboo. When I look into the future, then I see bamboo in a new form. We need to look at the past and everything around us today through the lens of the future. In developed countries, people use science to see what is around them that can be used in the future.
When it comes to cutting bamboo, I still use traditional knowledge. I determine the logging days according to traditional knowledge. And it turned out okay. I understand why traditional people carry out the practices which we know as niteni (observing, paying attention). They observe the environment around the bamboo so that they know the best way to treat this plant. They don’t have the tools, instruments, or a more detailed scientific approach supported by adequate equipment, so they can’t formulate it scientifically.
How we should view bamboo
First we need to take care of and plant more bamboo.
Viewed as boring and inferior, bamboo is prone to being evicted from the landscape. I found a lot of bamboo plants were being eradicated. Whereas bamboo is part of the landscape of the village community; the cultural, historical, and environmental landscapes. And I think if this important part is lost then one day we will be very sorry. Moreover, bamboo has become one of the materials that is a promising substitute for wood because it grows very fast and has very good qualities.
Second, we must be able to educate people about bamboo in new ways
Because what we are fighting against is a perception of being boring and inferior. We need a creative approach so that people can see that bamboo is extraordinary. However, to be able to see how the past, or everything around us, has future values, we must learn to see it through the lens of science, therefore we need to broaden our horizons. We must clean our glasses or learn to use new glasses, to be able to see the value and future potential of bamboo.
What is Spedagi?
If we take bamboo seriously, the products we create will be different and unique, which makes us different from other countries. Moreover, many bamboo species are found in Indonesia as the climate is suitable for bamboo.
The Spedagi bamboo bicycle is not just a means of transportation using bamboo material, but more than that, this bicycle has become part of the Spedagi Movement and has turned it into a product that has created a social movement. This uniqueness is not found in other products.
Spedagi is one example of how I try to show that bamboo is not a material that can only be made for simple and inexpensive products. Bamboo can be processed into a good and high-value product.
Spedagi was awarded the G-Mark Japan Good Design Award in 2018. G-mark Japan GOOD DESIGN award is the largest Asian award founded in 1957 and reflects Japanese design values and principles that aim to enrich lives, industries, and society.
Pasar Papringan: restoring rural pride
The Papringan Market project is actually quite simple, because its activity is only to clean the bamboo clumps and then create a terrace area between the bamboo clumps using honed stone – which is actually a traditional technique that is environmentally friendly as the terrace still absorbs water. When the bamboo forest was cleaned and simply arranged, the bamboo clumps in it looked beautiful and became an authentic and natural garden. The empty area underneath the bamboo canopy that we clean with the community then becomes a place to sell local products in the form of culinary, handicraft, and agricultural products.
Papringan market also shows that the culture of the traditional or village community is full of ‘future values’ due to the following:
Papringan market is a plastic-free market emulating traditional communities in the past that did not use any plastic. All vendors at Papringan Market only use leaves and bamboo baskets for containers to transport and store merchandise. Isn’t it time this traditional practice becomes a future practice? A value that reflects how to protect nature sustainably starting from the local economy.
Papringan market provides healthy food with 100% traceability because all the ingredients are taken from the surrounding environment. We know who the food ingredients are grown by, and from whose garden the banana leaves used for wrapping are taken. Aren’t these all stories from the future that have also come from the past?
So we have to learn or find a way to be able to see the value and potential of bamboo and all other resources in the village as something special.
What we need to teach our children about bamboo
Combining the boredom of rural communities with the amazement of urban communities in relation to bamboo is something that is important for us to use as a basis for formulating a better education for the younger generation, especially children.
Children in the village need to be introduced to how to process bamboo starting from the benefits of bamboo shoots for cooking, growing bamboo, making toys from bamboo, to how to dry bamboo using new tools or technology. Children in the village are usually very interested in new technology.
Meanwhile, young people in urban areas or developed countries need to be invited to see the ‘bamboo lives’ of traditional people, so that they can see how bamboo is an important part of life. In addition, they also need to be invited to learn traditional knowledge about bamboo.