4 February 2013

Long beans in a Long house

In July 2012 I returned for the 3rd time to the Dayak community of 'Ensaid Panjang' in West Kalimantan.

30 families living under the same roof, this village is centered around a traditional 120 meter Longhouse.

Yes, that's right... a house that is longer then a football field with just one 18'' inch communal TV.

This time around we arrived with a much smaller crew; Austrian friend, Sophie (Aus-tri-an not Aust-rali-an) who had just finished 4 months in Jogja doing an art residency project at Sewon Artspace... and Sumatran man named Tony who is now based in Jogja.

This was the community we had visited a year earlier when the bridge suddenly collapsed and magically and perhaps mystically not a single Dayak child was injured. (a few wet their pants with extreme laughter though).

Watch below to see the video that gave endless hours of laughter to the people of this community.

This visit had an entirely different energy, largely due to the smaller size and thus more intimate experience. 

We were able to really connect a lot deeper with the local people on a day-to-day level whilst they went about their traditional weaving, basket and jewelry making with the kids endlessly playing all kinds of shenanigans from dusk until dawn. 

Their traditional form of weaving is now being revived in many Dayak communities as an international market has been developed by one of our NGO partners 'The Kobus Foundation' to connect suppliers with buyers and give local people an alternative income to the usual rubber tapping or palm oil.

One of the local men showing us the bark they use to make traditional clothing out of. 

Village chief, Pak Sambai, takes us on a survey of their forest through the mixed agro-forestry rubber plantations. He updated us on their situation and showed the recent attempted invasion by palm oil companies trying to illegally and aggressively develop their land.

A local woman bringing in the bountiful harvest of a very common bean grown throughout Indonesia, 'Kacang panjang' or 'Long bean'.

The kids have all grown up so much in the one year since I first met them. I am embarrassed that they all remember my name but I couldn't recall a single child's name. I do, however, remember vividly each of their unique smiles and playful personalities .

There was an obvious and immediate lighter energy among the local people then during our last visit. We soon discovered this was because they were on the cusp of formalizing an historic agreement between the neighboring village for the preservation of their remaining forested lands, which means no more palm oil.

Below is a map from our Earthwatchers program which shows a remnant patch of forest, very close to Ensaid Panjang, that was recently converted to palm oil in a matter of months.

BEFORE (note the dark green forest cover).

AFTER (note the linear rows of oil palm).

So now this super bio-diverse forest is protected and the Dayak people have plans to build a fruit tree and reforestation nursery which can enable them to start cultivating sugar palm around the perimeter of the forest.

'Mimi' the youngest daughter of Pak Sambai, the village head.

We say goodbye to our Dayak friends and families as the crew from 'Canopy Indonesia' pick us up on route to 'The Lakes' a remote National Park called locally 'Danau Sentarum' where wild Orangutan still roam the forests.

This epic journey will takes us up to the headwaters of the Kapuas River, Indonesia's largest river system, just a hope skip and a jump from Sarawak, Malaysia.

There has been reports of forest fires and it's the dry season, with the lakes draining rapidly and conditions ripe for the surrounding peat forest to go up in smoke...

to be continued...