Deforestation to Cause Disaster

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Universitas Jember started to carry out the Area Based Mitigation Program in Wonoasri resort, an area within Meru Betiri National Park. The rehabilitation program running until June 2018 comprises 6 subprograms including non-wood economy trees planting, improving soil fertility and soil buffering performance, rehabilitation area ecology evaluation, underwater forest building, and formulating new collaboration between The National Park and the community as well as Wonoasri Village community empowerment in Tempurejo District as the national park support. The program was funded by Indonesia Climate Change trust, The Ministryu of Environment and Forestry, Bappenas, USAID and Meru Betiri National Park. Public Relation Team from Universitas Jember, Iim Fahmi Ilman, Moh. Isriadi, Dian Wahyu, beserta Khalida Adilah, had an opportunity for two days to get up close to the program carried out and lead by Wachju Subchan as the second Vice Rector. The followings are the reports.

First day March15, 2017-05-17

The first day of the activity started with socializing the program. Two programs were scheduled, first, socialization for the community’s public figure in Wonoasri consisting religious leaders, youth organization, Women organization, Village business entity, migrant workers association and so on. The Second socialization is  for farmers particularly those around Wonasri. The first session was located  in Wono asri village hall. Before the event began, the public relation team had opportunity to interview Sugeng Priyadi, head of Wonoasri village in his office.‘if the villages around the national park is illustrated as a bowl, Wonoasri village would be located in the bottom of the bowl. During the wet season it is flooded, during the drought water is hard to get,’ said Sugeng Priyadi. That afternoon, the head was accompanied by his secretary Suharyono. Previously, Wonoasri belonged to Sanenrejo village. Since October 1 1994, Wonoasri was definitely a village. At present Wonoasri is inhabited by 11,300 people within an area of 638 hectare. Most of the population are farmers, the plantation workers and migrant workers. ‘most of wonoasri villagers are from lower mid class,’ Sugeng added.

Sugeng then continued his story. When political situation heated up in 1998, most people around Meru Betiri National Park did illegal logging looting up the forest. As a result, thousands of hectares forest areas were barred. Worsened by the farming areas around the park, Wonoasri was disastrous. ‘When mid intense rainfall comes, quarter of the village is flooded, when heavy rainfall comes, half of the village is flooded,’ Sugeng explained. In contrast, when drought comes, no water available that the farmers need to use water pump to get the water up to irrigate the field. ‘one of the cause of the floods is deforestation, that without trees, no water is available,’ Sugeng added. Therefore, He really appreciated the University’s mitigation program.

In the first socialization session, the team explained the rationale of the importance of areas rehabilitation which was greatly supported by the communities and villagers in Wonoasri village. The exposition was delivered by Hari Sulistyowati (Faculty of Mathematics and Basic Sciences) and Ni Luh Putu Suciati  (Faculty of Agriculture) and Budhy Santoso (Faculty of social and Political Sciences). They explained more on the program related to society particularly those of empowerment. ‘ the success of the program depend mainly on the community supports and the Wonoasri villagers, they are the main actors of the program. We, from Universitas Jember, posit ourselves as mediators and facilitators. Our duty is to guide and escort the villagers and support them by using our knowledge and technology’ explained Hari. The event also was attended by Head of Wonoasri Resort  Arief Yuwono and Indah Sulistyowati, a staff and a counsellor in Wonoasri Resort.

During the intense discussion, the team put into accounts the community’s suggestions related to training prepared for empowering them. ‘we have prepared various training, including honeybee farming, goat breeding, weaver ant breeding for chirping bird pet feeds. We also provide training for mushroom cultivation, medicinal herbs, banana crackers and dried banana snacks as well as handicrafts making,’ explained Ni Luh Putu suciati. ‘But we surely open to community’s suggestions for trainings on herbal medicine making, and mushroom products processing and others.

Specifically, Wonoasri villagers requested that the program should proceed despite the due date of the research in June 2018. Farid as the representation of Village small business chief executive in Wonoasri. ’Learning from the experiences, many training were done in the area but once it is done, there were no further contact. In fact, we were still facing many problems concerning marketing of products. All in all, we ask Universitas Jember to guide us continuously’, said farid. Hari Sulistiyowati granted the request saying,’we are willing to supervise and guide the community in Wonoasri, as long as the community will seriously carry out the program,’.

The second session was held in the evening in Dasar’s house, one of the villagers. The gathering was attended by farmers working in Wonoasri resort and those who make use of the forests. Wachju Subchan as the team leader exposed the goal of the program. ‘This program attempt to rehab the forest, since the preserved forest gives advantages not only for Wonoasri village but also for the world’ he said.

The exposition then continued, and briefing was done by Arif Yuwono, the chief of Wonoasri Resort. He mentioned that there were still villagers used the area in the forest and they would be reduced gradually. He said the forest should return to its function as conservation area. Yet, he realized that it had to be done by all related parties. ‘That’s why the National Park agrees to collaborate with Universitas Jember upon the program. We do expect that the communities also support this program’, said Arif.

The villagers of Wonoasri enthusiastically welcome the program by Universitas Jember. It was reflected by the community’s suggestions for the team. Mukardi, one of the villagers working for goat breeding proposed that farmers should be trained to produce fermented feeds and processing the waste. ‘We expect that the program can runs well and farmers will get benefit from it’, said Mukardi, who has 23 members of farmers.

Hari Sulistiyowati responds positively to Mukardi’s proposal. The biology lecturer then stated that it would be put into team’s agenda. She further explained that farmers tended to seek leaves from the trees in the forest for their cattle when grasses were less available. Trees were cut down for their leaves and they would be difficult to grow and finally died. ‘all in all, the program wanted to rehab the area and empower the communities around the National Park, and finally they would benefit from the forest without deforesting it’, Hari ended the interview.(IO)

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