The Orangutan Foundation's 5 Programmes in Indonesian Borneo

Watch this short video to learn about our 5 ongoing programmes in Indonesian Borneo:

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Thank you.

Orangutan Foundation Volunteer Programme

You're probably aware that the Orangutan Foundation runs a Volunteer Programme (see Categories for past posts)  This year's programme has been different in that we are working closely with our partners Yayorin on a water purification project in the Belantikan Arut region of Central Kalimantan. Belantikan is home to the largest remaning population of orangutans in an unprotected area and is a biodiversity hotspot. 

Our strategy involves community empowerment, education and agricultural management to help villagers protect their forests. This year’s Volunteer Programme fits in by working with the local communities and further improving our relationship with them, whilst gaining their respect and providing villagers with a cleaner, safer water-source.  Each team will work in a different village. At each village, a natural spring has been identified as an alternative source to the river which is currently used for transport, bathing, washing and as a toilet. The teams build a dam to harness the spring water and then a pipe system takes it down to the village.

Volunteers return to camp after a hard days work

Climbing back up to the jetty after a hard days work 

Team 1 ended on 13th June and the village of Nanga Matu (home to Yayorin’s basecamp) now has taps providing clean water from a natural hillside spring on the other side of the river. The construction was no mean feat and massive thanks go to the hardworking volunteers and Volunteer Co-ordinators who made the project succeed.   Team 2 is already well into their work in the village of Bintang Mengalih and I was there to see the project commence. The team are living in a small community house where personal space is non- existent, and the movements and activities of us visitors is of most interest to the locals.

Volunteers are treated to a traditional party at one of the villages 

Volunteers are treated to a traditional party by a local village 

Whilst there, I encountered leeches, a scorpion, poisonous millipedes and lots of peat. Bathing is in a nearby river and we dug a long-drop toilet behind the accommodation. Before work began we had to go the village hall and formally meet the village head and some local villagers.

Village children keen to “hang out” with volunteers 

Local children were keen to "hang out" with the volunteers. 

The village were so appreciative of our work that they provided us with four local people to help on the project. They really were very excited and grateful about the work of Orangutan Foundation.  By 8th August Bintang Mengalih will have clean water to drink at the turn of a tap!!


Elly (UK Volunteer Co-ordinator)

Compost and Forests - both important to our life cycles!

Meet Pak Roji. Pak Roji - Community Liaison and expert composter!

Pak Roji at the market

He works on the Education Team for our Lamandau Ecosystem Conservation Partnership, as our Community Liaison. Pak Roji’s passionate about all things mouldy, and organic!

He’s our compost expert, with a background in chemistry, and at least a decade of farming experience in Java. He currently works with the farmers collectives in four villages by the Western boundary of the Lamandau Reserve, to help improve their crops by applying compost. Earlier in the week I visited Pak Roji in Sukamara, with the Head of our Education Team, Eddie, and our Liaison Officer, Astri, to meet up with local government officials to discuss about our plans to commence a compost project in the town.

Eddie -Head of Education Team

Eddie rescues some seedlings that would have been burnt along with the garbage, to be planted at our office in Sukamara.

You may wonder how compost ties into orangutan conservation – and I’d say that wildlife conservation overall is holistic: assisting local communities to find alternative sustainable livelihoods that are still culturally relevant, is vital in obtaining their continuing support for the Reserve. The sandy soils that these farmers work on are nutritionally-poor, and organic composts help increase the yield of crops, while decreasing pressure on the local dump-site. Working one on one with farmers at the Western boundary of the Reserve have yielded small successes, and we hope to see this grow.

So far, the response has been encouraging, and we have received a lot of comments and advice from respective government officers from various fields. Our hopes for this project is that it is community-driven, with farmers benefitting from the harvest.

Eddie and village head discussing land options

Eddie, our Education Team Leader, discusses land options with the Village Head of Natai Sedawak, Pak Nadi

We also met up with the village head from Natai Sedawak, to discuss possibilities on where the compost project could take place. He took us to various sites, including the local garbage dump that reminded us why this project is crucial!

Astri - Liaison Officer

Astri, our Liaison Officer, demonstrates the height of the garbage pile

I believe everybody in his or her lifetime, needs to visit their local dumpsite and understand how our daily consumption affects the rest of the community, and the world.

Pak Roji at work

Pak Roji hard at work!

I’ll keep you in touch on how this project develops over time, but rest assured, Pak Roji continues to churn the soil to keep all organic waste wonderful and mouldy!



Volunteering in Belantikan - A Dayak Perspective

During our time in Belantikan we were also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to have some long conversations with some of the older villagers about their way of life. We visited the ladang of Pak Taryom outside the village of Nanga Matu, to see the new crops he is cultivating with Yayorin’s help and find out how their new methods are bringing benefits to the area. Pak Taryom

Pak Taryom in his ladang near Nanga Matu, cultivation here has been much changed with Yayorin's help

Pak Taryom also explained to us about the traditions and ceremonies of the Dayak people. His brother, Pak Maju, is the last man of Nanga Matu refusing to convert to one of the five state approved faiths of Indonesia and still clinging to Kaharingan – the traditional Dayak religion. He is also the father of Yayorin’s cook Ani, the youngest of his seven daughters.

Pak Maju lives outside Nanga Matu and, on our last day in Belantikan, we went to visit him at his ladang tucked away inside the forest. He’s 58 years old and still working in the fields. We found him sat under a tarpaulin sheet in the centre of his ladang, a thin line of smoke twisting to the sky from the fire he was sitting by chewing tobacco rolled in leaves, a rifle and a long knife by his side. I got a little perturbed at one stage during our conversation when he turned to me and mimed pulling off my head and drew his knife. Although it turned out, via translation, that he was just explaining that when a Dayak is angry they can pull off an enemy’s head with their bare hands without recourse to a blade.

Pak Maju

Pak Maju - Nanga Matu's last adherent of the Kaharingan religion in his ladang

Pak Maju also told us how the villagers of Nanga Matu and Bintang Mengalih still come to see him and ask him to summon the spirits to grant their wishes. Nevertheless, it seemed to me that he could accept the end of the Kaharingan culture, religion being in his mind a matter of personal choice. He could not, however, accept the destruction of the forest. When we asked him what he thought of it he told us that the balance of life has been upset and ‘when the trees and the hills are all gone [to logging and mining] the people will all die.’. The world around Pak Maju is changing so fast that his fears for the forest, and everything that lives within it, could be realised within his lifetime.

We left Belantikan full of great memories. The work of the Orangutan Foundation, Yayorin and the local communities to protect this area for the benefit of people, orangutans and the forest continues.

Thank you,


Non-timber Forest Products

This morning we attended a meeting organised by the local forestry department. They are creating “An Inventory of the Potential for Non-timber Forest Products” in the local government district. Non-timber forest products, or NTFP, as they are referred to in conservation jargon, are an often used argument for the protection of forests. Local people for millennia have exploited NTFP and although their impact on the local environment and wildlife may be debated, in comparison to bulldozers their impact on the forests was negligible. Therefore, we consider NTFP a valuable tool in protecting the forests and we are pleased that the local government is taking this initiative (see the photos below showing various examples of NTFPs).

fruit picking

Fruit picking

making baskets

Making rattan baskets


Rattan Baskets

Rattan craft wear

Other craft products

This week I’ll have my own opportunity to assess the sustainability of NTFP. I’m off into the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve until Friday. A pleasant round of investigating reports of farming inside the reserve, plantation expansion on its border, and an assessment of activities on the western edge. Hopefully, I’ll see an orangutan or two.

I’ll write again when I get back on Friday or Saturday.