The Permian Podcast Episode five with Yani Saloh
“Communities and Forest Conservation”
Mike: Welcome to another episode of The Permian Podcast, where we dive into inspiring stories and initiatives making a positive impact on our planet. Today, we have a special guest with us, Yani Saloh, the Community and SDG Specialist for Southeast Asia at Permian Global. Yani, thank you for joining us.
Yani: Thank you for having me.
Mike: Yani, you’ve been working for more than 25 years, focusing on nature-based solutions, community development, and tackling climate change. Can you share a bit about your journey and what led you to this field?
Yani: Absolutely. My passion has always been centered around making a positive impact on forests, climates, and communities. Throughout my career, I’ve realized that it’s not just about achieving carbon reduction goals. It’s about ensuring that our projects bring positive impacts to the communities and biodiversity, all while fitting into the bigger picture of sustainable development.
I’m a Dayak, born and raised in Central Kalimantan in Indonesia. I grew up in an era when chopping down trees was main source of Indonesia’s economy, tightly controlled by the Suharto regime. Logging was the road to prosperity. But as time rolled on, the fallout became clear – environmental issues, and where indigenous and locals were losing their forest, livelihoods, and essential resources like food and medicine.
I spent 13 years at CIFOR, starting in ’96. There, a new way of thinking emerged – “lets prove that forests are more valuable when they’re standing rather than when they are cut down”. One element of this, known as the REDD+ scheme, became the centre of discussion. Fast forward 10 years, there was plenty of talk, less action but the results were limited. But another 10 years on, by around 2015, we started to see some examples that demonstrated forests can bring more income by remaining standing, rather than by being cut down. Katingan was, and is, one of the pioneers of this major shift.
In 2021, I joined Permian Global, my second carbon project. This isn’t just about carbon benefits, but also for the well-being of communities, the climate, and biodiversity. We’re not just about saving trees; we’re using the existence of these trees and forests to improve people’s lives. This is now my personal journey, driven by a deep connection to the forest and a dream of a balance between people, nature, and prosperity.
Mike: That’s a powerful perspective. Now, let’s dive into the heart of your work. You mentioned that the community is at the core of your project, particularly in the vast 157,000 hectares of forest you’re managing. Can you elaborate on why community involvement is crucial?
Yani: Sure, we’re dealing with a massive area, surrounded by 35 villages. The project facing significant threats like forest fires, illegal logging, wildlife poaching, unsustainable agriculture practices and land encroachment. While we have dedicated staff, protecting such an extensive area is impossible without the active participation of the surrounding communities. Without them, our success is uncertain.
We have 200 staff, of which eighty percent are local people. Ninety percent of Katingan Mentaya’s forest is ninety percent peatland in a remote area and mostly only accessible by river and on foot. That’s surrounded by 35 villages, facing big threats such as forest fires, illegal logging, wildlife poaching, unsustainable agriculture practices and land encroachment. Without engaging with the local communities, we simply wouldn’t succeed.
Mike: It sounds like an incredibly complex challenge. How do you approach involving the communities actively?
Yani: Getting the communities actively involved is a big deal for us. We’re not just offering “financial incentives” or cash; we’re creating real action on the ground and lasting change. Our game plan involves offering the community decent jobs where they get paid for protecting the forest. Alternatively, we support them in transitioning to more sustainable livelihoods. The key is to provide alternatives, allowing them to shift from jobs that harm the environment to ones that contribute to its well-being.
We support the local community in various ways:
Mike: That’s quite a holistic approach. Can you share an example of how this strategy has played out in one of your projects?
Yani: Certainly. In the Katingan Mentaya project, we’ve witnessed a remarkable change in how the community perceives their forest. By emphasizing the value of standing trees over cutting them down, we’ve not only protected the forest but also transformed behaviors. We’ve turned illegal loggers and wildlife poachers into forest guardians who now earn a sustainable income.
Mike: It’s incredible to see the transformation. Do you have a specific story or individual that stands out in this process?
Yani: Absolutely. Take Mr. Ingking, for instance. He used to be an illegal gold miner and wildlife hunter, selling pangolins for money. Through engagement and offering him a job in our project, he’s now a full-time Biodiversity Officer, influencing others to protect the forest instead of exploiting it. Stories like his showcase the impact of providing jobs, empowering communities, and instilling pride in their work.
Mike: Truly inspiring. Now, I want to touch on the recognition your efforts have received. Your project recently won the 2nd prize for the Best SDG Award Action for big cooperation by Indonesia’s national agency. How does contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) align with your mission?
Yani: Contributing to the SDGs is crucial for us. It helps ensure that our on-the-ground activities align with global goals, addressing interconnected challenges like poverty, inequality, environmental degradation, and climate change. This recognition not only validates our work for international markets but also contributes to national SDG achievements. It complements the triple gold Climate Community Biodiversity standard certified by Verra.
Mike: What does the future hold in store for projects like the KMP and other such conservation projects?
Yani: I think in the future, buyers will not only concentrate on carbon sequestration and storage but will also strive for a balanced approach, considering biodiversity, livelihoods, and social benefits equally.
Mike: How crucial is financing and carbon credits to fund such projects?
Yani: It’s highly crucial. The funds come from selling carbon credits to run the project. We aren’t relying on government, grants, or donor funding.
Mike: Is there a long-term plan to establish similar projects in Indonesia?
Yani: Establishing carbon projects in Indonesia comes with both challenges and opportunities. Currently, the main challenge lies in government policies and regulations, which significantly affect investors looking to start carbon projects in the country. Despite this challenge, Indonesia presents a substantial opportunity for carbon projects. It’s crucial to seize these opportunities now because, in the next 10 years, there might be a gradual decline in demand for forest carbon due to advancements in technology for direct carbon capture and storage. Who knows.
Mike: How do you see things evolving with projects like the KMP?
Yani: The media and the wider global community is waking up to the potential of NBS and to the intricacies and difficulties in making them happen on the ground, as well as measuring their impact and additionality. We are being increasingly scrutinized – which is good to help differentiate the good projects from the bad.
Advances in technology and improved understanding and support from the government and other stakeholders can strengthen and broaden the positive impact of these projects in the future.
Mike: That’s remarkable. Yani, thank you for sharing your insights and the impactful work you’re doing. It’s truly inspiring to see how a holistic approach to community involvement can lead to positive change on multiple fronts.
Yani: Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure sharing our story.
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