Farming skills, crop diversity, access to finance and markets can all help boost family income
An initial survey of household incomes in 2021/22 found that the Batin Sembilan had far lower incomes than migrant households in the Hutan Harapan region. The survey concluded that this discrepancy was down to a lack of education and farming skills, a reliance on foraging rather than agroforestry, a lack of direct access to end markets and the lower price of rubber compared with palm oil.
To tackle this inequality, the Living Rubber project is encouraging Batin Sembilan people to diversify their farming by mixing rubber trees with cash crops. It is also increasing access to government funding and micro finance that can be used to buy seeds and fertiliser, for example. Training is offered on how to plant and nurture cash crops such as lemongrass and citronella. There is even a pilot scheme to grow vegetables that includes measures to stop monkeys stealing them.
“To encourage participation, there has been a series of meetings with local government representatives ahead of drafting new Forest Partnership Agreements that aim to protect the forest, develop partnership business, and make it possible for the Batin Sembilan people to access government funding to better support their new sustainable livelihoods,” says Mangarah Silalahi, CEO of Hutan Harapan Ecosystem Restoration Concession for PT REKI. “Community liaison co-ordinators have been located within the communities to monitor progress and help iron out any issues.”