SafeGuarding Communities And Ecosystems in Sumatra’s Forests

A member of the local tribe details a collaborative effort involving the BMW Group, Pirelli, and BirdLife.

Initiated in 2021, the “Living Rubber” initiative marks a partnership between the BMW Group, Pirelli, and BirdLife, focusing on the conservation of the Hutan Harapan rainforest in Sumatra. Known as the Forest of Hope, Hutan Harapan’s preservation is critical for maintaining biodiversity and supporting the indigenous populations dependent on its resources. This is more than just a conservation effort; it’s about sustaining a way of life, requiring specific actions to be effective.

Central to the “Living Rubber” initiative is promoting the ecological production of natural rubber, honoring the inhabitants and biodiversity of the area. Moreover, it seeks to uplift and educate young women in agricultural practices and broader learning.

The Batin Sembilan tribe, residents of Hutan Harapan, are intrinsic to the project’s operations. Among them is Bi Teguh, a 44-year-old rubber farmer and a defender against illegal logging. She views safeguarding the rainforest as not just a duty but a necessity for community survival. In discussions with the BMW Group, Bi Teguh outlined the project’s significance in protecting human rights, advancing women, and conserving the local environment.

Bi Teguh recounts her realization of the rainforest’s vulnerability, tracing it back to the establishment of palm oil industries and the resultant erratic weather patterns and reduced harvests. She emphasizes the project’s objectives in maintaining Hutan Harapan, a lifeline for her community and particularly vital for the women. Through collaborative patrols and educational initiatives, the project aims to ensure a sustainable future for the next generations and the biodiversity of the rainforest.

The involvement of women is pivotal in this project due to their daily dependence on the forest for resources and livelihood. Educating and equipping women with new skills, such as literacy and agricultural techniques, is crucial for community empowerment and forest preservation. Bi Teguh’s commitment reflects a broader movement within her community to engage actively in conservation efforts despite the challenges posed by increasing encroachment.

Bi Teguh’s leadership extends to guiding women and children in forest patrols and informational campaigns. Despite her youth, her familial responsibilities have positioned her as a community leader. Her journey from a local advocate to an international spokesperson underscores the global significance of local conservation efforts. Her hope is rooted in the possibility of halting further encroachment and ensuring a sustainable future for Hutan Harapan and its inhabitants.

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