Life

Hasanain Juaini: Planting
for a better future

HASANAIN JUAINI: (JP/Panca Nugraha)
HASANAIN JUAINI: (JP/Panca Nugraha)

Environmental conservation programs fail if people do not play an active role in them — or can not enjoy the benefits.

This theory inspired Hasanain Juaini LC, head of an Islamic boarding school for girls, to create a community-based conservation program to bring together two great visions: preserving the environment and empowering the community.

A five-hectare plot of land, part of a 31-hectare area near the Nurul Harmain Putri boarding school in Narmada district, West Lombok, today is lush and green with an abundance of different tree species.

“It used to be a vacant lot. But we asked people to plant trees there ... and now you can see the result,” Hasanain told The Jakarta Post recently.

Hasanain, or Tuan Guru (Mr. Teacher) as he is known by his students and local residents, runs the conservation program with his so-called melati (jasmine) formula: He asks people to grow long-life trees, and in return provides them with livestock.

A family is asked to plant trees on a hectare plot of land and maintain them under a long-term regime. It is expected they will reap the benefits 10 to 15 years later when the trees can be cut down and sold.

To meet their medium-term needs, a family takes care of five cows and is allowed to sell one every six months.

In the short term, those who manage the plot receive 1,000 chickens. Each family is allowed to sell two chickens per day.

“Now we don’t have any problem thinking about paying (the residents) based on the provincial minimum wage. They can sell two chickens daily, with the assumption that they will get Rp 40,000 in hand,” Hasanain said.

“They would then spend Rp 10,000 to buy two chicks to replace the adult ones they have sold, another Rp 10,000 on transportation, and take home the rest to fulfill the needs of their family.”

As the cost of a cow is quite high, Hasanain asked his friends and relatives from urban areas to join in by purchasing the cattle for the villagers. The revenue is then shared among the two parties.

“The (villagers) look after the cattle and fatten them up. After six months, they can sell the cows and share equally in the profits. The manure can be processed into organic fertilizer for their trees,” Hasanain said.

The idea for the program came to Hasanain in 2000 following a discussion with NGOs in Lombok about the activities of Nurul Harmain Putri boarding school.

In their talks, the school was strongly criticized.

“They regarded the boarding school community as one which enjoyed serenity in an ivory tower. They said the boarding house had never been really involved in the efforts to address social challenges from outside its fence,” he said.

Hasanain accepted the criticism in a positive frame of mind and became motivated to conduct research with academics from the University of Mataram.

The research focused on forest preservation and local community empowerment in Narmada district.

“We conducted the research over four years. Our finding was simple. The government had implemented forest conservation programs but ignored the needs of the communities living nearby.

“The forest was built to be destroyed, while people living nearby were struggling to make ends meet,” Hasanain said.

The research revealed that although people preserved the forest, they did not have sufficient capital, managerial skills or marketing knowledge.

“We tried to respond by making an environmental formula. We started with students in the boarding school, encouraging them to grow seedlings. The students read religious text books 360 days a year, so we asked them to open books on the environment,” he said.

The results were amazing with students beginning to take an active role in environmental conservation. Over the past three years, around 380 students have produced some 1.6 million seedlings later distributed to villagers.

Today, out of the 31 hectares of land belonging to the boarding school, only five hectares has been planted due to problems attaining the start-up capital.

The program nurtures community empowerment and economic improvement through an environmental business concept, which in time will strengthen the identity of the Indonesian nation, Hasanain said.

“Turning over money is like a retail business. We are like brokers who build up big industries while we only get the profits from price differences,” he said.

“But through this environmental business, building a forest, we can really make money from our own soil. The capital is here, it grows here, and will turn over here.”

Hasanain, also chairman of the West Lombok electoral committee, has other environmental conservation ideas.

“Now I am trying to cultivate orchids. I have established a nursery and will cultivate orchids in the ‘garden’ (the area where the conservation program is held). You can imagine, on each tree there will be two or three beautiful orchid plants,” he said.

In recognition for his dedication to the environment, Hasanain received a Maarif Award from the Maarif Institute in the middle of this year. He was also a recipient of an Ashoka fellowship for social entrepreneurship in 2003.

Rewards are not Hasanain’s ultimate aim, but instead environmental conservation and poverty alleviation drive him on. Despite his gains, Hasanain acknowledges that he still has a long way to go.

“What we have to think about is not the 31-hectare plot of land which we have planted with trees, but instead about 500,000 hectares of critical land in West Nusa Tenggara.

“Let’s fight together ... all parties must become enthusiastic and engaged. I have come to realize that our real problem has a lot to do with mentality and spirit,” he said.

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