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Lasting change, they say, begins in one’s imagination. Piet Abik imagined a better future for his community, the Dayak tribe in Borneo, and he set out to make it happen.
The palm oil industry has deforested 25% of Indonesia’s rainforests. Piet needed to understand how this even happened in the first place.
After studying environmental sciences in Australia, Piet travelled across his country. He closely observed what lead farmers to give up their fertile lands to palm oil producing companies.
Once Piet understood that those farmers depended on the palm oil industry to survive, he realised that boycotting palm oil is not a solution. He also understood that he wouldn’t be able to change the global structures that underlie the destruction of the forest all by himself.
So he started changing something in the simplest way: he started talking to the farmers in his community.
Piet went around his home town in Borneo explaining to farmers the link he had observed between a worldwide demand for palm oil and impoverished, rural communities.
He explained to them how they were trapped in a vicious cycle.
The palm oil industry is damaging to the environment because it creates monocultures on farmers’ lands and in their neighbouring forests. Monocultures rob the soil of its water and minerals, eventually turning it infertile.
Once that happens, palm oil companies give farmers’ their now unusable lands back, taking with them the very lucrative jobs they promised them in the first place - such as harvesting the palm oil fruit every month and delivering it to nearby factories.
Instead, Piet had to help farmers find a way not to depend on palm oil plantations and help them make that change step by step, slowly undoing their dependency.
“What to do instead?”, farmers asked Piet. Plant trees. Diversify your crops. Find alternative ways of income to improve your livelihood.
Those first conversations with about 80 farmers are now slowly turning into a movement. As they started planting trees instead of giving their lands away, farmers saw their lands turn lush again, their soils once more producing healthy crops:
As neighbouring farmers saw the effect, they too wanted to plant trees.
To date, about 2000 farmers have joined Piet’s example, slowly creating long-lasting change for themselves and for nature.
Watch Piet’s story and get inspired on how to be a climate activist. Look around you and ask yourself: what is a single, simple thing I can do in my community to start tackling an issue that bothers me?
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