Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Pasuruan
State company Perhutani, in charge of managing teak forests on Java Island, is creating a seven-hectare arboretum in East Java to help raise environmental awareness in the region.
The arboretum, in Pasuran, will be jointly developed by the Pasuruan forest management unit (KPH) of Perhutani's East Java office and the Ngudi Lestari Forest Community Group (LMDH) in Prigen.
Pasuruan KPH deputy administrative head Eka Muhamad Ruskanda said his office had provided the land for the arboretum, designed to become a center for scientific and educational purposes in Java.
"The arboretum is expected to function as an educational facility to teach elementary school students about biological diversity, conservation efforts, public education and ecotourism.
"This forest will be the first of its kind in East Java," said Eka on the sidelines of a tree-planting ceremony at the facility.
Eka said the arboretum, located on former pine production forest land at the food of Mount Arjuno, would be home to around 100 tree species by the end of the year.
As an initial step, the Pasuruan KPH and the Ngudi Lestari forest community had planted 35 endemic tree species in the arboretum.
They include the tamarind, Javan plum, yellow/Chinese magnolia, teak, breadfruit, Indonesian bayleaf, cajuput, ironwood, mahogany and pine.
Perhutani provided the land and plant seedlings, while planting, supervision and maintenance will be entrusted to LMDH Ngudi Lestari, supervised directly by the Kaliandra Sejati Foundation (YKS), operator of the Kaliandra resort area which manages an environmental education and Javanese culture training center.
The YKS will also assist in enhancing farmers' skills and provide them with Rp 25 million (approximately US$2,750) as compensation for each hectare of their land to be included in the arboretum.
The educational forest will be guarded by eight farmers. Developers guessed it would ready for public use within five years.
"The facility is aimed at raising environmental awareness of the forest community, such as sharing responsibilities in conservation efforts. It's high time for them to protect and manage the forest," said LMDH Ngudi Lestari leader Faturohman.
Farmers will be allowed to grow seasonal crops until the trees mature, he said.
Farmers will derive earnings from harvesting fruit trees such as guavas and coffee beans, and receive salaries as guides at the arboretum, said Faturohman.
They will also receive proceeds from visitor fees.
"The number of visitors to Kaliandra increases each year. Last year there were 20,000 visitors. If we set aside Rp 1,000 from each visitor, the sum collected would reach Rp 20 million per year," said YKS executive director Agus Wiyono.
He added the program was a form of community-based forest management, and aimed at encouraging the forest community to play an active role in reforestation and forest management.
In 2006, there were around 2,800 hectares of barren forest areas in East Java, but dropped to around 1,000 hectares last year.
"The educational forest is part of efforts to reforest barren areas, but the difference is that it directly involves the local community," said Eka.