Robber fly - Nature photographer Thomas Shahan specializes in amazing portraits of tiny insects. It isn't easy. Shahan says that this Robber Fly (Holcocephala fusca), for instance, is "skittish" and doesn't like its picture taken.

Eye-popping bug photos

Nature by Numbers (Video)

"The Greater Akashic System" – July 15, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Caroll) (Subjects: Lightworkers, Intent, To meet God, Past lives, Universe/Galaxy, Earth, Pleiadians, Souls Reincarnate, Invention: Measure Quantum state in 3D, Recalibrates, Multi-Dimensional/Divine, Akashic System to change to new system, Before religion changed the system, DNA, Old system react to Karma, New system react to intent now for next life, Animals (around humans) reincarnate again, This Animal want to come back to the same human, Akashic Inheritance, Reincarnate as Family, Other Planets, Global Unity … etc.)

Question: Dear Kryon: I live in Spain. I am sorry if I will ask you a question you might have already answered, but the translations of your books are very slow and I might not have gathered all information you have already given. I am quite concerned about abandoned animals. It seems that many people buy animals for their children and as soon as they grow, they set them out somewhere. Recently I had the occasion to see a small kitten in the middle of the street. I did not immediately react, since I could have stopped and taken it, without getting out of the car. So, I went on and at the first occasion I could turn, I went back to see if I could take the kitten, but it was to late, somebody had already killed it. This happened some month ago, but I still feel very sorry for that kitten. I just would like to know, what kind of entity are these animals and how does this fit in our world. Are these entities which choose this kind of life, like we do choose our kind of Human life? I see so many abandoned animals and every time I see one, my heart aches... I would like to know more about them.

Answer: Dear one, indeed the answer has been given, but let us give it again so you all understand. Animals are here on earth for three (3) reasons.

(1) The balance of biological life. . . the circle of energy that is needed for you to exist in what you call "nature."

(2) To be harvested. Yes, it's true. Many exist for your sustenance, and this is appropriate. It is a harmony between Human and animal, and always has. Remember the buffalo that willingly came into the indigenous tribes to be sacrificed when called? These are stories that you should examine again. The inappropriateness of today's culture is how these precious creatures are treated. Did you know that if there was an honoring ceremony at their death, they would nourish you better? Did you know that there is ceremony that could benefit all of humanity in this way. Perhaps it's time you saw it.

(3) To be loved and to love. For many cultures, animals serve as surrogate children, loved and taken care of. It gives Humans a chance to show compassion when they need it, and to have unconditional love when they need it. This is extremely important to many, and provides balance and centering for many.

Do animals know all this? At a basic level, they do. Not in the way you "know," but in a cellular awareness they understand that they are here in service to planet earth. If you honor them in all three instances, then balance will be the result. Your feelings about their treatment is important. Temper your reactions with the spiritual logic of their appropriateness and their service to humanity. Honor them in all three cases.

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle

Dian Fossey's birthday celebrated with a Google doodle
American zoologist played by Sigourney Weaver in the film Gorillas in the Mist would have been 82 on Thursday (16 January 2014)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Forests losing battle against plantations

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta  

Massive forest conversions, rising demand for timber and infrastructure projects are the main causes for Indonesia's world-leading rate of deforestation, a new study has found. 

The study by the Indonesian Forest Watch (FWI) categorically blamed deforestation on forest conversions into palm oil plantations conducted by big companies. 

"We find palm oil companies prefer to convert forest areas rather than utilize idle land for their expansion as they get extra incentives from trees in the cleared forests," said Wirendro Sumargo, FWI coordinator for public campaign and policy dialogue, on Tuesday. 

The field study was conducted in Central Kalimantan and Riau and Papua. 

It said Central Kalimantan was seeing the fastest rate of conversion of forest area into palm oil plantations. 

"In the last 17 years, the rate of forest conversion to palm oil plantations increased by 400 times to 461,992 hectares (per year) in 2007 from only 1,163 hectares (per year) in 1991," the study said, quoting data from the Central Kalimantan administration. 

"Our finding shows that about 816,000 hectares of forest (there) was cleared for palm oil plantations in 2006." 

He said 14 percent of the 3 million hectares of peatland in the province had been converted into palm oil plantations. 

In Riau, the local administration allocated 38.5 percent of its total forest area for conversion into plantations. 

"As of 2006, there were 2.7 million hectares of plantations, including 1.5 million hectares of palm oil plantations," he said. 

Wirendro said that out of the 550,000 hectares of forests felled for plantations in Papua, 480,000 hectares had been allocated for growing palm oil. 

The Forestry Ministry has said total palm oil plantations increased to 6.1 million hectares in 2006 from 1.1 million hectares in 1990. 

The ministry has claimed the rate of deforestation between 1987 and 1997 remained constant at 1.8 million hectares per year before spiking to 2.8 million hectares per year by 2000 mainly because of severe forest fires. 

However, between 2000 and 2006, the rate fell to 1.08 million hectares per year, it added. 

The Indonesian Forest Watch has said the deforestation rate stood at 1.9 million hectares per year from 1989 to 2003. 

The Guinness Book of World Records puts Indonesia as the country with the highest rate of deforestation on the planet, citing a rate equivalent to 300 soccer fields per hour. 

Wirendro said another factor contributing to the acceleration of forest deforestation was the rising demand for timber due to the low supply of raw materials from industrial forests managed by pulp and paper firms in the country. 

"The capacity of paper industries increased sharply from one million tons in 1987 to 11 million tons in 2007, while the capacity of pulp companies also rose from 0.5 million tons to 6.5 million tons over the same period," he said. 

"But, the industries could only supply about 50 percent of the needed raw materials. We believe the companies also take timber from outside their concessions, including production forests (to offset the shortages)." 

Wirendro said wood product industries, which bought wood from illegal and illegal sources, could be the main driver of deforestation in Indonesia. 

There are currently seven pulp and paper companies operating in the country. 

The study said the previous government's transmigration programs had also contributed to deforestation. 

In Riau, 773,331 hectares of forest were converted into transmigration areas, while the Papua administration cut down 375,203 hectares of forest to make way for resettlement zones.


Indonesia to develop horticultural zones to boost exports

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Thu, 10/30/2008 10:46 AM  

The government is set to develop horticultural zones to support agrobusiness and serve the domestic market, an academic said in Denpasar, Bali, on Thursday. 

"Efforts have been undertaken within the last five years by way of rehabilitating existing plots and developing new ones," Dean of Agricultural Technology of Udayana University in Bali Bambang Admadi said, as quoted by Kompas.com. 

The efforts, he said, were spearheaded by the Agriculture Ministry's Horticulture Directorate. 

Bambang said there were no less than 1.7 hectares of horticultural land already being developed in 66 regions accross Indonesia. 

"The results have so far been positive. We have had a steady 10 percent increase of fruit harvest per year," he said, adding that such growth had allowed the country to produce 14,313,101 tonnes of fruit per year. 

Vegetables followed closely with an average growth rate of 5.4 percent or 9,011,417 tonnes annually. 

Despite positive trends, Bambang argued that the level of the country's production was still not sufficient when compared to the exports of neighboring countries. 

"The value of Indonesia's current horticultural export is merely 0.6 percent with a total output of 345,642 tonnes," he said. "This pales in comparison to other countries in Asia and Australia."


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

US considers 62 percent of Indonesian food filthy

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, 10/28/2008 2:49 PM  

An average 62 percent of Indonesian food products exported to the U.S. are rejected each year because they fail to meet food safety standards, an expert said at a seminar on Tuesday. 

The rejections came because Indonesian SMEs were seemingly incapable of upgrading their facilities so as to maintain the required levels of hygiene, said Purwiyatno Hariyadi, director of the Southeast Asian Food & Agricultural Science & Technology (Seafast) center. 

Puwiyatno added that if the government were to offer help to improve hygiene -- such as through incentives, training or subsidies -- these steps must be made within the reach of SMEs. 

"Approximately 75 percent of SMEs we survey do not meet the required standards for food hygiene," Purwiyatno said. 

Therefore, he said, the government must take action to facilitate improving small firms' food safety standards.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Mobile Phones and Vanishing Bees

The Institute of Science in Society

The recent boom in third generation mobile phones may be the main culprit for colony collapse disorder in honeybees. Dr. Mae-Wan Ho 

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Colony collapse a new phenomenon 

Bees worldwide have been involved in a disappearing act called “colony collapse disorder” over the past two years [1] (Mystery of Disappearing Honeybees, this series), with little sign of the disease or infestations that have resulted in massive loss of colonies in the past. The bees simply leave the hives and fail to return. Beekeepers and scientists alike are stymied as to the cause of this strange phenomenon. 

One likely culprit is a new class of systemic pesticides, which are not only sprayed on crops, but also used universally to dress seeds in conventional agriculture, and can confuse and disorientate bees at very low concentrations [2] (Requiem for the Honeybee, this series). Another candidate is radiation from mobile phone base stations that has become nearly ubiquitous in Europe and North America where the bees are vanishing; this possibility is considerably strengthened by preliminary findings that bees fail to return to the hives if cordless phone base stations are placed in them. 

Simple experiment with dramatic results 

Researchers at Landau University in Germany designed a simple experiment for students on the Environmental Science course [3]. Eight mini-hives, each with approximately 8 000 bees were set up for the experiment. Four of them were equipped with a DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunication)-station at the bottom of the hive, and the other four without the DECT-station served as controls. 

At the entrance of each hive, a transparent plastic tube enabled the experimenters to watch the marked bees entering and leaving the hive, so they can be counted and their time of return after release recorded for a period of 45 minutes. 

The experimenters also studied building behaviour by measuring the area of the honeycomb and its weight. 

In the course of the experiment, three colonies exposed to mobile phone radiation and one non-exposed control colony broke down. The total weights of the honeycombs in all colonies, including those at the time of breakdown were compared. The controls weighed 1 326g, while those exposed to the DECT-stations weighed only 1 045g, a difference of 21 percent. The total area of the honeycomb in the controls was 2 500, compared to just 2050 in the exposed hives. 

But it was the number of returning bees and their returning times that were vastly different. For two control hives, 16 out of 25 bees returned in 45 minutes. For the two microwave-exposed hives, however, no bees at all returned to one hive, and only six returned to the other. 

Cordless phone base station widely used in homes and offices 

These dramatic results are of a preliminary nature, but one should bear in mind that the DECT-station is a simple cordless phone base, widely used in homes and offices. 

It emits microwave radiation of about 1 900 MHz continuously, which is frequency modulated at 100 Hz. The average power is 10 mW, with a peak of 250 mW. It represents the exposure levels of perhaps tens of millions worldwide living near mobile phone base stations, or have cordless phones in their homes or offices. 

The same scientists had carried out an earlier experiment with the cordless phone base on a standby mode, in which the average power is 2.5 mW, and that appeared to have had no effect on the bees [4, 5]. 

Clearly the present findings need to be taken much further, but their significance should not be downplayed for a number of reasons. The findings are compatible with evidence accumulating from investigations on many other species including humans, showing that mobile phone radiation is associated with a range of health hazards including cancers [6] (Drowning in a Sea of Microwaves, SiS 34). Furthermore, bees are known to be extremely sensitive to magnetic and electromagnetic fields, and there have been many suggestions that they could be used as an indicator species for electromagnetic pollution. 

Bees as indicator species for electromagnetic pollution 

Experiments dating well back to the last century have documented the phenomenal sensitivity of honeybees to electromagnetic fields. Bees use the earth’s magnetic field to navigate. Free-flying honeybees are able to detect static intensity fluctuations as weak as 26 nT against the background earth-strength magnetic field (average 500 mT) [7]. This has been demonstrated in experiments where individual honeybees have been trained to discriminate between the presence and the absence of a small static magnetic anomaly in the lab. Honeybees can also learn to distinguish between two 360o panoramic patterns that are identical except for the compass orientation. In this case, the difference was a 90o rotation about the vertical axis [8]. The most powerful cue to direction for the honeybee comes from the sky, but discrimination between patterns is possible in the absence of celestial information, as when the sky is overcast. Under those conditions, bees can use a magnetic direction to discriminate between patterns. 

The bees’ waggle dance on the honeycomb, which tells hive mates where to find food, can also be misdirected by anomalies in the earth’s magnetic field or very weak pulsed magnetic fields at about 250 MHz applied in the correct direction [9]. Bees can even learn to detect very low levels of extremely low frequency alternating electromagnetic fields [10]. 

But mobile phones have been around for close to 20 years, so why now? There has been a recent change in cell phone technology that coincides with the current crisis. At the beginning of the present century, 3G (third generation) mobile phone systems became publicly available, leading to a surge in popularity of mobile phones, and many more phone towers [11]. Bees are disappearing in North America, Europe and also Australia, wherever mobile phones are greatly in use. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Indonesia coffee export plunges to lowest point

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta 

Indonesian coffee exports have declined steadily over the past five years and are expected to reach their lowest point this year, according to the Association of Indonesian Coffee Exporters (AEKI). 

Rachim Kartabrata, an executive at AEKI, said in a recent interview that coffee exports this year were estimated to drop to 134,481 tons compared with last year's 258,849 tons, worth US$266.5 million. 

He said that the primary factors contributing to the above problem included harvest failure, low productivity and a poor-quality product. 

Rachim explained that the El Nio and La Nia weather disturb ances that occurred in 1997 and 1998 had caused the coffee har vest to fail. 

The country's coffee production fell to 335,400 tons in 1999 from 344,400 tons in 1998 and 391,800 tons in 1997. 

The drop in production turned Indonesia into the world's fifth-largest coffee producer, supplying only around 4.17 percent of world demand. In 1993, Indonesia was the world's largest producer, with a total output of 427,800 tons. 

Rachim said that low productivity and poor quality products were making it hard for Indonesian coffee to compete with Viet nam, the world's second-largest producer after Brazil. Both Vietnam and Indonesia produce the same type of coffee: Robusta. 

Right now, Indonesia had approximately 850,000 hectares of productive coffee plantations with a productivity rate of less than one ton per hectare, while in Vietnam, the productivity rate was around two to three tons per hectare, he explained. 

Indonesia's traditional coffee market overseas includes the U.S., Japan and Europe. 

Analysts said earlier that the poor quality of Indonesian coffee beans was linked to the current plunge in the price of the commodity on the international market due to an oversupply prob lem. The poor price has discouraged farmers from taking proper care of their crops. Some had even started to turn to other crops. 

Coffee is the world's second-most widely traded commodity after oil, and provides jobs for millions of people in some of the world's poorest countries. 

In an effort to increase the coffee price, AEKI and the Viet nam Coffee and Cocoa Association (VICOFA) signed a memorandum of understanding in June 2003 to cut coffee production by up to 50 percent. 

The move has shown some positive signs as robusta coffee started to rise to $700 per ton from $550 per ton earlier in the year.


Related Article:

Starbucks in RI starts selling Peruvian coffee


`Extinct` cockatoo rediscovered in Indonesia: researchers

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - A species of cockatoo feared to have become extinct has been "rediscovered" with the sighting of a handful of breeding pairs on a remote Indonesian island, researchers said Thursday. 

Ten Yellow-crested Abbott's cockatoos were found on the Masalembu archipelago off Java island, the Indonesian Cockatoo Conservation group told AFP. 

"We were excited when we found them in residential areas on Masakambing island," researcher Dudi Nandika said. 

The group included four breeding pairs and two juveniles. 

Despite the discovery the Yellow-crested Abbott's cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea abbotti) remains the rarest species of the bird on earth, he said. 

It hasn't been seen since scientists observed a group of five in 1999, researcher Dwi Agustina said. 

It was assumed that number was too low for the cockatoos to reproduce and the species had died out, Agustina said. 

The local population of the cockatoo has been threatened by hunting and capture for the pet trade.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

ADB ready to provide $30 m loan for RI`s rice development

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is ready to provide US$3 million in loans to develop rice through the system of rice intensification (SRI) in Indonesia, an Agriculture Ministry official said. 

The project would target three districts of Bandung, Cianjur and Karawang in West Java from 2009 to 2011, Director of Land Management of the Directorate General of Land and Water Management at the Agriculture Ministry Suhartono said on Tuesday. 

"The project will involve 150 farmer groups and require 3,000 hectares of paddy field," he said on the sidelines of a national workshop on the system of rice intensification (SRI) at the Agriculture Ministry building here. 

In addition to the ADB loans, the Agriculture Ministry would this year set aside funds to cultivate rice on 4,260 hectares of land through the system across the country, he said. 

The project would involve 213 farmer groups with each of them cultivating rice on 20 hectares of land through the system, he said. 

So far, 28 districts in 15 of the country`s 33 provinces had cultivated rice on 3,200 hectares of land by applying the system, he said.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lampung farmers complain about price drop

Bandar Lampung, (ANTARA News) - Farmers at Lampung province`s cultivation center complained about the drop in prices of their crops such as coconut palm oil, rubber, coffee and cocoa as the global financial crisis has presumably affected export commodities. 

Several farmers including traders of plantation products in Lampung wished that the prices of Lampung`s export commodities would recover, as production costs especially the prices of fertilizer and other general farming tools have been increasing. 

The farmers at Tulang Bawang district, Lampung, rely on rubber plantation, local farmers at Way district cultivate CPO, and several other districts in Lampung combine the cultivation of rubber, coffee, cocoa and oil palm. 

Due to the price drop, farmers had imagined big losses they would suffer while it was still uncertain when the prices would recover. 

Hadi, a rubber farmer at Tulang Bawang, said the rubber price from the public plantation was around Rp4.000-Rp5.000 per kilogram, a drastic decrease from the price between Rp10.000-Rp12.000 per kg. 

Several CPO farmers at Way Kanan district also complained about the same thing as the price was around Rp400-Rp500 per Kg, or dropped from the previous normal price. 

Coffee and Cacao farmers at Tanggamus district, South Lampung and Pesawaran also complained about the decline in the export commodity prices. 

The farmers said tens of millions had been spent for the cultivation and production in every hectare. 

With the drop in the crop prices, they were estimated to suffer losses. 

Besides purely run by farmers, the cultivation of the local export commodities was also supported by several Lampung administration officials, civil servants and other members of the local society. 

The population of Bandarlampung city consisted of the government officials, entrepreneurs and legislators. Many of them also dealt with rubber, cocoa, CPO and coffee plantations in the districts of South Lampung, Tulang Bawang, West Lampung, Tanggamus, Way Kanan and other areas in the province.


Biofuel boom endangers orangutan habitat

Palm oil plantations are encroaching on rain forest reserves on the Indonesia island of Borneo, where the endangered primates live.

By Paul Watson, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

October 19, 2008 

TANJUNG PUTING NATIONAL PARK, INDONESIA -- In the rush to feed the world's growing appetite for climate-friendly fuel and cooking oil that doesn't clog arteries, the Bornean orangutan could get plowed over. 

Several plantation owners are eyeing Tanjung Puting park, a sanctuary for 6,000 of the endangered animals. It is the world's second-largest population of a primate that experts warn could be extinct in less than two decades if a massive assault on its forest habitat is not stopped. 

The orangutans' biggest enemy, the United Nations says, is no longer poachers or loggers. It's the palm oil industry. 

On the receding borders of this 1,600-square-mile lush reserve, a road paved with good intentions runs smack into a swamp of alleged corruption and government bungling. It's one of the mounting costs few bargained for in the global craze to "go green." 

The park clings to the southern tip of the island of Borneo, which is shared by Indonesia and Malaysia, the top producers of palm oil. Exporters market it as an alternative to both petroleum and cooking oils containing trans fats. 

"That's only a slogan, you know," said Ichlas Al Zaqie, the local project manager for Los Angeles-based Orangutan Foundation International. "They change the forest, and say it's for energy sustainability, but they're killing other creatures." 

Indonesia is losing lowland forest faster than any other major forested country. At the rate its trees are being felled to plant oil palms, poach high-grade timber and clear land for farming, 98% of Indonesia's forest may be lost by 2022, the United Nations Environment Program says. 

"If the immediate crisis in securing the future survival of the orangutan and the protection of national parks is not resolved, very few wild orangutans will be left within two decades," UNEP concluded in a report last year. "The rate and extent of illegal logging in national parks may, if unchallenged, endanger the entire concept of protected areas worldwide." 

In July, loggers finished buzz-sawing and bulldozing a 40,000-acre swath in a northeastern corner of the park, where at least 561 orangutan lived, to clear ground for oil palm plants, Zaqie said. 

The government isn't much help, say environmental activists, who accuse corrupt officials, military and police officers of siding with timber poachers, illegal miners and others threatening the forests. 

Activists bemoan a territorial dispute between local officials and the provincial and national governments. 

"The problem now is even the central government can't really say where the exact border of the national park is," said Yeppie Kustiwae, who handles the issue of forest conversion for the World Wide Fund for Nature in Indonesia. 

Zaqie says palm oil companies are determined to take as much as 5 million acres of orangutan forest habitat in Tanjung Puting and the larger Sebangau National Park, where Borneo's largest population of orangutans lives. 

Tanjung Puting, a tropical Eden still revealing its secrets, shelters nine primate species, including rare proboscis monkeys, whose pendulous schnozzes can be 7 inches long. 

Zaqie says he first saw bulldozers knocking down trees for the northeastern palm oil plantation five years ago. He was certain the loggers were on land included in the park in a 1996 government decree. 

He tried without success to stop the bulldozer operators. So Zaqie went to a manager, who confirmed that the forest was being converted into a plantation by an Indonesian company called Wanasawit Subur Lestari. A spokesman for its parent company, BEST Plantation Group, denied encroaching on the park. 

"We are working based on a permit issued by the government," said Wahyu Bimadhrata, BEST's legal manager. "We don't work inside the national park." 

Mounting pressures on the forest are easiest to see in the money made by palm oil plantations. In 1990, Indonesia earned $204 million from palm oil exports; the value exploded to more than $7.8 billion in 2007. 

Palm oil exports started growing sharply five years ago after the European Union declared a mandatory quota to replace gasoline and diesel from crude with biofuels. Last year, it raised the biofuel target to 10% of transportation fuels by 2020, driving the price of palm oil higher and ratcheting up the threat to rain forests. 

The EU has maintained the policy even though a report in April by European Environment Agency scientists called it an "overambitious" experiment "whose unintended effects are difficult to predict and difficult to control." 

Instead of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, producing palm oil on what was once peat swamp forests may be boosting the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Leveling the jungle not only destroys trees that absorb carbon dioxide, it also releases millions of tons of carbon dioxide stored in Borneo's peat for thousands of years. Fires set to clear trees and stumps add to the problem. 

As companies lobby to clear more rain forest, other Indonesians are laboring to restore habitat for orangutans and rehabilitate those who lost their jungle homes or were rescued from poachers. 

A decade ago, raging fires burned millions of acres of Borneo's forest. The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation bought 4,500 acres that farmers had abandoned to grassland at Samboja Lestari, on the island's eastern side. 

"People thought that in one or two years, we would give up," said Ishak Yassir, the foundation's regional program manager. "We proved them wrong." 

His Indonesian staff cares for 224 orangutans; each day, teachers take their wide-eyed pupils to forest school. They teach them the basics, such as tree climbing; the proper way to eat dirt to get at insects, seeds and other nutrients; and avoiding snakes. 

Once they graduate, they join the list of orangutans ready to leave rehab. 

Yassir's staff has cleared more than 50 young adults for release over the last six years. But the orangutans' rescuers can't find enough safe forest for the apes to go home to. 

paul.watson@latimes.com 

Special correspondent Dinda Jouhana in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Kaliandra trekking: The march of the eco-tourists

Duncan Graham, Contributor Jakarta Post, Malang

Call them flashpackers, or backpackers-plus to their face. These knowledge-hungry 60-somethings can be found in every corner of the world, out to flex their muscles as well as their minds. 

Having conquered the Australasian wilderness they'll soon be heading for the mountains of East Java, if Janet Cochrane and her Indonesian colleagues have their way.

British academic Cochrane has done the hard yards in the tourism industry. Before teaching at Leeds University she led organized tours, including outdoor adventures. 

She's also been a frequent visitor to Indonesia, so her surprise at the lack of development in hiking, eco and cultural tourism carries some clout. 

"Trekking tours are extremely popular in other parts of the world," she said. "It's amazing that nothing has yet been successfully developed in Indonesia, other than hikes of a day or more up and down mountains that can be extremely challenging." 

This dearth is now being tackled in central East Java, where a group of young Indonesians, backed by a conservation center and some of Cochrane's students, are developing a one-week trekking tour with the pedestrian title "A Walk Around Arjuna" (www.kaliandrasejati.org). 

 

Local villagers carry bundles of firewood along one of the trekking paths at the foothills of Gunung Arjuana. Locals have enthusiastically welcomed the trekking program, as it will add to their income through the opportunity to build and maintain tracks, and act as trek guides and accomodation hosts. (JP/Wahyoe Boediwardhana)

  

Arjuna, 3,339 meters high, stands between Surabaya and Malang Mountains. It last erupted in 1952. Its neighbor, Mount Welirang, is just 183 meters lower and is a well-known sulfur mine. For those brave or driven enough to enter the smoking crater, there's a 1,000-meter deep valley between the two peaks to traverse first. 

"We want to create an experience where visitors can get involved in local culture and traditional arts," said Agus Wiyono, executive director of the Kaliandra Sejati Foundation, which runs an education and training center. "We'd like them to understand and maybe experience the cycles of rural life, including the harvesting of rice. 

"To do this successfully we need to be supported by the local communities. We are taking things slowly and smoothly. We are calling this our 'pride campaign' and want it to encourage conservation of the environment. We don't want them to feel threatened." 

Or exploited. The days when tourism was considered benign and a plus for the locals have long gone. The Bali experience, where farmers' land has been lost to hotels and the anticipated post-construction jobs went to outsiders, is a classic example of the downsides of tourism. 

Cochrane said the negative impacts included arousing the desire for material goods, particularly the shiny, buzzy things that tourists carry. However mobile phone coverage in the Arjuna area is like the landscape -- full of holes. So the pleasure of arousing envy by browsing emails from Exeter while standing on the crumbling cusp of a smoking caldera will be limited. 

Then there's the danger of infection from the glazy-eyed monotone "have a good day" virus that infects city supermarket checkout-chicks. It would be tragic if this sickness found its way into the Arjuna villages because the locals are genuinely friendly, even though their interrogation of visitors' age, faith and fertility can get a bit wearing. 

Agus and his Kaliandra colleagues, Sapto Siswoyo and Agus Sugianto, have been organizing village meetings to help people understand what might happen when the trekking program gets underway in a big way. So far there have been nine sessions involving farmers and householders. 

Agus Wiyono said the locals were enthusiastic because they had the chance to add to the income they currently earn from farming and forestry. They'll get the opportunity to build and maintain tracks, erect signs, act as tour guides and provide handicrafts, food and accommodation. 

The other issue concerning the organizers is whether they should try to limit visitors. 

If the trekking tours get too popular, cashed-up developers from outside might muscle in to build flashy resorts that would destroy the things that attract genuine eco-tourists. 

Although the trekkers are likely to be hardy Europeans and Australians enjoying an active retirement on handsome pensions, they will still want their little comforts. 

They may be prepared to forgo hot showers and sit-down toilets, but they will insist on cleanliness, and their desire for contact with nature will vanish if the little black things on the bedroom floor turn out to be rat droppings. 

So the Kaliandra crew are busy explaining foreigners' needs and funny customs, like wanting to take part in some of the most boringly repetitious jobs in agriculture -- threshing rice by hand and pushing buffaloes to plow paddy. 

As a tourist spot, Arjuna and its neighboring mountains have so many add-on attractions that even the most wilderness-worn will find something new. It's not just the views that make high-definition TV look like distorted transmissions. 

The area is rich in culture and history, mystery and magic. For in these lush and fecund mountains the major religions haven't had the missionary successes they've enjoyed in the coastal cities. 

Many ancient traditions and ceremonies have survived, particularly those involving planting and harvesting of crops. The locals will share these with outsiders, provided they're not trying to put a stop to these practices. 

Then there's the chance to spot a rare Javan hawk-eagle, or the grizzled langur. Both are heading down the one-way track made by hundreds of other Indonesian birds and beasts, as forests are felled. 

"There's a huge variety of things to see, from ancient temples and pristine montane forests to nightclubs, from hot springs and waterfalls, to tea plantations and rice fields," said Cochrane. The area is also cool -- Kaliandra is 850 meters up Arjuna. It's not quite outside mosquito range but they're not the saber-toothed brutes found on the steaming floodplains far below. 

Although it will be another year before the long tour is ready for its first corrugated-sole footfall, shorter one-day tramps around Kaliandra are almost ready for business.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Farmers in Sumatra let oil palm fruit rotten as prices fall

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - Thousands of farmers in Rokan Hulu (Rohul) district, Riau province in Sumatra, are now leaving their oil palm fruit unharvested, letting it rotten on the shaft as a result of sharp fall in the prices of the export commodity. 

"About 60 percent of farmers who cultivate 118,000 hectares of oil palm plantations in Rohul now do not harvest their oil palm fruit as oil palm fruit has now fallen to Rp250 per kilogram," H Erdiman Daulay, chairman of the Indonesian Oil Palm Assication, said here on Sunday. 

He said that the price of oil palm fresh fruit bunches (TBS) had dropped since August to Rp250 per kg from the previous price of Rp700 a kg. Several days ago, the price was still Rp350 per kg. 

Daulay explained that with a price of Rp350 / kg farmers were not able to cover their production costs. Transportation from the garden to buyers would cost Rp200 per kg, harvest would cost Rp200 per kg and load and unloading would cost Rp20 a kg. 

"This leave only about Rp30 per kg for farmers. So, this sale price is quite inappropriate for farmers. Moreover, prices of commodities needed for daily life are now on the rise," he said. 

That`s why, farmers in the last two harvesting seasons (two months) did not harvest their oil palm fruit. After all, in the last two days, prices of oil palm fresh fruit bunches had dropped to Rp250 / kg.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Indonesia, Finland to cooperate in fighting global warming

Depok, W Java, (ANTARA News) - Indonesia and Finland cooperate to fight global warming by planting trees in a forest within the area of the University of Indonesia (UI) in Depok, West Java, a statement recieved here Sunday. 

"The activity will be held on Monday, September 22. Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo, Finnish Ambassador to Indonesia Antti Koistinen and UI rector Gumilar Rusliwa Somantri are scheduled to take part in the activity," an official of Findland`s Embassy in Jakarta Ivan Alidjaja said. 

The activity, according to Alidjaja, is part of Planting Tree Global Day 2008--an event which will take place for 24 hours, starting from Tonga Island following the sun movement, trees will be planted in Asia, Europe, Africa and America. 

"Up to this moment, more than 1,100 schools in 13 countries had registered and committed to plant 300,000 plants. In this 2008 program, Indonesia will participate for the first time," Alidjaja said. 

"The aim of the program is to increase people`s awareness of environmental issues and affirmed the importance of trees to fight global warming," he explained, adding the activity is also a symbol of Indonesia-Findland cooperation in forestry and education. 

By the tree planting program in UI, Alidjaja added, Indonesia will take part in efforts to reach at least 1 million trees by the end of 2008. 

"The long-term goal of the program is to plant 100 million trees all around the world before 2017," Alidjaja said.

West Kalimantan ready to export rice to Malaysia

Pontianak, W Kalimantan (ANTARA News) - West Kalimantan province is ready to export rice to Malaysia thanks to its rice production surplus which this year is expected to reach 150,000 tons, an official said.

"West Kalimantan has the chance to export rice," Hazairin, head of West Kalimantan`s Agricultural Service, said here on Friday. 

He said the Malaysian state of Sarawak needed 115,000 tons of rice per year and 95 percent of the volume was currently being imported from Vietnam. 

Hazairin said West Kalimantan shared a land border with Sarawak so that it had the chance to win some of the rice market in the Malaysian state. 

Referring to the ban on rice exports imposed by the central government, Hazairin said there was still an opportunity to export rice through the State Logistics Agency (Bulog). 

"The export can be carried out through the Bulog export program. Exporting rice will economically benefit both farmers and the state," he said. 

He said it would be better for West Kalimantan to export its rice rather than let local people sell it to Sarawak illegally. 

There were a number of border gates believed to have been used so far by local people to sell rice to Sarawak illegally, he said. 

"There are illegal rice exports from West Kalimantan to Malaysia but we don`t know the exact quantity," Hazairin said. 

He said a price disparity of as wide as 100 percent was enticing local people to export their rice illegally to Sarawak. 

West Kalimantan has set itself the target of producing 1.3 million tons of dry unhulled rice following the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG)`s prediction sometime ago that rainfall would remain normal until next August. 

In 2005, West Kalimantan`s rice surplus was recorded at 13,913 tons, in 2006 at 47,216 tons and at 104,194 tons in 2007. Provisional data showed that the province`s rice surplus until mid 2008 reached 164,279 tons. It is expected the rice surplus this year would reach 200,000 tons.


Imitations overwhelm Jambi batik makers

Jon Afrizal, The Jakarta Post,    

Many batik makers in Jambi city feel they have been disadvantaged by Javanese producers who make imitations of local batik motifs and sell them for less than the originals. 

Local batik producer Ida Maryanti said producers in Java had copied many Jambi batik designs and mass-produced them. 

"We don't know what else we can do," Ida said recently. 

Ida and a number of other batik makers in Jambi city could not reduce their sale prices because they had to buy materials (including silk cloth, wax and dyes) from Java, which increased their production costs, Ida said. 

"Batik craftsmen are only skilled at creating batik but not at marketing," she said. 

Ida said batik producers in Jambi city could only afford to buy raw materials in small amounts, which increased their production costs. Entrepreneurs in batik production centers in Java, she said, could afford to buy materials in bulk, and sell at cheaper prices. 

She also said wages could have an impact on sale prices. Batik makers in Jambi city earn between Rp 3,000 (about 30 US cents) and Rp 7,000 per meter, while those in batik production centers in Java usually earn less. 

Consequently, Jambi batik costs more. A hand-drawn batik costs around Rp 200,000 per meter, whereas a printed one sells for Rp 100,000 per meter (both on silk cloth). 

Ida employs three workers, but now has less orders due to the influx of Javanese batik in the market. 

A piece of hand-drawn batik measuring 2.5 meters long and 115 cm wide takes two days to finish, whereas a printed one takes much less time, Ida said. 

Ida now uses a different approach by selling ready-made batik clothes and products. She sells cotton batik dresses for around Rp 150,000 and a silk ones for Rp 350,000. 

"I only make a 10 percent profit from the sale," she said. 

Ida uses five rolls of cloth a month, with each roll containing 46 meters of fabric 115 cm wide, and costing around Rp 96,000 (for cotton). 

Other materials include 100 kg of wax (Rp 16,000 per kg) and 10 kg of dyes (priced between Rp 15,000 and Rp 80,000 per kg). 

To attract buyers, Ida not only produces Jambiyang batik motifs such as Kapal Sanggat and Durian Pecah, but also her own new designs such as Panah Kubu, Resam and Encong Kerinci. 

Jambi Industrial and Trade office head Hasan Basri said Jambi's batik industry had been hard-hit by imitations. In response to this problem his office had registered as many as 95 traditional batik motifs with the intellectual property rights office. So far, it has approved 19 motifs while the remainder are still in the progress. 

In relation to the improvement of product quality, Hasan said, some 400 batik makers in Jambi city had been attending classes to improve their skills, from drawing to dyeing, and also in business management. 

Batik entrepreneurs also received loan assistance from state-owned companies such as Pertamina, each getting between Rp 5 million and Rp 50 million, with an interest rate of 6 percent and to be repaid in installments over three years. 

"We hope batik entrepreneurs can manage their businesses better, without feeling too worried about capital," he said. 

He said his office would help batik makers to promote their products outside the province at particular events, such as the Cultural Product Exhibition.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Unilever in RP says milk tea products from Indonesia

ABS-CBNNEWS.com | 09/30/2008 10:49 PM 

The local office of food giant Unilever clarified Tuesday that its milk tea powder products under the Lipton brand are made in Indonesia, thus dousing fears that products being sold in the Philippines has milk ingredients tainted with melamine from China. 

"What we have here are products that came from Indonesia. The Indonesian company sent us a statement that all products are from New Zealand, Europe and Australia," said Chito Macapagal, Unilever's vice-president for corporate affairs. 

According to Macapagal, apart from the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia sources its milk tea products from Indonesia.

He explained that all three variants of the milk tea -- original, gold, and vanilla flavors -- are safe. He advised consumers to look at the label,  which should indicate 'Product of Indonesia". 

He added that Unilever is even willing to replace milk tea considered "grey imports" or those brought in from abroad, for as long as these are for personal consumption only and in limited quantities. 

Macapagal's statement followed an Associated Press report earlier that Unilever has recalled some Lipton-brand milk tea powder products from Hong Kong and Macau store shelves after tests proved that these contained traces of the industrial chemical melamine. 

The Associated Press reported that according to Unilever Hong Kong Ltd, "internal tests have found four batches of Lipton milk tea powder contaminated with melamine." 

The company added that the recall has been done as a precautionary measure. 

Authorities in Hong Kong, meanwhile, said they have yet to find melamine traces in Lipton products. 

The company did not say if the affected products were made in mainland China. However, it was clear that these products were distributed in Hong Kong and Macau. 

The recall followed last week's withdrawal of the Lipton Green Milk Tea brand from Taiwan stores because these have China-made milk as an ingredient.