Human health and environmental health are tightly linked. The key to global health is to protect the connections between human health and environmental health – at the local level.
The Alam Sehat Lestari program is doing just that in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. ASRI works to protect Gunung Palung National Park and the communities of about 60,000 people on its border. Gunung Palung is a stunning biodiversity treasure of 90,000 hectares featuring two small mountains swathed in tall dipterocarp forest in the lowlands and montane cloud forest on the peaks. This is home to approximately 2,500 wild orangutans, or about a tenth of the world’s surviving population.
Here’s the problem. Local people are poor, with an average income of $13 a month. Government health care is hard to reach, medical emergencies put local people into debt, and illegal logging is one of the few local means of earning a cash income. Logging is dangerous work, and it destroys the local watershed. It causes flooding, bringing devastation to agricultural areas and waterborne illnesses to people and animals.
ASRI is working to stop the poverty-poor health-deforestation cycle, turning local loggers into forest guardians.