One of the favorite parts about my job as the Executive Director of Planet Indonesia International is that there are no two days that are ever the same. From day-to-day activities in the office, to working in the field, to promoting our work abroad.
For the greater part of the last two months I have been on the road promoting the work of Planet Indonesia to our ever growing global audience. The last six weeks have not only been a time of great personal growth and learning, but also a time of great appreciation and reverence for the work of Planet Indonesia.
It all started in mid-August with the expansion of our Friendly Forest Initiative in the Heart of Borneo. With our new partnership at the Millennium Challenge Account, we will expand our agroforestry work to reach an additional 400 households, planting over 20,000 trees, and helping hundreds to pathways out of poverty. A bottom line of Planet Indonesia is our dedication to empowering women, and over 60% of all beneficiaries for our Friendly Forest Initiative are women.
I was astounded at the overwhelmingly positive response of these local communities who were thirsty for new perspectives and models that would engage them in economic development and sustainable resource management. This trip was just the first of many, and I am excited to see how this program develops and continues to grow over the upcoming years!
From there I made a quick stop for a Monitoring and Evaluation training with the Millennium Challenge Corporation in Bogor, Indonesia to help gain new perspectives and insights on how we can better measure our impact and achieve our organizational goals.
Then the real travel began! I hopped on a plane and was off to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress in Hawaii, a gathering of over 8000 delegates that happens only once every 4 years, often called the Olympics of conservation.
As a winner of the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge I had the privilege to promote our work on the wildlife trade in Indonesia with support from USAID.
One of the most shocking and exciting experiences of this Congress was the overwhelming support for our work. I sensed a real thirst among participants and donors for an innovative model that underlined the importance of a commitment to human well-being AND nature conservation.
The IUCN Congress was both exhausting and energizing. I would be lying if I said it was anything but the busiest 8 days of my life. From early morning workshops at sunrise to late night receptions and meetings with donors, there was not time to do anything but promote Planet Indonesia and our work. I want to say thank you to the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge and USAID for sponsoring me to attend the conference, without their financial support it would have not been possible.
But it wasn’t time to stop there! From the sunny shores of Hawaii it was now off to the (surprisingly cold) Savannah of South Africa. I am privileged to have been selected as one of the 34 Youth Delegates from over 1000 applicants for the Youth Forum for People and Wildlife hosted by the International Federation for Animal Welfare(IFAW).
The reality of working in the field of conservation is dealing with the overwhelming wave of negative facts and realizations. Nature is disappearing, species are going extinct, and world poverty levels are spiking. We are losing our planet, and losing it faster than we ever have before.
As a young conservationists living abroad, well…. it can be isolating at times. Far from the culture and home I grew up in, and dealing with the dark realities of what is happening in the world can take its toll on even the toughest and most driven of individuals.
The Youth Forum for People and Wildlife was a breath of fresh air. To meet 34 other young individuals, all under the age of 25, who have given up so much for their passions, who deal with the dark realities we face in Borneo every day, was revitalizing. It will forever remain one of the most life-changing and memorable experiences of my life.
Similar to that of the IUCN Congress, I was also astounded at the overwhelming interest and support in the work of Planet Indonesia. Across the board delegates and IFAW staff were enthusiastic about our model, and how we are pairing human development with nature conservation.
After that I made a quick stop over at the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Convention of Parties (CoP17). A gathering of over 188 nations and thousands of NGOs to make global decisions about the trade of flora and fauna.
Looking back at the past 6 weeks, despite the long days and countless number of pitches and presentations, across 3 continents, I feel energized. Energized to see a global community, from experts and scientists I met in Hawaii to the world’s leading young conservationists in South Africa, rally and support our work.
As this memorable period of 2016 comes to a close, I am ultimately motivated by one sobering fact. Wherever I go, whomever I meet, and whatever stage I must take, there is a team of individuals working around the clock in West Borneo to make our dreams, goals, and aspirations of Planet Indonesia a reality.
We, as an organization, will not stop to reverse this global trend in species loss and human poverty, the trend that I spent much of the last 6 weeks discussing. We are losing species, forests are disappearing, and people are poorer than ever before.
But where the hand of Planet Indonesia reaches, where our model and work are taking hold, things are brightening…