It is early morning in Central Kalimantan and the air still holds a whisper of the previous night’s coolness. Soon enough, the heat of the day will arrive and settle like a thick blanket. In the early morning hours, there is an audible rustling among the seedlings at the OFI Herbarium, where the reforestation nursery is located. Moving along the rows of seedlings, a Dayak woman quietly checks on their growth. It is with tender care that Ibu Cici, the OFI Herbarium Coordinator, inspects the seedlings each morning before making her way inside to her office.
A young woman, Ibu Cici has confidence in her career path. Even as a child, she was interested in the rainforest and nature. After being accepted to university, she studied forestry, and an interest in agroforestry developed. Upon graduation, she found jobs in this field to be very limited. She held onto her dream of one day working in the rainforest, and in the meantime, took on a job in the finance department of a car sales company.
Over the next seven years, she kept her eyes peeled for positions within a forestry organization. During that time, she visited Tanjung Puting National Park a few times as a tourist to experience the forest and see orangutans in the wild. One day, her brother, Pak Obi, an OFI employee, alerted her to the job opening for Herbarium Coordinator. Ibu Cici jumped at the chance, applied immediately, and in May of 2017, her dreams came true when Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas offered her the position of OFI Herbarium Coordinator.
As Herbarium Coordinator, Ibu Cici oversees the activities at the herbarium and nursey as part of the Reforestation Project. She coordinates a team of seven staff members who search the forest for seeds and seedlings, propagate and care for the seedlings, and carry out planting sessions at the reforestation sites. Planting trees in the peat swamp under the hot sun, with mosquitos and stinging ants, can be grueling work. But even a fear of snakes doesn’t stop Ibu Cici from supporting her team during planting days. She also maintains the office and herbarium which houses a collection of plant specimens of different tree species. Part of maintaining this growing collection of plant samples involves trips to the National Park, where Ibu Cici collects samples of native growing fruit, bark, and leaves of trees that are part of the orangutan diet.
While her knowledge of orangutans was limited before joining OFI, she has naturally learned much from her coworkers. As much as she adores orangutans, she is happy to be based at the Herbarium, as her main passion is protecting their habitat. “It is amazing that I can now contribute to saving the forest and orangutans as my job.” When asked about her favorite part of the job, Ibu Cici’s face breaks into a big smile, and she replies that it is traveling to the reforestation sites to plant seedlings. “I have seen so much deforestation already. Even though it might be just a drop in the ocean, to actually plant trees just feels very good.”
As a Dayak indigenous person, Ibu Cici feels deeply connected to the rainforest, a place which until recent generations, was still the home of many Dayak communities. She believes that community outreach and education are integral to protecting the rainforest. “Only when the people here are willing to preserve the forest too, can we make a change.” In the future, she hopes to run school workshops to teach children about the forest and the importance of protecting what remains.
For Ibu Cici, her role as OFI Herbarium Coordinator is not just a job. It is a way for her to make a lasting contribution to protecting the last rainforests of Borneo, the forests which the Dayak people once relied on, and which orangutans need in order to survive. For Ibu Cici, this is the best job in the world, and she wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else.