1. OFI’s Herbarium is an incubator for hope. In the plant nurseries, thousands of healthy shoots aim skywards. OFI staff are raising these native plant species in order to reforest crucial Bornean forests, re-creating a home for the unique flora and fauna of this island.
2. The devastating fires of 2015 and 2019 razed thousands of hectares of forest in Central Kalimantan. Here at one of the affected areas, stretching as far as the eye can see, are swathes of bleak wasteland. Dead trees, grey and lifeless, litter the edge of the river banks, but the soil remains fertile and waiting for fresh roots to take hold
3. In order to provide seeds and fresh shoots, the intrepid herbarium staff must head to more bountiful areas to collect the same type of seedlings suited to the peat swamp habitat. This requires the use of a longboat to access these areas.
4. Pak Ardian, Pak Oby, and Pak Anto bound into the water in order to get the mission on track. It takes a few tugs to get the motor started and the men exchange some gentle barbs when one of them isn’t able to get the engine going.
5. An extensive channel was created through swamp to aid plant gathering. These banks host thousands of healthy seedlings and saplings that can be transplanted to deforested areas at no cost to their current ecosystem.
6. It is not all plain sailing along these banks as the team have to navigate debris hidden beneath the murky waters and maintain a proper speed for their long boat to tackle the twists and turns of the river. There is always trial and error and more than once Pak Anto has to hop out of the front of the boat when they have run aground to give the boat a push in the right direction
7. Back at basecamp, the hunter gatherers return with bunches of endemic balangeran tree saplings.
8. Ibu Cici, the herbarium coordinator, proceeds to carry out the next part of the plan. She carefully counts out all the tree saplings and ties them into bunches of 50/100, ready to be planted the following morning. By cutting out the “potting” in plastic bags necessary for dry forest trees, the team is able to plant swamp trees much more efficiently than before. The technique only works during the wet season when the swamp soil is moist.
9. Essential supplies for a reforestation project are: work gloves, batteries for flashlights, etc., and strong, sweet coffee!
10. The next morning with spirits and seedlings/saplings held high, the herbarium team heads off to the reforestation site.
11. Pak Anto must watch his step as in just mere moments he can end up knee or even thigh deep in the wet and boggy soil. He remains chipper though, knowing that in order for the seedlings to propagate properly they must be spaced out in rows.
12. Holes are dug and roots planted. With the planting of this one seedling, life is returning to the area. The balangeran plants start off small but grow into trees up to 32 metres tall; this threatened species is yet another victim of habitat loss. The scarcity is keenly felt along these empty river banks, but given time the forest will thrive once again.
13. After a successful morning the OFI herbarium team have successfully planted 750 balangeran and 450 sundi saplings making a combined total of 1200 seedlings/saplings planted during the morning. Not a bad morning’s work!
14. Raymon and Ibu Cici arrange supplies for future rounds of planting. The passion of everyone involved is contagious, size notwithstanding. The next generation of planters begin young at OFI, and the work doesn’t stop there, as there are plenty more sites, just like this, waiting to be revitalised.

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