Indonesia’s southern coast

This input came from a member of the Ireland VIVAT group Fr Tom McCabe, Oblate of Mary Immaculate, Inchicore, Dublin, Ireland

by Lena Deevy JPIC Anglo Celtic Territory and Fr Tom McCabe, OMI and VIVAT member Irish branch.

This is a story of partnership and collaboration between the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) who are both members of VIVAT and a parish JPIC group in Inchicore, Dublin. It is a story of the linking of the local and the global and how what is done in one place has impact everywhere, good or bad. A simple “Tree Card” project developed by the local JPIC group was inspired by a returned missionary Fr. Charles Burrows sharing about an ambitious reforestation and habitat restoration project on an island off Java. It is a story of the power of witness and sharing,

Nusa Kambangan is a 250 square kilometre prison island off Indonesia’s southern coast. Although designated a wildlife sanctuary, illegal logging has denuded much of the island’s tropical forest, damaged the eco-system and led to the loss of many wild life species.

Concern for the island’s ecology and the plight of the 300 illegal farmers and their families, about to be expelled from the island, led Fr Charles Burrows and YSBS, the organization he founded, to start an ambitious reforestation and habitat restoration project. The plan was to replant the island with native trees and reintroduce the island’s wildlife. His emphasis on reducing carbon dioxide and improving air quality led the Inchicore group to see a link between this project and their efforts to care for their local environment and to get people thinking about what steps they could take to live more sustainably. Fr. Charles and his group sought government approval for the reforestation program and the eventual restoration of the islands indigenous wildlife. Since the plan was approved in 2008, over 400,000 trees have been planted by the end of 2013. The farmers plant and tend the trees, growing rice between them and thus allowing the saplings escape upwards from the dense tropical undergrowth. When the trees reach a specific height the farmers move to another area and the restoration cycle begins again.

It is now becoming clear to the authorities that these formerly illegal farmers are essential to the success of the project, so they no longer have to live with the fear of expulsion from Nusa Kambangan. And the project is good for the earth’s biosphere — each tree takes in one ton of CO in five years and produces enough oxygen daily for three people.

This was the story that motivated the local parish JPIC group in Inchicore, Ireland to engage with the farming families in Java. A JPIC member spoke at Masses and invited people to support the project which was not only helping people in Java but was contributing to the health of our shared planetary home. The local primary school are also involved by making Tree Cards and at the same time learn about the role of trees in the environment. The sale of cards raises funds for the tree planting. The farmers in Java provide information on the trees they are planting and this is illustrated on the cards.


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