Biosphere Foundation’s Sustainable Ag and Forestry Project in Bali

Some of you may be wondering what happened to Sally Silverstone (aka Sierra) who was for many years the administrator for Earthways Foundation: she decided to return to her main passion in life, agriculture and forestry and since 2014 she has been leading Biosphere Foundations (BF) land based projects in North West Bali, aimed at protecting the natural resources of the Bali Barat National Park (BBNP). EarthWays Foundation has continued to support Biosphere Foundation in this work with an annual grant which has enabled us to carry out work on two key areas: a) Restoration of the costal monsoon forest b) Promoting sustainable agriculture and water conservation practices:

Restoration of coastal monsoon forest: A large stretch of the costal forest in the Bali Barat National Park (BBNP) consists of a tropical monsoon forest. These magical forests are highly threatened worldwide by clearing for cultivation, development, human encroachment for fuel and fodder, and by invasive plant species. The habitat and feeding area for many local birds and animals is reduced, including the critically endangered Bali Starling, the exquisite Javan Deer, and the long-tailed Macaque. The native trees on which these creatures depend on for berries and leaves can no longer grow through the dense thicket of non-native Lantana trees.

December 2013 BF took another tack and uprooted the Lantana in two plots and replaced it with plantings of 1,200 local tree seedlings that were raised in a nursery for 18 months. The third plot was also cleaned but left unplanted The idea was to shade out the lantana which needs full sun to do well.  In spite of two years of drought there was a good survival rate and an area that was once a thicket of dense lantana weed is now a flourishing forest again. We are now in the process of writing this up for the National Park to implement this relatively low cost method of control on a much wider scale.

Promoting sustainable agriculture and water conservation practices: BF has been working with the Indonesian Institute of Science and local farmer groups to improve the economic situation for farmers. Our first project improved the production of food on small farms by maximizing the use of limited water supplies. We worked with several farms to install a low cost, low pressure, low maintenance drip irrigation system. Using these systems, in combination with heavy mulching of the soil, we showed that farmers who had at least a small amount of water at their disposal could grow a second healthy crop well into the dry season. Improving the fertility of the soil and protecting crops from harmful insects has been our second priority. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides wash down into the oceans and are a major pollutant for the offshore coral reefs. Fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere using green cropping techniques can improve the soil in a sustainable, non-polluting way. Thus, our agriculture team has tested intercropping with green crops, to find the best candidates for use in this area. Additionally, effective insecticides can be made using locally available materials that do not pollute the environment or poison the farmers, so we researching how to manufacture these insecticides using local resources.

For the last two years we have been testing new sorghum varieties developed by the Land Institute in Kansas for drought hardiness.  With the knowledge gained so far we hope to address wider issues involving agroforestry practice and water conservation for entire watersheds surrounding the area and feeding into the ocean.

Thank you EarthWays for your support of this project!