Adaptation of Rowan Reid's Australian Master TreeGrower program to suit Indonesian small holder farmers played a central part in the research project. The project's aims were to increase the silvicultural skills of smallholders (i.e. with farms less than 4ha in size) and to better connect them to local markets for their timber. Not that dissimilar from farm forestry extension projects which once existed in Australia.
Half of ACIAR's $9.4 million annual budget is focused on forestry research in Asia, investigating the sustainable use of forests – not just for reafforestation, but as ACIAR's Forestry Research Program Manager, Tony Bartlett, said at the launch, "so as it makes a difference to people's lives."
After the launch, Digby, Rowan and I flew to Sulawesi with a group of Indonesian forestry researchers and visited a boat building village at Bulukumba, which has long lasting ties and resonance with the Yolngu people of NE Arnhem Land. Traditional Indonesian phinisi boats have been constructed at Bulukumba to the same template for almost 1,000 years. For much of that time, Macassan sailors from Sulawesi sailed east on the monsoon winds to moor off beaches in NE Arnhem Land to collect trepang or sea cucumber and peaceably trade with the Yolngu people. Their annual visits were banned by the new Commonwealth Government at Federation at the turn of the 20th century.
Beautiful, handcrafted wooden boats, the phinisi boats are now highly valued worldwide for the tourist trade. And they still ply the cargo routes between the Archipelago's thousands of islands. The ACIAR forestry research project is linking smallholder farmers to the boatbuilders of Bulukumba, so that the right sort of trees continue to be grown and can be sourced locally.
Click on the gallery of pix below to open and see captions.