Batak Church forestry in Sumatra
Erosion due to loss of tree cover threatens the future of the beautiful volcanic Lake Toba, and its central island Samosir
Restoring the forest round Lake Toba
The community response
Sorting cloves after the harvest
The indigenous Batak Church is campaigning alongside other church denominations and traditional Batak leaders to inspire local people to protect and restore the forests and the lake through replanting and organic technique. THe first sites for replanting are in the districts of North Tapanuli and Samosir. Seedlings have been planted in a 100 hectare are where erosion, water scarcity and forest burning are the most severe. Additional planting is being carried out in the grounds of selected Batak churches and schools, and on church forest lands.
Organic farming techniques have been integrated into the replanting programme under the direction of the Director of the Reforestation programme, an agronomist and four field staff. THey are supported by the Batak Church and their high visibility advocacy work against businesses putting untreated waste into rivers and lakes. Another important part of the project is awareness-raising and education in the local community.
Reintroducing local species
A tree nursery has been set up by the Batak Church at Sipholon, cultivating a range of trees including:
Toona sureni and Mahogany
jackfruit, avocado, palm, and durian
Dipterocarpaceae, Fagaceae (beech), Quercus (oak), and Castanea (chestnut), Lithocarpus (tanoak), Lauraceae (laurels, including cinnamon and avocado), Litsea, Cunoniaceae, Monimiaceae, Magnoliaceae and Hamamelidaceae.
This project, led by the indigenous Batak Church, is restoring forests to the hillsides around Lake Toba and on Samosir Island, to combat soil erosion and water scarcity that is especially severe during the dry seasons. The erosion is largely due to intentional burning of vegetation by local people, to make way for grassland for their free-roaming buffaloes and goats, and to cultivate food crops. The clearing of land has increased as local people have less alternative livelihoods due to much reduced tourism-related activities around Lake Toba.
The Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) Church is the largest Lutheran Church in Asia, with nearly 3,000 mainly rural congregations amounting to 3 million members in the Batak country of North Sumatra.
At 100 kilometres long, the lake is the largest is South East Asia and one of the deepest and highest in the world, being 905 m above sea level
environment of Lake Toba under threat
In Sumatra, as elsewhere in South East Asia, the environment is under siege from heavy industry and poor land management. The effects of forest clearance, over-farming, soil erosion, mining, and industrial waste pollution combine to threaten the future of Lake Toba, one of the world’s most beautiful freshwater lakes.
At 100 kilometres long, the lake is the largest is South East Asia and one of the deepest and highest in the world, being 905 m above sea level. Culturally the lake and the island of Samosir are important heritage areas for the Batak people who live in North Sumatra.
In particular the paper industry is harming the environment. Indorayon’s paper mill, known as Toba Pulp Lestari, is a major polluter and is hotly opposed by local environmental pressure groups. Other hazards are illegal logging, widespread use of chemical fertilizers and unregulated grazing and burning.