Emily returned to Indonesia in February 2019 to design some bird themed products which can be made by the indigenous Batin Sembilan people who live in the Hutan Harapan, Forest of Hope, the last remaining area of lowland rainforest in South Sumatra. It was the first Ecosystem Restoration Concession granted by the Indonesian government and The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has supported the initiative for 18 years. It is home to many critically endangered birds as well as Sumatran tigers and Asian Elephant. A small community of Batin Sembilan , who are indigenous to the region, also live in the forest and the aim is to utilise their traditional weaving and craft skills and use sustainable materials such as rattan and pandanus grass that can be cultivated in the forest to make baskets, nest boxes and decorations suitable for sale by the RSPB. The hope is to kick start a community craft industry and offer an alternative to working in the palm oil plantations which completely surround this forest.
Following her first visit to the Hutan Harapan Emily returned in May and August to see the samples of traditional baskets and household items used in daily life made by the indigenous Batin Sembilan community. Most baskets were woven from rattan vines and bamboo collected in the forest and mats from giant pandanus leaves.
Hutan Harapan means Forest of Hope and is made up of 50,000 hectares of production forest which is now being protected from conversion to palm oil plantations and restored back to a balance ecosystem. The initiative is backed by the RSPB as many rare birds live in the forest along with about 16 pairs of critically endangered Sumatran tigers. Empowering the Batin Sembilan and offering alternative livelihood options to palm oil cultivation for the migrant communities that live in the area is a critical part of the process and it is hoped that agroecology combined with developing traditional artisan crafts and ecotourism can achieve this.
Emily Readett Bayley’s first visit to Hutan Harapan RSPB Forest of Hope in Sumatra was to research the craft heritage of the indigenous Batin Sembilan community and quantify what sustainable natural materials can be cultivated or sourced from within the ecosystem restoration area that makes up the forest concession. The aim is to provide livelihood opportunities for these semi nomadic people who like the tigers they share the forest with are finding it harder and harder to subsist as hunters or gatherers. She has been asked by the RSPB and partners to develop a variety of handcrafted products including baskets, brushes, plant pots and bird boxes suitable for sale in European Garden Centres.