I’ve just been fortunate enough to spend eight days touring North Sumatra. No special reason, my daughter was looking for somewhere to go and someone to go with. Sumatra and I luckily managed to fit the bill. Cost effective, diverse attractions and not high enough on the shortlist for MR ATMT to object too much. We booked a tour through GAdventures who I have dealt with before and was very happy to use again, good decision. Once again, apart from a few minor issues the trip was a great success.
The basic outline of the tour was to visit an orang-utan rehabilitation centre, do a walk to an active volcano peak, visit local villages, relax and enjoy some down time on Lake Toba, the biggest inland lake in Indonesia. Generally just to see, experience and learn about North Sumatra.
Don’t like the Orang-utans’ chances!
I am one of those people who conscientiously choose not to buy products containing or which use palm oil in their production. My choice has been based on extensive ‘save the jungle’, ‘save wildlife habitat’, ‘save the orang-utans’ and general save the environment marketing and promotion through many environmental and social networks. I must somewhat ashamedly admit I have been quite ignorant as to exactly what I was making a ‘protest’ about. I thought the ‘jungle’ and habitat was actually the palm oil trees and that they felled and harvested the oil from these trees leaving the wildlife homeless. Reality check! The actual palm oil trees are not the problem, with proper management these can be quite a sustainable source of oil supply. The problem is just how many of these palm oil trees are needed to create the end products and how much natural jungle and environment is being devastated and dedicated to them. As I sat and observed the landscape while travelling across most of North Sumatra, I could only guess at what it once must have looked like before these ‘tree farms’ were developed. The really scary thought is that as demand grows for more diverse products that use palm oil in their production, the need to establish more PO forests will also grow. This picture represents pretty much the entire view out the window for over 50% of our trip. I tried to visualise thick, dense rainforest alive with wild life and birds but struggled. Actually North Sumatra was obviously lacking of birdlife which I did comment about while there.
I have since learned that palm oil is also being used to manufacture ‘Bio Diesel’ and that many European countries are interested in sourcing this product as an alternative fuel source. I’m not sure that even if all the so-called efforts of the RSPO (Roundtable Sustainable Palm Oil) voices will actually achieve any positive outcomes. When you see just how much area has been devastated and talk to the locals (who seem to be quite proud of the industry and what it brings to their local economy), I just feel like it may be too little, too late. I have left the area feeling very lucky to have seen one of the orang-utan in their mostly natural habitat (National Park) and even more committed to not use or buy any products that use Palm Oil. If we can decrease the demand for palm oil dramatically we may be able prevent any further deforestation and only use what has already been established for supplying this fuel. I don’t feel too confident about that but lets give it a shot!
Growing their own in Sumatra
I had the opportunity to take a few walks around the local villages and got some great insights into how much some of the people love to grow some their food. It was also really good to go out for lunch and have the pineapple for my juice picked straight from the garden, blitzed and served. My kind of juice! Here are a few photos of some sustainable garden ideas I saw. I hope to post a few more Sumatran highlights over the next few days, stay tuned.
Tomato Trellising: I was interested to see how the Sumatran’s supported their tomatoes and one local man was happy to share the method. Basically they create a support by winding tape around stakes and this supports the leaders as they grow, laterals are pruned off to keep the plant contained between the supports.
Passionfruit vine at the hotel. Shade as well as produce for the kitchen.Compost bin outside the kitchen at Tabo Cottages, (this place was sensational!). There is also ginger, turmeric, tomatoes, pineapples and salad veg growing alongside. Kitchen and garden scraps go straight into here and then the compost goes back onto the garden.All up some great things to see, will add some more ASAP.