Does tree planting change minds? Assessing the use of community participation in reforestation to address illegal logging in West Kalimantan

Does tree planting change minds? Assessing the use of community participation in reforestation to address illegal logging in West Kalimantan


In this study, Pohnan et al. evaluated the social impacts of the local NGO Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) restoration program that took place in Gunung Palung National Park in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, an area that host numerous endangered species and that has been degraded by illegal logging for the past several decades.

Goals & Methods

A survey was performed to 50 local residents (one-third of them identified as former illegal loggers) to test the hypothesis that community participation in reforestation activities can lead to reduce illegal logging.  Two potential pathways were considered: 1) the “economic improvement” for the participants, who experienced an alternate source of income that allowed them to cease illegal logging, and the acquirement of skills that led them to reduce their dependence on logging; and 2) the “perception change” towards illegal logging and social acceptability of illegal logging, which would then lead individuals to cease logging or place pressure on others to cease logging.

Conclusions & Takeaways

The survey found that there was greater evidence supporting the “economic improvement” pathway than evidence supporting the “perceptions change” pathway.  There is evidence of an “empowerment pathway” through which individuals are able to improve their own economic conditions by the skills and experience acquired during their time participating in the reforestation program, reducing their acceptability of other forms of work in addition to illegal logging due to their high standards. After participation in the project, 68% of involved participants led tree-planting activities, suggesting the positive self-motivated community engagement for restoration instead of land degradation. Moreover, involved participants showed greater appreciation for the forest, awareness of the forest’s fragility and desire to preserve it for future generations.

It’s important to understand the relationships between the local community members and restoration programs if we aim to achieve long-term conservation and restoration of degraded forest areas. This study demonstrated the great influence of people’s involvement in reforestation projects, the possible pathways through which these programs could impact local communities in their behavior and future expectations, and with a positive conservation outcome of reduced illegal logging.


Pohnan E, Ompusunggu H, Webb C. Does Tree Planting Change Minds? Assessing the Use of Community Participation in Reforestation to Address Illegal Logging in West Kalimantan. Tropical Conservation Science. 2015;8:45–57. doi:10.1177/194008291500800107.


  • Alam Sehat Lestari, Jl. Sungai Mengkuang, Sukadana, Kabupaten Kayong Utara, Indonesia
  • Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University, Boston, MA, USA