Etty Rahmawati

Biography

Etty Rahmawati grew up in a small town in East Java. After completing her Bachelor’s Degree in English education at Universitas Negeri Malang, she moved to Bali and taught at English First (EF), a private language school. In 2009, she moved to rural West Kalimantan to become the Planetary Health Education Manager for Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI), a ground-breaking nonprofit linking medical care and rainforest conservation.

At ASRI, Etty designs syllabi, teaches classes, coordinates field trips, and develops relationships with local teachers for ASRI Kids and ASRI Teens, two afterschool programs focused on health and conservation education. Through classes for adults living around Gunung Palung National Park, she promotes ASRI’s incentives to protect the Park’s rainforest. Thanks in part to her efforts, the number of loggers illegally extracting timber from the Park has decreased by 89% over the past ten years. Etty works closely with Health In Harmony, ASRI’s partner nonprofit in the United States, to coordinate international visitors, both professionals and students, who are interested in ASRI as a model of Planetary Health in action.

In 2011, Etty received the Gold Prize for her poster, “Protecting Global Health and Conserving Orangutans with Goat Poop, Organic Farming, Reforestation, and Health Care,” presented in Washington, US, and she was honored as a 2014 Disney Conservation Hero. In July 2017, Etty joined the Building Bridges professional-exchange program in Arizona, US, where she worked with conservation agents in the US Forest Service, Kaibab National Forest, Desert Botanical Garden, and Northern Arizona University Forestry Department.

Etty enjoys pairing her background in education with the new knowledge she gains every day from her ASRI colleagues. In the coming year, she looks forward to collaborating with the regional government to integrate her environmental classes into the students’ regular school-day.

Talk Summary

Saving Rain Forests with a Stethoscope

Alam Sehat Lestari (ASRI) is a non-profit organization that links human health and environmental health. It is based in Sukadana, where poor health and grinding poverty push villagers to engage in illegal logging in Gunung Palung National Park (GPNP), home to 10% of the world’s remaining Bornean orangutans.

ASRI uses five approaches that combat deforestation on multiple fronts:

1. Deforestation Monitoring: It aims to gather information about activities that cause environmental destruction. To monitor deforestation, ASRI recruited Forest Guardians who update the conservation team about forest clearing activities in their neighborhoods. ASRI backs up these efforts using satellite images to measure forest loss in each village and throughout the park. ASRI also partners with GPNP rangers.

2. Health Care: ASRI provides high quality and affordable health care by giving discounts up to 70% to villages that stop doing illegal logging. And patients can pay non-cash, such as seedlings, manure, rice husk, handicrafts and labor, etc.

3. Alternative Livelihoods: ASRI trains and assists the community to make a living without clearing forests through organic farming, kitchen gardens, chainsaw buyback and goats for widows programs as many people who clear forests do so because they lack access to more sustainable jobs.

4. Education: ASRI operates education programs tailored to all ages. ASRI partners with primary schools to teach a three-month after-school environmental education curriculum, ASRI Kids. ASRI also educates teens and community living around GPNP about the connection of human health and environmental health.

5. Reforestation: ASRI’s Reforestation Program aims to raise communities’ awareness about the importance of the forest. The program also increases buy-in from communities, so they will participate in reforesting the degraded areas in the national park.

ASRI’s mission is working together to create healthy and prosperous communities while conserving high-value ecosystems.

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