In the lush Bali highlands, the village of Banjar Ngis is resting at the end of a winding road. Rice fields, gardens and forests surround the hamlet and the stream that gushes down from the mountain. Now in the rain season, the scenery is glowing green in every direction. Since we came here, we have had heavy rainfall every day and more will come. It is hard to imagine that this verdant island suffers from serious water shortage during the dry season.
However, the growth of tourism and urbanization has led to increased water use and decreased forest cover. The previous abundance of the water resource is threatened, but there are initiatives to restore the balance to the island. Here, in this village of 700 souls, halfway up the mountain, the people asked for a grant from the Balinese provincial government to plant trees.
This year they will plant 25,000 trees: mahogany, merbau, teak and a leguminous tree (of which I do not know the name) that can fix nitrogen from the air into the soil. The government covers the costs for the seeds and some equipment, and the villagers grow seedlings that they can plant out. Every land-owner gets a few hundred trees to plant on his/her land. Last year, they planted fruit trees, mainly mangosteen.
The economic cost of the whole project is 50.000.000 IDR, which is approximately equivalent to 3000 euro. A little bit more than 10 eurocents per tree. And the villagers put in the labor. Ten years from now, half the trees will be harvested for lumber and sold for cash, more than a hundred euro per tree. The rest of the trees will continue to grow and collect rain water to level out the seasonal rainfall for the island below and strengthen the soil against erosion.