Seed orchard first step in restoring Bali’s Batur UNESCO Global Geopark

Pongamia pinnata seedlings planted in post-eruption area
Landscape. Photo: CIFOR/Laurentius Angga

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In March, on a misty morning amid drizzling rain, a team of 70 farmers, researchers, students, government and Batur UNESCO Global Geopark staff gathered on the black, volcanic sand on the slopes of Mount Batur in Kintamani District in northeast Bali, Indonesia.

They had left their homes early in the morning in eagerness to plant the first 0.6-hectare stage of what will become about 1 hectare of seedling seed orchard (SSO), which is the key to restoration of the surrounding landscape.

The Geopark, which covers 370.50 sq kms, includes two volcanic calderas, fumaroles and hot springs, a lake, lava flows, pyroclastic flows and tephra. Two enormous eruptions that occurred 29,000 and 20,000 years ago produced the older outer caldera and the younger inner caldera, respectively. Between 1804 and 2000, Batur has erupted at least 22 times, creating a stratovolcano. A black lava flow from an eruption in 1968 remains prominent in the landscape.

According to UNESCO, the U.N. cultural organization, “the double calderas with a crescent-shaped volcanic lake (7 km long, 1.5 km wide) located at 1,031–1,200 meters above sea level have been called the finest in the world. The uniqueness of the area’s geology of volcanic origin, endemic flora and fauna, and original culture motivated by the Balinese Hindu religion is a perfect combination of different heritages of the Earth.”

   Landscape. Photo: CIFOR/Laurentius Angga

Yet, this magnificence landscape comes at a price for local residents, who are among the poorest in Bali. The 15 villages in and around the caldera rely on unsustainable agricultural production, mainly growing vegetables, fruits and some tourism for their livelihoods. The degradation of the landscape has increased sediment runoff into the lake, reducing its depth and water quality, increasing flooding downstream and fostering growth of aquatic weeds. This presents an emerging threat to the communities reliant on the lake for drinking water, fish, cultural and religious practices, and recreational and cultural tourism.

In this complex scenario, the team of restorers on the misty morning in March unloaded a truck carrying 540 seedlings of Pongamia pinnata (also known as Millettia pinnata and locally as “malapari”) from a specialized nursery at the Watershed and Protected Forest Management Centre.

   Some of the seedlings. Photo: CIFOR/Laurentius Angga

“A seedling seed  orchard is a critically important first step in any restoration project,” explained Ni Luh Arpiwi, senior lecturer in seed domestication at Udayana University in southern Bali, who has been leading the cultivation of the seedlings.

“It provides high-quality seeds suited to local conditions that can be grown to produce more trees for expanding the scale of restoration. We have selected seeds from strong, healthy and productive trees from eastern, western and southern Bali, mostly from coastal areas because trees at higher altitudes have long since been cut for timber and other uses. The seeds were initially grown at the nursery of the government’s Watershed and Protected Forest Management Centre and then transferred to the university for further selection and care before being ready to plant today.”

Malapari, which is endemic to Bali, other parts of Indonesia and throughout Southeast Asia, is particularly well suited for restoring degraded land. It grows fast and well in most conditions, however degraded, such as the volcanic sand of Batur. Its leaf litter helps create fertile soil. It fixes nitrogen through its roots, meaning that less or no fertilizers are needed if other crops are grown nearby. Its canopy is also of a suitable shape for shading commodity crops, such as coffee and cacao. And last but not least, it produces seeds that have a high oil content suitable for use as biofuel, in cosmetics and for cooking.

“Malapari is little known yet holds great promise,” said Himlal Baral, senior land restoration scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF), who has initiated much of the restoration. “The SSO will not only provide seeds for the longer-term restoration work but serve as a research site for producing trees that can thrive and be most productive in the challenging conditions of the Geopark and beyond.”

Travelling especially for the planting from Yogyakarta in the neighboring island of Java, Budi Leksono, senior seed domestication expert with the Forestry Research and Development Agency of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, has been sharing with Arpiwi and team his deep knowledge built over many decades of establishing and managing seed source orchards.

“The design of a SSO is critical to ensure good results,” he explained. “We have planted 30 families with three trees per plot and six replications so that we can compare performance. The weaker or underperforming individuals will be thinned to two trees per plot, leaving 180 trees at a final spacing of 5 x 6 meters.”

   Budi Laksono. Photo: CIFOR/Laurentius Angga
   Ni Luh Arpiwi. Photo: CIFOR/Laurentius Angga

Members of the Forest Farmers’ Group Bukit Pule had in days before prepared the site by clearing weeds and a pathway, jokingly called “Pongamia Street”, and digging holes to the initial spacing of 5 x 2 meters and depth and width dimensions advised by Arpiwi. On the planting day, along with the other restorers, they eagerly planted the seedlings despite the difficult terrain and inclement weather.

   Planting underway. Photo: CIFOR/Laurentius Angga
   Planting underway. Photo: CIFOR/Laurentius Angga

I Wayan Gobang Edy Sucipto, deputy director of the geopark, along with other colleagues from the geopark and District of Kintamani, was on site and planting. He was enthusiastic about the prospects for restoration and, particularly, the use of malapari.

“We fully support this work,” he said. “It will not only improve the overall environment and increase the tourism potential of the geopark but also enhance residents’ livelihoods, who are already showing their eagerness to use sustainable agricultural and forestry practices.”

More than 3000 seedlings of malapari had already been distributed to farmers to grow on their own land and more are to come to meet the demand.

“Farmers in the area have listened and now understand the benefits that can come from growing malapari together with coffee and other crops,” said Gobang.

   I Wayan Gobang. Photo: CIFOR/Laurentius Angga

The seedling seed orchard is the first step in a large restoration program planned by the communities, the geopark, District of Kintamani, National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), Udayana University, Ministry of Forestry and Environment (MOEF), the Ministry of National Development Planning (Bappenas), Clean Power Indonesia, MOEF’s Forest Management Unit (KPH) East Bali, non-governmental organizations and the National Institute of Forest Science of the Republic of Korea.

“There are some 10,000 hectares of degraded land in the geopark and surrounds,” said Baral. “This calls not only for a coordinated local effort for restoration but also collaboration with national and international partners, such as the BRIN, MOEF and Korea’s National Institute of Forest Science.”

Korea has a long history of successful restoration of severely degraded land under extreme conditions that we are already learning from thanks to our collaboration through the Sustainable Community-based Reforestation and Enterprises project, which is funded by the Institute.”

For more information on this topic, please contact Himlal Baral at or Mihyun Seol at
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