SOS UPDATE: We have planted 5,778 cocoa trees
Wow we have funded nearly 6,000 trees! For every Tuan or Tuantoo chocolate orangutan you guys buy, we donate £3.50 to the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) which funds the planting of 2 cocoa trees. SOS has confirmed recently that our latest contribution to them from the sales of all our orangutans to date has now funded a total of 5,778 cocoa tree seedlings being planted in Sumatra. Thank you for helping us be conservation optimists!
We are helping the team in Sumatra at the Bukit Mas permaculture centre on the edge of the Leuser national park in the north of Sumatra to plant these trees in the buffer zone between virgin rainforest and the oil palm plantations to provide both a longer term additional income stream for local farmers to help encourage them to grow a variety of crops and avoid planting monoculture oil palm, and also as a treat for the orangutans, as they love eating fresh cocoa bean flesh.
So far we have funded the planting of trees to cover a 6 hectare area and their target is to plant a 15 hectare area, so we are halfway there folks! The seedlings will then need to be cared for as they mature for the next few years. The cocoa trees are all being planted under taller shade trees as cocoa does not like to be in bright sunshine.
They have started sending us photos of the seedlings planted so far and is very exciting to see them growing fast. As you can, the seedlings are planted in the shade of larger shade trees and by the time they are 5 years old, they should be mature enough to produce cocoa pods that can be harvested for the beans inside to ferment and dry, before they can be processed into chocolate.
SOS are also celebrating their 20th anniversary this month and we recently attended a zoom event to celebrate their reforestation work so far and to talk about the future. They describe themselves as 'conservation optimists' as they are making a difference on the ground and believe in their vision of wild orangutans thriving in safe forests. There was much discussion about the impact restoring forests has on the local environment and ghe importance of getting the local communities onside. If the communities understand that the forests are more valuable to be allowed to thrive and they are encouraged to make their existing farmland more efficient vs cutting down more forest, they can become custodians of the forests and its inhabitants. This comment also really struck home - monoculture palm oil plantations are quiet, young forests are noisy with life - that's quite a thought! To find out more about their rewilding work so far, click here to view this video:
The team at SOS HQ & in Sumatra want to say a huge thank you too for your support and for more information about the work of SOS, click here
This is more information from one of our earlier posts about our support of the work of SOS and our tree planting project in particular:
We have been supporting the work of SOS since December 2018 and send £3.50 to them with every chocolate orangutan sold. Lush, who have been supporting the work of SOS for many years, and is another (slightly larger) Dorset-based business, kindly allowed us to adapt their orangutan soap mould to make a chocolate version which we christened 'Tuan'. By the way, Tuan means 'sir' in Malay
We are supporting their work in Sumatra to help re-forest areas of rainforest destroyed by illegal palm oil plantations as, whilst we never have and never will use chocolate containing palm oil, sadly a lot of industrially produced chocolate globally does contain it. There are only c14,000 Sumatran orangutans left in the wild and we cannot stand by and watch the disastrous effects this intensive monoculture is having on both their habitat and on the climate. Re-wilding by planting trees is a global challenge for us all and we want to do something positive to help.
As SOS say: 'Orangutans spend their lives in the trees, and deforestation is the greatest threat to their survival – so protecting and restoring their habitat is absolutely crucial. We are working with frontline partners to protect the last standing forests in Sumatra, and restore damaged ecosystems. The ecosystem restoration programme is operated by our partners, the Orangutan Information Centre, with a team of local staff and farmers. The restoration sites are located within the Leuser Ecosystem, a protected area, and are repairing damage to the forest caused by illegal activities – primarily the clearing of forest for oil palm plantations. As well as restoring lost habitat and reinforcing national park boundaries, these projects engage local people in grassroots conservation action. Strong roots in the community are absolutely essential for this work to succeed, and the groups we work with have become the guardians of the forests, protecting the ecosystem from future threats.'
The damage that is done to the local ecosystem is captured in this quote from a local farmer who is now one of the guardians of the forest: “When the forest was replaced with oil palms, the water dried up for miles around. Since embarking on the restoration of the ecosystem, our rivers have returned, and we can once again hear bird song. We are committed to protect Leuser from any further damage.” - Pak Baron, Protectors of Leuser.
Planting cocoa trees is just part of a wider project by SOS to work with local communities, as the health and prosperity of the people of Sumatra are linked to the fate of the forests. They aim to both develop conservation action plans and sustainable livelihoods which offer a real alternative to the destruction of forests for short-term profit by growing palm.
Whilst planting work slowed in 2020 due to the corona virus, cocoa tree seedlings are being planted in the Bukit Mas Permaculture Centre (BPC), a 100 hectare site in Northern Sumatra on the edge of the Leuser national park. Formerly an oil palm plantation, it is now in the hands of conservationists and permaculture experts. The oil palm trees have been cut down, and work is underway to turn this piece of land into something wonderful. Using funds from the Lush #SOSSumatra campaign, SOS was able to buy the land early in 2018 on behalf of their sister charity, the Indonesian NGO Orangutan Information Centre (OIC).
Bukit Mas means ‘golden hill’, and is being re-planted with indigenous tree saplings where the oil palms used to be and also importantly, cash crops - such as chillies, aubergines and other vegetables plus, in the nursery, more exotic crops such as patchouli, ylang-ylang and now cocoa– for local farmers taking part in OIC’s permaculture training programme.
This is an update from the Bukit Mas permaculture manager Sabar about our cocoa tree seedlings: "We are happy to see chocolate growth in zone 3 at Bukit Mas Permaculture Centre is growing well, the planting process is currently still ongoing. We hope that chocolate plants in zone 3 can be a source of income for BPC independence in the future and we want to make BPC a place of learning for the communities surrounding Gunung Leuser."
This is also a long term project for us as it takes 5 years for cocoa trees to be ready to fruit and harvest the pods to process the beans inside into chocolate. We are looking forward to building relationships with the team there and the farmers to help them with the harvesting and initial processing work to be able to buy the cocoa beans from them and make orangutan-approved chocolate! We also understand from the team at OIC in Sumatra that orangutans love the taste of freshly picked cocoa. They break open the pods to expose the sweet white flesh around each cocoa bean - this tastes like citrissy lychee and can confirm, that it is indeed delicious!