Indonesian couples including tree planting in their weddings

Reforestation through marriages

Indonesia contains vast swathes of rainforest that are of incalculable value to the Earth’s biodiversity and climate, but deforestation caused by development continues to decimate them. According to government figures, the country lost 115,459 hectares (285,305 acres) of forest cover in 2020, an area the size of Los Angeles.

While it may sound alarming, that number was actually down 75% from the previous year, according to the country’s environment ministry. In fact, Indonesia’s deforestation rate hit an all-time low in 2020, with the government crediting its various policies limiting forest clearing (although environmentalists say other factors contributed, including an unusually wet year. with few forest fires, falling palm oil prices and an economic recession leading to a slowdown in deforestation activities such as plantation expansion and logging).

President Joko Widodo has an ambitious goal not only to halve the rate of deforestation over the next three decades, but also reforest 10.6 million hectares (26.2 million acres) of land by 2050. Central government reforestation efforts have seen regional authorities come up with a wide variety of unique programs to plant more trees. Among them, local regulations appeared across the country forcing couples wishing to get married to plant trees.

For example, for the past three years, in Pasung village, Central Java province, married couples were required to plant two fruit trees along one of the village roads; local officials say they hope the program will help the village develop an agri-tourism industry.

A regulation adopted this year in the village of Ploso, in the province of East Java, requires the bride and groom to plant 10 trembesi (Samanea saman) trees. The village chief said he hoped the initiative would bear fruit in 10 years, when the wealth of new trees would help the village better withstand the drought. “My great hope is that each future married couple will become an agent of change, so that what is planted now is harvested by their children and grandchildren,” said Agus Cahyono, the village chief.

Similar tree planting requirements for the bride and groom can be found in areas ranging from South Kalimantan at Central Sulawesi. Many are the result of a 2015 memorandum of understanding between the ministries of religion and the environment which suggested encouraging the planting of trees by making it an official marriage obligation.

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