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Meet Kristiawan, a 22-year-old student and project employee at the Sumatra Merang Peatland Project (SMPP) in Indonesia. Kristiawan is from Kepayang Village, one of two villages involved in this REDD+ project which is working to restore degraded peatland and invest in local communities in the Merang Biodiversity Zone in South Sumatra.

Kristiawan worked hard to earn a scholarship from SMPP to attend the Open University where he has continued his higher education while working for the project as a warehouse and electrical systems maintenance officer. When he’s not engaged in online studies, he’s working with SMPP’s engineers on various projects, such as recently the installation of a system of solar panels for the main camp. Kristiawan is also passionate about the project’s conservation objectives and the opportunity to help his local community. Some days he works for the security and patrol teams which gets him out into the forest, taking shifts at security posts to protect the landscape that he calls home.

Kristiawan could be mistaken as ‘just your average 22-year-old’, until you get to know the standards he’s already set for himself and the goals he wants to achieve. Seizing the opportunity to pursue higher education, Kristawan is not at all overwhelmed by long days of work and study. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s stayed focused and committed, managing challenging online studies while supporting his community through a tumultuous year. “I am studying for my family, to make them proud,” he says. “I am grateful for this opportunity, and it motivates me to work even harder.”

Kristiawan is studying for a management degree and hopes to use these studies to progress his career. As a student sponsored by the project, as well as a key member of the project staff team, his is mostly thankful that SMPP gives him the opportunity to prioritise his studies, especially with exam season approaching. Kristiawan exemplifies the community-led outcomes the project has been aiming to achieve since 2016. Here in rural Sumatra, young adults are not only working to improve their education and career path but learning to protect the natural peatland ecosystem in a way that drives economic development and empowerment in their own communities.

SMPP is implemented by Forest Carbon and Global Alam Lestari and represented by Ecosphere+. To incorporate this project into your strategy, get in touch.