Quantcast
Popular
Lowland rainforest in Sulawesi's Tangkoko Reserve, Indonesia. Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay

Generations of Respect for Nature and Shamanic Healing Sustain This Remote Village

By Wahyu Chandra

In a remote village on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi lies a small garden of near-mythic repute—a place whose stewards grow not mere plants, but hopes and cures that have served the community for generations.

Packed into a single hectare (2.5 acres) in a Pakuli Induk village, in the Central Sulawesi province, are 400 different types of herbal plants, first collected and grown by Sahlan, a shaman or sando, from the Kaili tribe.


Like a real-life Getafix, Sahlan relied on plants that grow in the area to treat the needs of the villagers, venturing deep into the forest to pick the ingredients for herbal remedies for everything from sore eyes to kidney problems to ovarian cysts. The son of shamans, he was bequeathed the small lot for a garden in 1999 by the local chief, who was taken by Sahlan's passion for his craft.

Nearly 20 years on, Sahlan now practices traditional medicine in Palu, the provincial capital, and has left the running of the garden to the children and young adults of the Assyfa orphanage.

"It was Sahlan who taught us at first," said Risfa, 21, one of the 70 youths at the orphanage now tasked with caring for the garden.

Risfa then rattles off a list of plants grown there and their purported qualities: kada buku, whose leaves are used to treat external wounds; kanuna, believed to be effective in the treatment of ovarian cysts; keji beling, prescribed for kidney and appendix problems; kulei, whose sap is used as eye drops; and mavana, said to cure coughing in children.

There's also the ginseng-like root of the tudong layu plant, which, also like ginseng, is said to help treat erectile dysfunction. "It's best to mix it with eggs and honey," Finra, another of the caretakers, said while laughing.

A group of orphans in Pakuli Induk village, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, manages a small garden which houses up to 400 different types of herbal plants. Wahyu Chandra / Mongabay Indonesia

Traditional Healing

As in most other parts of rural Indonesia, traditional medicine is the only kind of healthcare most people here have access to. In 2015, there were all of 12 medical professionals registered in Sigi district, where the Pakuli Induk district is located, according to the national statistics agency; of those, only two were doctors, serving a population of nearly 230,000.

"Sando are believed to be more effective" than medical doctors, said Amran Tambaru, a local environmental activist. He added that for communities like Pakuli Induk, shamans are often the first choice of health provider.

It's little wonder, then, that Sahlan's garden plays a central role in the lives of the villagers, who can buy a packet of mixed herbs tailored to treat specific ailments for about $2. Zainal, a former charge of the orphanage, said many of the plants grown in the garden are also found around the village. But the villagers are welcome to come in and pick, for free, any herbs they can't find elsewhere, as long as they ask for permission first.

A man shows the bark of a tree called Lengaru, which is used to treat headache, cyst and other diseases. Wahyu Chandra / Mongabay Indonesia

Safeguarding the Forest

The reverence with which the community has long regarded traditional medicine, and by extension the plants on which it is based, has cultivated a respect for the environment that holds to this day. Any activity with the potential to disrupt the integrity of the natural ecosystem is strictly regulated to minimize damage.

Logging, for instance, can only be carried out if the timber is to be used to build a house. Even then, it requires permission from the village council, who also determine the location within the forest where trees may be felled. Violations of any of these rules is punishable by fines in the form of money or livestock—a serious financial setback in a community of subsistence farmers.

Similar rules are in place to protect the wildlife. Pakuli Induk's forests are rich in fauna, bordering Lore Lindu National Park. The 2,180-square-kilometer (840-square-mile) reserve is home to 77 species of birds found only in Sulawesi, including the rare and endangered maleo (Macrocephalon maleo), a striking-looking fowl with a black helmet casque atop its head.

A captive-breeding center has been set up for the maleo in the Pakuli Induk forest. The bird is considered sacred among the community, and the punishment for any attempt to poach it is suitably severe.

"If anyone dares try to catch one, they can be fined a water buffalo," said Zainal, noting that the high value and scarcity of buffalo make them a commodity not worth losing.

For the villagers, the forest and its plants and animals have long been a source of sustenance and well-being. And thanks to the orphans of Pakuli Induk, the stewardship of the local environment appears to be in safe hands.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

Related Articles Around the Web
Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Climate
Deep-sea corals may not be flashy, but they deserve a second look. Oceana

Ignoring Deep-Sea Corals Is Risky for the Oceans, and for Us

By Nathan Johnson

The deep sea might be cold and dark, but it's not barren. Down here, an incredible diversity of corals shelters young fish like grouper, snapper and rockfish. Sharks, rays and other species live and feed here their whole lives.

Brightly colored coral gardens, far beyond the reach of the sun's rays, don't just nurture deep-sea life. They also help advance medical research and understand climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Kristian Buus / Greenpeace

Green Groups Balk at England’s Plan to Fast Track Fracking

Government ministers published proposals Thursday that would speed the development of fracking in England, igniting opposition from environmental groups and local communities, The Independent reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy

Before Royal Wedding Sermon, Rev. Curry Stood With Standing Rock Pipeline Opponents

Bishop Michael Curry, who delivered a passionate wedding sermon to royal newlyweds Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Saturday, also gave a powerful message about two years ago to Dakota Access Pipeline protesters at Standing Rock, North Dakota.

On Sept. 24, 2016 at the Oceti Sakowin Camp, the reverend offered the Episcopal Church's solidarity with the water protectors, noting that, "Water is a gift of the Creator. We must protect it. We must conserve it. We must care for it."

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Coral bleaching like this (in the Great Barrier Reef) is killing the largest reef in Japan. Oregon State University / CC BY-SA 2.0

Only 1% of Japan’s Largest Reef Still Healthy After Historic Bleaching Catastrophe

In a sobering reminder of the impact of climate change on marine biodiversity, a survey by the Japanese government found that barely more than one percent of the coral in the country's largest coral reef is healthy, AFP reported Friday.

The reef, located in the Sekisei Lagoon near Okinawa, has suffered mass coral bleaching events due to rising sea temperatures in 1998, 2001, 2007 and 2016.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy

Train Carrying 250,000 Liters of Fuel Derails on Kenyan Coast

A cargo train carrying 250,000 liters (66,000 gallons) of super petroleum, or unleaded gasoline, derailed off its tracks after taking a sharp turn along Kenya's eastern coast, forcing the closure of a major highway over the weekend, according to local reports.

The accident occurred early Sunday in Kibarani in Mombasa County, and prompted authorities to completely close off Makupa Causeway, the main link between the mainland and Mombasa Island, fearing a fire would break out after spillage of the highly flammable liquid, The Star, Kenya reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
The farm bill's historic conservation provisions are important for preserving grassland biodiversity, like this black-footed ferret and prairie dog. USFWS Mountain-Prairie / CC BY 2.0

Farm Bill Harmful to Endangered Species and Conservation Fails in House

A farm bill with dangerous consequences for endangered species and conservation efforts failed to pass the House on Friday, The Guardian reported.

The 2018 version of the major agricultural bill was criticized by environmental groups because it would have allowed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve new pesticides without assessing their impact on wildlife protected under the Endangered Species Act. The bill would also have cut funding for land conservation programs by $800 million over the next ten years.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals
Pixabay

Controversial Kangaroo Cull Underway in Canberra

By Stephanie Koorey

May is late autumn in the southern hemisphere, and as we creep closer to winter, Canberra, Australia's capital city, is carrying out its annual, and controversial, kangaroo cull. With some pride, the city is known as the "bush capital" due to its wide corridors of native grasslands and gumtree and casurina tree woodlands, and an abundance of accompanying wildlife. As the city sprawls, it is displacing native habitats. At the same time, suburban lawns and sports ovals offer appealing alternative spaces for some animals, particularly our largest and most mobile grazing species, the eastern grey kangaroo. Due in part to the near disappearance of the kangaroo's main natural predator, the dingo or wild dog, and declines in traditional Indigenous hunting, kangaroo populations have exploded over recent decades.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
pxhere

Opinion: The 2018 Farm Bill Battle Lines Have Been Drawn: Here’s What You Can Do

Last week, the Republican-drafted Farm Bill, called the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), failed spectacularly on the House floor when Republicans tried to leverage the farm bill to placate conservatives' agenda on immigration. Nevertheless, H.R. 2, which generally benefits large commodity producers while compromising long-term food security, provides a helpful view into where the policy battles are being fought on the road to passage.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!