Public Radio International recently interviewed Hamisah, elected village leader of the Desahan Jaya district in Borneo, who is using “helpers”, or spies, to keep tabs on the illegal logging trade in her region.
One was a shopkeeper named Selamat, who works in a little snack stand a few minutes down the road from Hamisah’s house.
“She asked me to tell if I saw anyone with a chainsaw driving by,” Selamat says, standing among the individually wrapped snacks hanging in his shop. “I said yes because I want to help.”
When Selamat spotted a logger, he would call the next spy down the line. A guy named Ridwan, down the road, would stop the car and try to convince the logger or loggers to turn around.
Ridwan recalled one of the stops he made in August 2014.
“[The logger] was angry, he told me he didn’t want to sell the wood, he just wanted to use it to build a house,” Ridwan says. “He argued a lot, but finally he left.”
Hamisah’s spy network caught five loggers in this way in the first year and a half she served as village leader. Ridwan says people don’t try to log around the village anymore, and he attributes the change in large part to Hamisah’s leadership.
Six loggers have been stopped since Hamisah took her post in 2016. Forests across Indonesia are still being lost on a massive scale, with much it happening legally. Indonesia is now one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters in the world.