Here you can see a marvelous movie made by Raymond Hartman on the village hub in Tomohon.
How the Sugar Palm provides green energy, healthy food, more forest, jobs and progress for the local population.
Replanting the Rainforest
Willie Smits is planting new forests in different parts of Indonesia, focussing mostly on Borneo and Sulawesi. To do so, he uses plots that are useless to both man and nature, namely grassland that is eroded by previous logging and/or fire. Willie has developed a process with which he can regrow a forest in several years; after 5 years a reasonable forest has already come back. And with that, the ecosystem and diversity of animal and plant life returns as well.
However, Willie goes beyond merely replanting forests. In order to make the forest significantly more productive for both nature and man, he is planting Sugar Palms that will turn out to be highly productive along with many more crops such as fruit trees, coffee and bamboo, that deliver a meaningful yield for the local population already at an earlier stage.
The sugar palm, a crop in which Willie is probably the world’s greatest expert, takes a central role in Willie’s reforestation programs.
First of all, the Sugar Palm is not to be confused with the highly destructive Oil Palm. Sugar Palms only grow in a diverse forest, in which many other animal and plant species live, whereas for monotonous palm oil plantations, millions of acres of precious rainforest are destroyed. In these monotone plantations the original plants and trees do not grow.
The sugar palm has several unique features that make it the champion of the forest. A few years after the tree is planted a daily amount of juice can be tapped from the tree, by cutting a thin slice off a branch. The tree then releases large quantities of juice (mature trees produce 20-30 litres a day, some even more than 50) with a sugar concentration of about 11%. However before it will start producing the valuable sap the tree has to go through a preparation which involves lengthily ‘knocking’ the tree trunk. The producing tree thus converts sunlight, rainwater and CO2 into sugar-sap which can be processed into many different products, mainly through special techniques developed by Willie. Several examples of these products are bio-ethanol, (very healthy) palm sugar and bio-plastics. All in all, this one tree can deliver over 60 different kinds of products, ranging from bio fuel and sugar to extremely strong fibres used for roofing, medicine and a good quality of wood (after its life cycle had ended).
The amount of energy produced by a sugar palm beats that of all other crops (e.g. it provides over three times more energy than sugar cane). Part of this output lies in the ingenious leaf structure, making it very efficient in capturing sunlight. In addition, the process of photosynthesis is much more efficient than that of other crops, and is taking place during a longer time period per day. The Sugar Palm on balance does not remove nutrients from the soil the way other plants do, and to harvest the energy, no fruits or branches have to be cut off. Once planted, the tree may be harvested throughout the year. Furthermore, the palm will grow on various poor soil types and up against steep slopes which cannot be used as farmland. Due to its deep root system, it also provides excellent protection against soil erosion, and it is fire- and flood resistant. Because it grows only in a diverse forest it contributes to preserving biodiversity.
Many jobs for green farmers
Harvesting the precious sap from the trees is a manual process, providing many jobs for local farmers (one farmer is responsible for about 6 trees). The income of these palm tappers is much higher than that of regular small farmers and they produce completely green and CO2 positive products. Due to the increased income, the children of these farmers are able to study and escape poverty. Furthermore, Masarang has set up a farmers’ cooperative where they have their own democratic elections for certain positions. Moreover, when the farmers become more prosperous, they are less inclined to support a corrupt system or cut down the rainforest illegally. The people also do not have to work in polluting industries such as gold and coal mines or in the destructive oil palm plantations. Lastly, the farmers in the Masarang reforestation projects are actively protecting the forest and wild animals that are released there after being rehabilitated in the Tasikoki Animal Rescue Center.
In 2016 an Indonesian journalist has described extensively the whole process and the benefits for the local population in this article. The sweet spirit of mount Lokon
Willie Smits has built a Sugar factory in North Sulawesi with the support of the Indonesian Government. This factory is powered by residual steam from a geothermal (green) power plant, meaning that the energy used does not damage the environment. The factory collects the sap from the palms and turns it into a sugar with very special properties. Not only is the product eco-friendly and fair-trade, the sugar also has more flavour than white sugar and is much healthier. While sugar can easily lead to obesity and diabetes, the palm sugar does not. Part of this remarkable feat is caused by the slow absorption in the blood which prevents an unhealthy rise of blood sugar levels and enables energy to be gradually released. Also, the sugar contains anti-oxidants, amino acids and vitamins which have a positive effect on one’s health. Willie has been responsible for creating the process which is used to produce the sugar. In the Netherlands, the sugar can be purchased from, amongst others, Jumbo supermarkets. (Imported by Amigos International, firstname.lastname@example.org, +31(0)317 479 794)
Note: It is important to mention that donations made to Masarang are not used as an investment in palm sap products. These can be seen as commercial activities. Though not profitable currently, on a larger scale it could be. This is the reason Willie is collecting money for this particular activity from investors; eventual future profits will be used to finance non-profit projects also run by Willie, besides paying back the investors. The money donated to Masarang (through this site) will only be used for the environmental and social projects which support the locals and nature, all which are named on this website under the heading of ‘Projects’. These are all non-profit projects which will not be able to survive without donations.
Also small sugar factories (village hubs) are being build that can be transferred to places in the jungle. Read more here.