The Value of Sugar Palm in Indonesia
When conservationist Willie Smits got married in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, in 1980, the dowry cost six sugar palm trees, a fact that intrigued him. The six trees equaled almost one month’s income for most locals. What made sugar palms so valuable?
That question ultimately led Smits on a quest to maximize the tree’s value for Indonesian communities while protecting their land. These communities already understood the dozens of benefits that the sugar palm brought: medicine, fiber, wood, fuel, sugar, drinks, and more. Eventually, Smits discovered additional value the sugar palms add. They stabilize the forest soil, prevent landslides, and resist fire.
In 2001, Smits founded the Masarang Foundation with a mission to conserve nature through collaboration with, and development of, the local