“I remember being in Riau, in Sumatra, during the large forest fires in the 1990s, when I witnessed the impacts of deforestation and how climate had changed so much. The landscape was hot and barren. Being in the middle of it was a galvanizing moment,” said Arief Rabik in a conversation with Climate Breakthrough on what inspired his environmentalism.
Arief followed in the footsteps of his mother, Linda Garland, who was a pioneer in the global development of the bamboo industry.
Restore degraded lands in Indonesia with bamboo agroforestry while creating large markets for bamboo to replace high-carbon materials in the food, textile, construction, and wood industries.
His connection with bamboo started at an early age and grew even stronger as he started to get involved in some of Linda’s projects. From then on, Arief has made himself an environmental scientist in his own right with, up to now, over two decades of experience in bamboo forest management and bamboo-based industry.
Energetic, strategic, persistent, and a good coalition builder, Arief is as capable and comfortable getting his hands dirty helping local producers on the ground as he is working with corporate leaders in the boardroom and politicians in national capitals.
As then director of Indonesia’s Environmental Bamboo Foundation, Arief initiated the 1000 Bamboo Villages project to initiate a forest-to-factory system by establishing village-level bamboo nurseries, to standardize agroforestry practices, and to create economic incentives that facilitate the expansion of bamboo markets and the restoration economy.
He received a Climate Breakthrough Award in 2019—the first awardee focused on land use—to support the expansion of that ambitious climate action. This was important because Indonesia is the world’s biggest palm oil producer and exporter, with the sector being a major driver of deforestation in the country for the past twenty years.
In 2023, Arief launched a new platform called the Bamboo Village Trust as a charity to absorb donor and philanthropic contributions toward bamboo villages. The initiative also works to create a cluster of bamboo ambassadors—respected community members who can gather and motivate their fellow villagers to develop social forestry assets and form bamboo cooperatives.
“Our experience has shown that champions like them are essential in turning bamboo villages from a vision into a successful landscape restoration enterprise,” said Arief.
To further strengthen his effort, he is partnering with the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, of which he is an Advisory Board member. Through this collaboration, he aims to enable the establishment of 200 bamboo villages across the equatorial belt by 2029, including 100 in Indonesia.