Dr. Ambar Kusumandari has been promoted to the title of soil and water conservation science professor at the UGM Faculty of Forestry.
The inauguration ceremony occurred at the UGM Senate Hall on Tuesday (November 7), where she delivered a speech titled “Soil and Water Conservation for Watershed Rehabilitation Towards Community Welfare.”
The chosen title emphasizes the importance of soil and water conservation strategies in rehabilitating critical land toward realizing a healthy watershed.
This ensures the sustainability of soil and water availability for development activities that benefit the community.
Her inaugural speech was divided into three parts: firstly, addressing erosion, land degradation, critical land, and the importance of soil and water conservation.
Secondly, she discussed the watershed and its rehabilitation and the CASM Model (Capability, Availability, Suitability, Manageability) in forest and land rehabilitation. Thirdly, she addressed soil and water conservation strategies.
“At present, soil and water have been degraded, and damage has occurred, resulting in a significant decline in quality,” the professor said.
“The cause of soil damage is human actions to meet their needs, including clothing, food, shelter, and industries, which always increase with the growing number and activities of life.”
She mentioned that erosion is the leading cause of soil damage, land degradation, reduced land productivity, food security, and environmental sustainability.
This also leads to infrastructure damage, supported by Indonesia’s attributes as a tropical country with high rainfall intensity and varied topography of mountains, hills, and undulating terrain.
The climate and topography can result in high erosion when not accompanied by resource exploitation that considers conservation aspects.
The estimated erosion rate in Indonesia is 97.5 to 423.6 tons/ha/year. High erosion disrupts the sustainability of agricultural and forestry activities by reducing water-holding capacity. Also, it affects off-site areas such as sedimentation and air pollution.
According to Professor Kusumandari, soil and water conservation plays a strategic role in maintaining soil fertility and ensuring water availability.
Without practical conservation in the field, soils will experience disturbances such as erosion, nutrient depletion, and various disruptive processes like accumulating salt, toxins, and harmful elements for plants.
Similarly, water can experience damage, including drying springs, declining water quality due to sedimentation, water pollution containing waste, and eutrophication due to nutrient entry into the soil.
“The application of soil and water conservation is to prevent erosion, improve damaged soil, and preserve and increase soil productivity,” she explained.
“Water conservation aims to ensure the availability of water, save water, and conserve habitats, i.e., the proper management of water by humans to maintain water availability.”
In efforts to improve community welfare, Professor Kusumandari views economic obstacles as a primary hindrance to implementing soil and water conservation. Issues such as a lack of funds to build conservation structures or carry out other conservation activities are prevalent.
This condition is exacerbated by a lack of knowledge and education and the prevailing belief that implementing conservation strategies will only increase production costs without providing additional benefits.
On the other hand, institutional barriers are also seen as complicating the success of forest and land rehabilitation.
The benefits of forest and land rehabilitation are not yet widely felt, and many people view conservation as an activity handed down through generations in line with local customs or traditions.
“Integrated conservation must be built by aligning government institutions and institutions in the community to establish clarity of direction and purpose,” Professor Kusumandari said.
“In each region, institutions dealing with natural resource conservation need to be established. Watershed forums at the district level need to be reactivated to drive the wheel of conservation.”
Author: Agung Nugroho