Planting sustainability in tradition

When a decades-old tradition was at risk, Indonesians came up with a sustainable solution.

“Climbing a greasy pole” is a well-known English metaphor for the difficult journey in reaching the top of one’s career. But in Indonesia, it’s also known as panjat pinang — an Independence Day tradition where people climb greased poles to reach prizes at the top.

The poles are pinang (or Areca palm) tree trunks that have been sanded and greased with oil, and are between 8-10 metres tall. Although the tradition originates from the country’s colonial era, some see panjat pinang as an expression of the Indonesian people’s spirit in freeing their nation.

Despite its communal benefits, however, panjat pinang has caused sustainability problems in recent years. A pinang tree only reaches the desired height at 30 years old, but to meet consumer demand, trees are often cut before they reach the required heights. Inevitably, some of these are not even bought and end up rotting. The scarcity problems are worsened by the rising prices of pinang (1 trunk costs Rp 1 million) and the lack of pinang rejuvenation and cultivation efforts.

Thankfully, Indonesians have found a more sustainable alternative: bamboo. It is significantly cheaper than pinang, with one trunk costing between Rp 500,000 to Rp 700,000. It’s also environmentally friendly: if the bamboo trunk is not sold for panjat pinang, it can still be used to make ladders or construction materials.

In their effort to hold on to a popular national practice, the Indonesian people have found a way to solve panjat pinang’s sustainability problems without compromising on tradition or the environment.

Likewise, at Eastspring Investments we are committed to our investment beliefs but are constantly on the lookout to enhance our offerings for the benefit of our customers. Learn more at Eastspring Investments.

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