Fabrice was one of 15 lucky applicants selected from around the world to travel to Borneo with a mission to find sustainable ways to fight deforestation.
While working alongside acclaimed scientist Dr Willie Smits, their journey has been documented in a movie ‘The Rise of the Eco-Warriors’, which is scheduled for release in 2013.
“You cannot come back from a journey like this and be the same as before,” he told Our World Today.
“It was a mix of extremes – the magnificent beauty of the forest, people and wildlife, but it was also extremely sad to see the devastation caused by deforestation, on the forest and on the local communities.”
The Eco-Warriors set off for Borneo for 20 days in September last year to visit local communities threatened by expanding palm oil plantations.
The team returned home to make action plans, which also involved fundraising and bringing awareness to the plight of these communities.
The geospatial engineer then returned to Borneo this year for another 80 days to help set up mapping and satellite technology.
His work enables students from around the world to use online software to monitor deforestation in Borneo’s jungles.
Students are able to identify changes to the land and can notify local partners and authorities to protect wildlife and local communities from deforestation.
Fabrice says it is encouraging to see more and more schools integrating the project into their curriculum.
“The best achievement is the feeling that now we are gone, the projects can keep going on the ground. This is the beginning of something much bigger.”
Palm oil plantations are the leading cause of deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia.
According to National Geographic, 70 per cent of the world’s land animals and plants live in forests, including the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan.
Between 2001 and 2009 Indonesia’s rate of deforestation reached 1.87 million hectares per year.
Deforestation not only accelerates climate change, but once forest soil is exposed to the sun the soil is drained of nutrients and quickly becomes unusable.
Fabrice told Our World Today that the involvement of local people in the conservation movement is vital for its long-term success.
“We’ve developed strong partnerships with local organisations which are already involved in working with the local communities. This task was the most important goal we had and I feel that it is a success.”
During the journey the team proved the village of Ensaid Panjang with current maps and other tools to use as evidence to authorities and help them protect their land.
The team also plans to help some villages develop an eco-tourism program.
Fabrice says every individual has a role to play in stopping deforestation, such as reducing consumption of processed food and learning what products contain palm oil.
The French native, who now lives in Australia, is now back to working full time in Adelaide at an aerial mapping company.
He intends to return to Borneo and will continue to be involved with DeforestACTION – the global project involving millions of young people coming together to tackle deforestation.
Fabrice says he has great hope that today’s generation will be able to find ways to sustain the world’s remaining forests.
“I believe we have the power to make the change. It takes time and effort, but as a community we can do it.”
“Without this change, Borneo won’t have any forest left. We are creating this emotional connection between us Western consumers and the reality in Borneo.”
“We only have one planet and it is time to act now before it is too late.”
The movie was directed by Cathy Henkel and produced by Virgo Productions.
To view a list of products that do not contain palm oil click here