Posted on 08 May 2019
Communities have local potential that needs to be acknowledged.
The forests on the Indonesian island of Borneo are home to endangered rhinos, palm oil plantations, orangutans, and enormous cultural diversity of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. In the province of East Kalimantan, WWF staff work hand in hand with communities to help them build sustainable livelihoods that support forest protection and conservation. We sat down with Sri Jimmy Kustini, in our Kutai Barat office, to learn more.
What is your role at WWF?
I am the Mahakam Landscape Manager. In this role, I am responsible for planning, organizing, and overseeing the implementation of all the programs within the landscape, which covers three districts, Mahakam Ulu, Kutai Barat, and Kutai Kertanegara, and one city, Samarinda. I manage a cross-functional team of 25 focused on administration, finance, green development, rhino conservation, social development, forests, and wildlife management.
What is one thing you are currently working on?
In the big picture, we are working with the government bodies, local communities and Indigenous Peoples to conserve and sustainably manage natural resources such as forests and water, increase their capacity and livelihoods, and adapt climate change. For example, we work with people in Laham village to improve their capacity to manage and utilize their protected forest (called Tanaa Pera and Tanaa Paroki). We also work with cacao farmer groups there to manage and increase the production of their cacao plantation, without expanding into new areas. This will help to increase their livelihoods and reduce the frequency of people going to the forest for economic purposes such as cutting trees and animal hunting.
How did you get involved in this kind of conservation work?
I come from an Indigenous family, from the Dayak Tonyooi Peoples of Kalimantan, who have long lived close to nature, especially the forest and wildlife. We have family forest called munaan that has been passed down from my great grandparents. When I learned WWF had opened an office in Kutai Barat in 2010, I thought that was my chance to know more about the wildlife and be part of maintaining the ecological balance in my hometown.
What are some of the challenges you are facing in Mahakam landscape? What is WWF doing to face those challenges?
We face many of the same challenges as other tropical forest landscapes, like deforestation and forest degradation, species extinction and biodiversity loss, and land and water pollution. We use many tools to face those challenges, especially sustainable forest management and working with communities who live near the forest on making their development as forest-friendly as possible. One of the things we do with communities is land use and spatial mapping at the village level. We learn together and improve the capacity of the villagers to use tools such as GPS, land use management strategies, and spatial training. For example, Minta village just finished their village mapping and got approval for their plan from the village leaders and community when the results were presented at the village development meeting.
What do you think is the most important thing to keep in mind when working with communities to protect their forests?
Communities have local potential, which includes local and Indigenous knowledge and skills that need to be acknowledged. For example, their knowledge of the forest and its long-standing benefit as a source of food, herbs, tools for traditional ceremony, and traditional medicine, as well as their agricultural skills and knowledge. This can be explored and worked to develop their area or increase their welfare.
You have been working with some of the women’s groups in Kutai Barat on a photography project. Has that changed the way women participate in other parts of community life?
Yes, several women said it has changed the way they see and value their village as well as their own activities within their village. They see things from a different perspective. Capturing the meaningful pictures that can tell stories from their village was not an easy task, especially for some women who have limited access to technology and no previous experience in basic photography. Photography gave them a different way to talk about and share their village and the way they live with the others who never come to their place. Now we are in process of selecting photos and writing stories to be put together into a book, which, after it is launched, will be able to be read digitally on WWF-Indonesia’s website.