“Save the rainforest.” A popular sentiment – succinct, straightforward. Yet if you spend some time with anyone trying to do just that, you realize you need a billboard, not a bumper sticker. Because “saving the rainforest” is complicated. But “Meet with government, community and corporate officials to map and designate forest land. Weigh economic and environmental costs and benefits of various land use plans
, including strict protection, responsible cultivation areas and conversion of forest to other uses. Survey the biodiversity of the forest and consider how to protect and connect the areas with highest conservation value
. Assess the economic value of environmental services such as carbon sequestration and protection of water catchments, then get beneficiaries of those services to pay a fair price
for them. Monitor forest usage and enforce laws to ensure that corruption, illegal logging and poaching are halted swiftly.” doesn’t make a very good bumper sticker.
The dynamic duo of Kutai Barat
Yet Arif Data Kusuma and Eri Panca Setyewan of WWF-Indonesia’s Kutai Barat project do all of that and more on their mission to protect the abundant resources of a district that lies in the Heart of Borneo
. With 3.3 million hectares and a population of just 170,000, Kutai Barat offers an exciting opportunity to strike the right balance between using forest resources and protecting them for the benefit of our climate and nature. Data is project leader and Eri is the social development coordinator; together, they are the dynamic duo of Kutai Barat.
Q: Pak Data, how long have you been with WWF-Indonesia and how did you get started?
Data: I have been working with WWF-Indonesia since October 2002. I started as a communications coordinator for Kayan Mentarang National Park project. Then I moved to the Heart of Borneo project in January 2007 and in August 2010, I moved to the Kutai Barat project. My background is in fisheries, specializing in watershed management.
Q: What about you, Pak Eri?
Eri: I have been with WWF-Indonesia for two years, starting as an accountant. I moved to the Kutai Barat project in November 2010 as a social development coordinator.
Q: Accounting and social development seem like pretty different fields. How did you move from one to the other?
Eri: I can work as an accountant because that’s my background. But I also bring the experience of working on community development issues. I have a vision, and I think if I work as an accountant as long as I live, I’ll have no challenge. This is a big opportunity to work with other people, including Dayak people
(an indigenous ethnic group of Kutai Barat). I think many things can be brought together through the community.
Q: You are in the process of setting up a new office and getting the Kutai Barat project underway. What really motivates you – what are you excited about with this new project?
Data: I think this project will be different from other projects in Indonesia. WWF traditionally does projects in national parks and conservation areas, like establishing management systems for these places. Kutai Barat is different. There is only one small conservation area here. So our conservation work has to take place in areas designated for economic development. That’s a big challenge!
Q: To get this project up and running, you need community buy-in. What kinds of things are communities excited about and what are they worried about?
Eri: In my experience, the people of East Kalimantan have a rich tradition of living in harmony with nature; they use nature to live. So I don’t worry about talking with communities; I believe conservation is already important to them. My job is quite small. It’s about connecting the ancient Dayak wisdom with a vision of conservation for the future.
Q: When you think 10 years into the future, what does the landscape of Kutai Barat look like?
Data: In our perception, some conservation areas in Indonesia aren’t successful; they aren’t managed well. Communities aren’t involved, and that’s a problem. But if communities have the states’ support to manage conservation areas, they will be well protected, because members of the community are on the land every day. Conservation is their heritage. If we give them a big role, it’s the best way to manage the landscape.
Q: What about the role of business?
Data: Business, government and community are like a triangle. Each is important and they must support each other. If the private sector honors government regulations, things will run well. We have good regulations in our country, but in practice, there’s little enforcement. WWF can encourage the private sector to apply better management practices to plantations and timber concessions.
Q: Any final thoughts?
Eri: I have only one hope: that everyone understands that we share this planet and we must care about it.
Data: Maybe I can do something small in Kutai Barat, but I hope this small thing will affect the whole planet.