Erna Solberg is the co-chair of the Advocacy Group for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs. She visits a field project in the Bujang Raba rainforest ecosystem that is supported by Rainforest Foundation Norway and our Indonesian partner organization KKI- WARSI. The purpose of the trip is to make sure indigenous peoples are included in the MDGs and to strengthen Norway’s commitment to support Indonesia’s ambitions to cut their climate change emissions from deforestation and forest degradation by 41% before 2020.
“Indigenous peoples are often ignored when it comes to combatting extreme poverty, says Hege Karsti Ragnhildstveit”, who heads the Asia department at Rainforest Foundation Norway. “We are therefore very pleased that Prime Minister Solberg choses to focus on this group”.
“We have to stop the destruction”
The area of Bujang Raba consists of tropical forest and is situated in the upper watershed of the Batang Hari River. The population consists of the Orang Rimba indigenous group and Jambi ethnic group. Both groups have a culture closely intertwined with the forest ecosystem. Average daily income is USD1.3 – 1.8.
Threats to local livelihood and forest include logging that cause erosion, palm oil plantation development that lead to deforestation and coal mining that cause water pollution and biodiversity loss. Traditional tenure rights are under threat from large companies that seek to exploit local natural resources.
“We have to stop the destruction of the rainforest if we are to fulfill indigenous peoples’ rights in Indonesia”, says Nur Kholis, KKI- WARSI board member and leader of Indonesias National Commission on Human Rights.
Active defenders of the rainforest
The Indonesian Conservation Community – KKI WARSI has worked with the local communities since year 2000 to develop livelihood opportunities to combat poverty and sustain the rainforest. The field visit explores how the local communities take development into their own hands by organizing forest patrols, strengthening women cooperatives, introducing micro-hydro technology and boosting income from bamboo, spices and honey.
“The communities in Bujang Raba are not passive victims of deforestation, but active defenders of the rainforest and their livelihood”, says Ragnhildstveit.
Indigenous peoples’ rights is a contentious issue in Indonesia, but recent progress in legislation present new opportunities for communities to manage forests according their traditions. Similarly, the palm oil industry has been one of the main drivers of deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, but some of the main companies are now committing to “no-deforestation” policies.
Indonesia’s newly elected President Joko Widodo has been termed “the people’s president” because of his modest past and he has made food security one of his main priorities. Indonesia is at a crossroad between a sustainable development path and business as usual with high social inequality and high greenhouse gas emissions.