A village in Papua sets out to save the world
A small, remote village in Papua province, Indonesia, wants to share the knowledge it has gained to help slow climate change, beginning with the ambassador of the European Union
The village of Wambena, clinging to a clifftop between the Pacific Ocean and the Cyclops Mountain Strict Nature Reserve, is keen to help other villages throughout Papua create a ‘green’ economy to improve their livelihoods and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from deforestation.
During a recent visit to Wambena, the Ambassador of the European Union to Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and ASEAN, His Excellency Olof Skoog, witnessed the villagers’ enthusiasm and practical understanding of the techniques required to effectively monitor a green economy at village level in a participatory manner.
‘I am very impressed with the protection of natural resources here’, he said. ‘This village is a role model for the entire world’.
Wambena is part of a project called ‘Participatory monitoring by civil society of land-use planning for low-emissions development strategies’ (ParCiMon), which is funded by the European Union and carried out by the World Agroforestry Centre Indonesia in partnership with the governments of Papua province and Jayapura, Jayawijaya and Merauke regencies and several local non-governmental organizations, under the coordination of the National Development Planning Agency of Indonesia.
After two years of learning about landscape management, carbon measurement, watershed monitoring, soil preservation and agroforest improvement from ParCiMon, with local facilitation by Yayasan Konservasi dan Pemberdayaan Masyarakat di Tanah Papua (YKPM/Papua Conservation and People Empowerment Foundation), the villagers of Wambena are ready to put their knowledge into practice and share the results with the entire province.
‘As the “adat” [customary law] leader of Wambena’, said Mr Levrans Yarisetow. ‘I am very willing to share what we have learned, such as why it is important to protect the forests and how we can get better income from our land by improving our agroforests’.
Wambena is at the end of a two-hour drive from Jayapura, the capital of Papua province, over treacherous roads through the mountainous terrain of the 225 km2 Cyclops Mountain Strict Nature Reserve. Made up of four hamlets that are home to around 50 families, Wambena’s residents have traditionally had a close relationship with natural resources, making their living from the sea, hunting and gathering, and cultivating agroforests around their homes and on the edges of the forest.
Biodiversity awareness is high in the community. Habitats are maintained through customary laws. Now, they have added scientific knowledge and techniques to their management toolkit. Thanks to training by ParCiMon, the community can now monitor and evaluate their biodiversity using a scientifically robust, yet simple, method that creates indicators that are easily understood.
‘I have learned much from ParCiMon about how we can use science to manage the forest’, said Mr Isak Ormuseray, ‘and I am sharing it with others already’.
During the ambassador’s visit, the residents of Wambena demonstrated how to measure river flow and water quality, revealed the differing abilities of vegetated and bare soil to retain moisture and prevent erosion and taught the ambassador how to quantify the amount of carbon stored in the forest and their agroforests. These village-level activities are a critical part of any system to accurately monitor an economy based on low levels of greenhouse-gas emissions from forestry and agriculture.
However, the residents feel that their enthusiasm to share their knowledge to build a green economy and help save the planet from global warming is not being adequately recognized by the national government, which, despite having made a commitment to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 26% unilaterally and by a further 15% with assistance from the international community, has been slow in providing support to local people for such actions.
‘On my part, I promise to carry your message to Jakarta and to Europe’, said the ambassador after he had heard the villagers’ concerns. ‘The Government of Indonesia and the rest of the world owe you a lot because of your protection of the forests’.
ParCiMon is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry