4 Ways for Forest in West Papua to Stay Preserved

4 Ways for Forest in West Papua to Stay Preserved
Korowai woman processing pulverized sago palm trunk into the starchy food that is the staple for almost every meal in this part of Irian Jaya. The sago palm is first felled with a stone axe, and then the trunk is hacked open and pried apart with hardwood poles. It is then chopped with wooden adzes and the pulverized pith is processed in this sluice made from the upper part of the felled palm. When water is poured in at the top, the starch is washed from the pulp and trickles through a bakr-cloth strainer. With two days of work a single sago palm can provide enough starch to support a family for several weeks.This picture was taken as part of an expedition for GEO Magazine and National Geographic Magazine to document the way of life of the Korowai tribe. Most of the Korowai in these photos had never had prior contact with anyone outside of their language group, and have no material goods from the outside world. They live in tree houses built above the forest floor to protect themselves from outsiders. The Korowai believe that contact with outsiders will bring an end to their culture. Cannibalism has been part of their traditional system of criminal justice to avenge the death of their clansmen, but the practice is dying out and is outlawed by the Indonesian government. The Korowai believe that most natural deaths are caused by sorcery, and must be avenged by the death (and consumption) of the person responsible.

With forest cover decreasing in Sumatra and Kalimantan, Papua is the last hope for Indonesia’s intact forests. In 2012, 38 percent of Indonesia’s remaining primary forest was in Papua, located in the western part of Papua New Guinea, the world’s second-largest island, and comprises the provinces of Papua and West Papua. Forest in West Papua has one of the most biodiverse in the world, with 20,000 plant species, 602 bird species, 125 mammals, and 223 reptiles. The forest is also a source of livelihood for many local communities.

4 Ways for Forest in West Papua to Stay Preserved

Measures to Protect Forests in West Papua

The rate of tree cover loss in Papua peaked in 2015. Since then, local leaders have begun to take action. In 2015, West Papua became the world’s first conservation province, and the current government still held this commitment in 2018. He also plans to review all forestry and plantation licenses throughout West Papua Province.

Meanwhile, its neighbor, Papua Province, has also designed a roadmap titled Vision 2100 Papua, which targets maintaining 90 percent of the Forest in West Papua cover across the province to achieve low-carbon development goals.

  1. The approach to forest development and protection in Papua, as mandated by the Papua Special Autonomy Law No. 21/2001, is not fully implemented. As required by the Special Autonomy Law, the central government should support the policies of the local governments in Papua.
  2. The West Papuan government has just made Provincial Regulation (Perdasi) Number 10 of 2019 concerning the sustainable development of forests in West Papua. The main point of this pervasive is that conservation is at the center of all local government activity plans.
  3. Several ministries and institutions are committed to supporting efforts to protect forests in Papua, such as the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), which established Papua and West Papua as priority provinces for low-carbon development. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLH) develops green economic development. In its implementation, many regulations do not sync with local government policies. The authority of local governments in making policies according to regional specificity is not recognized.
  4. Sammi Saiba, Head of Spatial Planning of the West Papua Public Works and Public Housing (PUPR), said there is no specificity for Papua, indicating that the central government still wants to control Papua’s spatial planning. Spatial design and development policies in Papua should come from Papua.

Forest in West Papua area is about 42.5 million hectares. 33.75 million hectares are in Papua, and 8.75 million are in West Papua. The threat of forest destruction continues to occur because of large-scale businesses such as palm oil, mining, and logging, both legal and illegal.

Local governments take steps for protection. There are three main things to do:

  1. To make legal products at the regional level according to the mandate of the Special Autonomy Law.
  2. Prepare development planning documents by maintaining 80% of forest areas in Papua and 70% of West Papua.
  3. The development approach is based on familiar territory.

Since 2013, the Government of Papua has proposed a specific approach to development in Papua. The central government has approved and implemented the forest in West Papua context product based on traditional territory in national development strategies.

The government has also sought incentives to prevent forest degradation and ensure indigenous people’s rights are respected. So far, he said, many parties are not responsible for taking advantage of the economic difficulties of indigenous peoples in Papua by providing inappropriate compensation and destroying forests.

Ecotourism schemes and carbon trading are options. For the carbon trading plan, the local government in Papua has promoted it to Norway, although there has been no continuation so far.

How Can Development go Hand in Hand with Forest in West Papua Protection?

We can develop alternative sectors beyond current practice that rely on using natural resources to drive economic growth. For example, Papua, which is so beautiful, has the potential for ecotourism. 

As an alternative source of livelihood, integrated agroforestry can also produce non-timber forest goods such as rubber, cocoa, honey, orchids, and fruits.

In transitioning to these alternatives, we do not need to close off opportunities for plantations completely. There is a possibility of transferring existing concessions to aging plantations. Degraded and unproductive land in Papua, which has exceeded 2 million hectares in 2013.

However, we must be careful in using plantations. The resulting economic benefits must be able to reach the community and not just the elite, not to exacerbate inequality.

Wrapping Up

Customary forest schemes can also be an option. A study shows that typical forests are the best system to implement in Papua. For hundreds of years, indigenous peoples in Papua have obtained their food, medicine, and cultural needs from the forest in West Papua. Now, they can play an essential role in protecting forests from encroachment.