Article available in Indonesian here.
West Papua is an Indonesian province with tremendous economic potential stemming from agriculture, mining, forest products, and tourism. Pearls and seaweed are produced in the Raja Ampat district, pure fragrant nutmeg is exported from the Fak-Fak district, and ecotourism presents large potential in areas such as Cenderawasih Bay National Park located in the Teluk Wondama district. Additionally, Indonesia’s only Timor cloth industry, a traditional weaving technique, is located in the Sorong Selatan district.
However, despite its economic potential, West Papua remains one of the poorest provinces in Indonesia despite retaining much of its forests. In September 2012, the poverty rate was estimated at 27%, more than twice the national rate. After decades of top-down government management of forestry operations and little consultation with the affected communities, many indigenous communities in Papua and West Papua do not have a clear understanding of their rights to the land and natural resources. Additionally, the indigenous people have little access to information on government plans for their natural resources: 80% of the indigenous communities in West Papua live in rural areas, and 70% are officially classified as poor.
As highlighted in his presentation at the Oslo Tropical Forest Forum, Governor Dominggus Mandacan plans to change this trajectory of West Papua. Through an initiative to establish West Papua as a “conservation province,” Governor Mandacan will push a vision to protect tropical forests, promote the development of sustainable livelihoods, and recognize the rights of indigenous peoples. This ambitious vision would require a substantial change to the historical narrative in Indonesia, in which economic development is correlated with deforestation and land use conversion. West Papua’s goals to achieve this proposed vision include:
· Establishing a policy that declares West Papua as Conservation Province
· Establishing regulations on the recognition of indigenous peoples rights
· Setting aside 70% of land as conservation area
· Reviewing land based business licenses
· Establishing policy on financial mechanism related to REDD+
· Bringing together national government to align conservation and development efforts
In his presentation Governor Mandacan invited all Parties to work together to support the province’s strategies to protect forest and increase livelihood. He emphasized that achieving the goal will not be easy, but it is possible with support from global communities. Following the event, Governor Mandacan participated as panellist at the Oslo Tropical Forest Forum where he highlighted the importance of conserving the Province’s vast intact forests, which will be discussed this fall at the International Conference on Biodiversity, Ecotourism, and Creative Economy.