In order to protect the unique biological habitats of Papua province, the Mamberamo, and the Foja Mountains, government officials and indigenous communities have taken the lead to create effective and efficient conservation strategies.
Community conservation agreements are an important step toward protecting threatened species and ensuring that common species, such as the Victoria Crowned-pigeon and the Merbau or Iron-wood (Intsia bijuda), are harvested in a responsible way. Resource owners and communities commit to a negotiated agreement among themselves in order to protect specific habitats or species in exchange for a series of concrete benefits. The strengths of this approach include an explicit agreement linking benefits to agreed-upon conservation actions (such as not cutting forests), with the ability to tailor development support to specific circumstances. The conservation performance is monitored by resource owners and the benefits package is conditional and adjusted depending on compliance with the agreement. The first two trial agreements were signed among the Kwerba and Papasena communities in 2007.
The parameters of these agreements are defined after extensive discussions with each community through tools such as the Multidisciplinary Landscape Assessment (MLA) methodology, which the Mamberamo program has adopted from the Centre for International Forestry Research’s (CIFOR). MLA helps assess “what really matters” to communities living in tropical forest landscapes. An MLA produces numerous results, such as:
- A profile of the village in question (population, services, occupations, and so on),
- The types of habitat that are of importance to the communities,
- A map on the present natural resource use and locations of habitats,
- Quantitative measures of important animals, plants, and habitats, and
- Soil analysis of major habitats, tree and plant inventories, and their traditional uses.
The information derived from this grassroots approach benefits planners and decision makers who often lack accurate information they need for well-rounded planning scenarios. By producing this data, any local community and government interests and priorities that might converge or conflict with regard to conservation and sustainable development priorities can be identified and addressed.
In addition to local initiatives, CI envisions a Mamberamo Biodiversity Corridor covering approximately 4.5 million hectares in the main Mamberamo River basin and surrounding mountains (including the Foja Mountains). Within this corridor, the natural resources (watersheds, rivers, wetlands, forests and biodiversity) and their intrinsic environmental values and services will be managed by empowered local communities, governmental and non-governmental agencies, and the private sector. CI’s Biodiversity Corridor approach encourages development to improve the well-being of local cultures while safeguarding the natural environments and biodiversity upon which they depend.
Building on this corridor approach and in response to the growing concern about climate change, CI has already begun establishing a carbon project in the Mamberamo. CI is designing a carbon-offset project which will avoid the designation and sale of logging and oil-palm concessions in Mamberamo and will fund conservation agreements with local communities. The destruction of Indonesian peatlands and forests release five times as much CO2 as the country’s non-forestry emissions, and the nation is now the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. By avoiding further deforestation in the Mamberamo Basin, CI and partners are working to reduce the impact of Indonesian forests on global climate change and preserve valuable habitat for biodiversity.
In 2005, a team led by Conservation International and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences discovered several globally threatened species and dozens of species that are new to science. More recently, in 2007, CI completed the first two trial community conservation agreements in Kwerba and Papasena, totaling more than 99 thousand hectares. These agreements support the traditional natural resource stewardship that has preserved the area to the present day. They also provide incentives to offset the threat of externally driven extractive developments such as mining, logging, and excessive fishing.
The team also put into place a trial community-based enforcement and management strategy using locally selected conservation motivators. This system may soon be adopted by the government’s Conservation Authority as an efficient and effective strategy for environmental protection. CI successfully engaged the local-level governments and secured commitment for conservation through government funding for CI programs in order to meet joint goals. The field team extended the conservation message to the provincial-level government and secured a commitment to hold an International Workshop on Papuan Biodiversity and Sustainable Development in 2007, which engaged numerous government representatives. The CI programs fund a small but important “conservation scholarship” scheme for communities’ schoolchildren, raising basic capacity and further engaging key communities in conservation activities.
Multi-disciplinary Landscape Assessments have been implemented in all engaged villages, providing the basic information needed to create community conservation agreements. Village-level regulations for forest conservation are being developed in all engaged communities and the team has introduced a training program with more than 60 participants to improve livelihoods in three villages that will produce new commodities based on sustainable natural resources harvesting. Field research and data collection in four sites in the Mamberamo were also completed, which allowed the region to be labeled as a Key Biodiversity Area. A water resources study has been implemented to measure impacts of corridor-scale ecological processes on species, sites, and human welfare.
The immediate need is to expand the Mamberamo program to encompass all of the communities surrounding the Foja Mountains. The active engagement and support of the traditional communities of the Mamberamo region are crucial to the successful preservation of the Pacific region’s largest remaining tract of pristine tropical forest. Without these commitments, the region will no longer be able to serve as a carbon sink, a wildlife reserve, or a source of important ecosystem services to the region and forest communities.