Timoteus Marten, Jayapura – Most of the customary land in Wembi Village, Manam District, Keerom Regency has been taken for oil palm plantations and other development projects. Indigenous Papuans of Wembi only inhabit 30 percent of their customary territory, while the other 70 percent have been used up by outside parties, as reported by the Papua's Independent Consultation Team for People's Empowerment (KIPRA) in its recent survey.
"There are two types of forest land that are found on almost all sides of the Wembi Village area except for the northern and northeastern parts, which is the location of oil palm plantation. It can be said that the village of Wembi is naturally surrounded by forest," the report said.
Data from the Ministry of Environment as reported by the KIPRA Survey Team stated that as of 2020, 13,231 thousand hectares make up dry land cover in Wembi Village, oil palm plantations are 2,757 thousand hectares, swamp forest 1,751 thousand hectares, and agricultural land and shrubs 1,185 thousand hectares, while transmigration settlements and open land are around 201.86 thousand hectares, and the other 57.95 hectares are rivers.
The Indigenous Papuans of Wembi Village hunt and garden in a traditional way. In utilizing natural resources, the community makes an agreement to share results with the customary landowners.
Papua KIPRA director Irianto Jacobus said that his party was working with the Papua Legal Aid Institute (LBH) to advocate for the remaining traditional territory of Wembi Village. That way, the indigenous people can better understand and manage the potential of their natural resources.
"Such advocacy will strengthen the community as they understand the rights and obligations of indigenous peoples as citizens. In the future, there may be more development take place so we prepare for the worst to come from now on," Jacobus told Jubi in Wembi Village on Thursday, August 12, 2021.
The traditional elder (Puskue Assa) of Wembi, Fransiskus Musui, said Wembi Village had existed even before the Dutch government. Along with Uskwar, Yetty, and Kriku Villages, Wembi Village belongs to the Manem tribe. At Wembi, there are 13 clans, namely the Yawan, Bogor, Menafi, Pien, Pasewor, Pkarfremum, Musui, Mekawa, Dreamr, Boryam, Isomongkir, Numbun, and Kuntui.
Musui said the political turmoil during the 1969 referendum made people flee to the forest. Parents also took their children with them and therefore, the natural resources were not well taken care of.
From 1960 to 1970, the Keerom area was designated as a military operation area (DOM). The Wembi people also fled to Papua New Guinea (PNG) at that time. They returned around 1970 and in 1979, Wembi became an administrative part of Workwana Village.
In 1987 Wembi became a definitive village within the Manam District along with several other villages, such as Yeti, Kibay, PIR 4, Skofro, Kriku, Uskwar, and Piawi. In 1991, oil palm plantation company PTPN 2 was established in Wembi Village.
"When the palm oil company entered the Keerom area, the community was left behind and education was neglected," said Musui. Now Kampung Wembi has 85 families with a total of 336 residents, of whom 176 are male and 160 are female.