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NZ funding helps Indigenous farmers in Indonesia protect forests, boost incomes

Mongabay - May 15, 2024

Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta – Funding from the New Zealand government is helping Indigenous farmers in Indonesian Borneo improve their livelihoods while protecting their ancestral forests.

The funding, channeled through the Farmers For Forest Protection Foundation (4F), will go toward programs such as training and deployment of forest guards, village-based customary forest management support, local forest regulation support, forest monitoring, and training in and implementation of good agricultural practices.

The initial disbursement of NZ$24,800 ($14,900) has been allocated to the villages of Setawar and Gunam, in Sekadau and Sanggau districts, respectively, in West Kalimantan province. Setawar is home to around 400 hectares (nearly 1,000 acres) of customary forest, and Gunam 22 hectares (54 acres).

While most of the villagers there as independent palm oil farmers, they still rely on their ancestral forests for various purposes, such as making medicinal herbs, producing handicrafts from rattan, building houses using timber from the forests, and carrying out traditional rituals.

"The funding will have a big impact on protecting the remaining customary forest in Sanggau and Sekadau, and on the lives of the village communities," Tirza Pandelaki, executive director of 4F, said in a statement. "They have been struggling for many years to protect the forests that are essential for their culture, livelihoods and spiritual wellbeing. We thank and appreciate the generous support from the New Zealand Head of Embassy Fund."

The villagers have been assisted by the association of Indonesian palm oil farmers, or SPKS, to produce palm oil without sacrificing their forests. They do this by mapping and assessing their villages' lands and natural resources.

The New Zealand Embassy said 4F's programs aligned with New Zealand's development cooperation policy for sustainable development.

"Aotearoa New Zealand recognises the importance of local solutions, reflecting that many communities have been adapting to living with the impacts of climate change for decades," the embassy said in a statement. "This includes supporting partnerships that focus on including and supporting the most vulnerable people and Communities. We wish the 4F team and partners for this activity great success ahead."

Beatus Pius Onomuo, head of an Indigenous Dayak clan in Sanggau, said his community is grateful for the financial assistance as it could go a long way in making the farmers' products more sustainable by better protecting their forests.

"We hope that our efforts to conserve our forests can generate added value and our products can be well received in the market, to support our efforts to keep our forests sustainable and continue to be maintained from generation to generation," he said.

Source: https://news.mongabay.com/2024/05/nz-funding-helps-indigenous-farmers-in-indonesia-protect-forests-boost-incomes