Indigenous leaders speak out about plantations, mining, and REDD!

A reminder that even if “sustainability”seems like a recent trend, the Dayak tribes of Kalimantan are a testament to the fact that indigenous peoples have been engaging in sustainable practices for generations! Check out this article about elder leaders speaking out about the degradation and forest deforestation that has been occurring on their lands due to palm oil plantations, mining, and even REDD efforts, and about how they should be recognized as sustainable stewards of their lands.

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Plantations, Mining and REDD a Threat: Dayak
Fidelis E. Satriastanti | October 25, 2011

Expanding oil palm plantations, mining concessions and even forest
conservation projects are threatening to wipe out the traditional way
of life of the Dayak tribes of Kalimantan, tribal elders say.

A group of 10 elders representing four Dayak villages in Kapuas
district, Central Kalimantan, said on Monday that they had been in
Jakarta for the past week to present their case to the Forestry
Ministry, the House of Representatives and the National Land Agency

Berkat, the head of Katunjung village, said his tribe was fast losing
its ancestral lands to operators of oil palm plantations and mines, as
well as to groups running schemes to reduce emissions from
deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).

“The way we see it, our traditional way of life stands to disappear,”
he said. “The management of forests should comply with both government
regulations and tribal requirements, but the latter are always

Tanduk, the head of neighboring Pulau Kaladan village, said indigenous
communities were usually left out of the management of their ancestral
forests by operators and government.

“It’s like some stranger just walks into your bedroom and does
heaven-knows-what with your wife, all while you’re there,” he said.
“If there is no respect for our traditions in governing our forests,
how can our way of life continue?”

Tanduk said that what the Dayak tribes were ultimately seeking was the
return of their ancestral lands, allocated by the government to
plantation and mine operators.

“We will gladly give the land back to the local people to set up
rubber plantations and so forth, but only as long as it’s what they
want and not what the government is imposing,” he said.

The Petak Danum Foundation, which advocates forest conservation
through indigenous methods and is supporting the Dayaks in their
cause, said that even well-meaning REDD projects were considered
outside meddling.

“There’s no need for any outside intervention to get the tribes to
protect their forests,” said April Perlindungan, an activist for
Kapuas district. “They don’t need to be taught how to grow rubber
trees or fish sustainably — that’s already their way of life. We just
need to let them do as they’ve always done, and engage them in

He cited the case of forest rehabilitation efforts in the wake of the
Mega Rice Project, a scheme in 1996 to clear-cut a million hectares of
centuries-old peat forest in Kalimantan for rice paddies.

“You had people coming in trying to block up the canals dug to drain
the peat swamps, but they never succeeded because they never consulted
with the locals,” he said. “On their own initiative, though, the
locals reforested the land, dug ditches to re-divert the water back
into the swamps, and built fish ponds that doubled as reservoirs.
They’ve always known how to protect the forest.”

Abdul Hamid, an elder from Katunjung village, said the issue of REDD
schemes had caused a rift within the village, with some residents
supporting the efforts and others advocating traditional conservation