The Empowerment of Papuan Indigenous People through the Management of Papuan Natural Resources

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Papua and West Papua province are located in one of the richest islands on earth in terms of biological diversity. In Papua Island, you can find a vast jungle containing hundreds of plant species (for example, the red fruit that is believed to be able to cure cancer) and different exotic animal species (such as the beautiful bird paradise). Those germplasm has been the source of local people’s livelihood from ages ago.

Apart from having a rich biodiversity, there are abundant of natural resources in Papua, from gold, silver, copper, natural gas, and timber from its forests. Grasberg Mine which is operated by Freeport-McMoRan is the largest gold mine in the world, while its copper mine as the second largest in the world.

Unfortunately, the island’s plentiful resources are yet to be able to improve Papuan people welfare. The Indonesian Statistic Bureau had stated that in 2017, Papua is the poorest province among 34 provinces in Indonesia, followed by West Papua. Based on the statistics data on March 2017, the total population living below the national poverty line in Papua province was around 914,900 people, while in West Papua, it reached 228,380 people. On the contrary, the regional income per capita of the two provinces is sufficiently high, which is mostly coming from the mining industry.

The total 4 million Papua and West Papuan people are divided into 250 distinct indigenous communities who are scattered in the lowland and high land of Papua Island. In big cities in Papua, its population is a mix of locals and migrants from other parts of Indonesia. Just like any other big cities, the people in the cities are mostly traders, workers in government or private institutions, etc.

Meanwhile, Papuan people who are living in the jungle or high land are still living in a subsistence level. Some are practicing farming or raising livestock. Many of them are still in the stage of food-gathering complex and fully depend on the surrounding natural resources for a living. The local government was thought to have paid little attention to the development of the community-based economy where the Papuan indigenous people being involved in the development program.

Based on the Ministry of Domestic Affairs, there was a total of 5,419 villages (kampong) in Papua, the fourth highest number of villages among 34 provinces in Indonesia. The indigenous people who live in a community in Papuan villages still hold their social norms and traditions in their daily life. That is why the local government of Jayapura Regency launched the Village Empowerment Program or Program Pemberdayaan Kampung (PPK) to help local people who are living in the villages to improve their standard of living.

A larger program has also been started by the Ministry of Villages, Underdeveloped Regions and Transmigration of the Republic of Indonesia, called Autonomous Village program which was launched in April 2016. The program was meant to enhance the quality of living of the people in the villages.

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The village that has been involved in the Autonomous Village program is Kampong Usku in Papua province. The village is located in Senggi Region, Keerom District, which is bordered by Papua New Guinea. Before the program is implemented, the local people in Kampong Usku were hunter-gatherers. They gather food and hunt animals directly from their surroundings. Sometimes, they need to stay for days or weeks in the forest.

The local people in Kampong Usku have never received sufficient health and education facility. Through the Autonomous Village program, local people in Kampong Usku were given training on how to do farming and gardening in their surrounding area, so that they will be able to harvest their own crops. Today, they have proper food without having to go to the forest because they are able to grow corn, tomato, taro, soy, cucumber, or chili in their own yard. Local people were also trained to preserve forest so that the forests can provide long-term benefits for them.

The program was also able to help the local people to improve their economy by training locals to produce local products and sell them within the community or outside the community. The training was meant to develop the local based businesses potentials. More than that, through an empowerment training, local people in Kampong Uska was given a chance to improve their education which will later improve their welfare as knowledge will help people to find a better way for a living.

To support the Ministry of Villages, Underdeveloped Regions and Transmigration of the Republic of Indonesia program, in 2016, the Ministry of Communication and Informatics (Kemenkominfo) held an event called The Festival of Information and Communication Technology Village (Destika) in Kalkote, East Sentani, Jayapura District.

The annual festival was aimed to improve local people’s productivity through information and communication technology. Local people were given training and knowledge on how to improve the local economy by utilizing technology. Local products can be sold online, and a network of village interweb might be created to support each other’s economy. This, in the end, will also improve the quality of life of local people in Papua.