Improving land governance to ensure the sustainable rural development
The Indonesian province of West Papua was created in 2003 from the western part of Papua province, and it has special autonomy status . The province is rich in biodiversity and encompasses diverse ecosystems such as the highland forests of the Arfak Mountains and the coral reefs of the Raja Ampat Islands. The province is also one of Indonesia’s poorest, with around 27 percent of the population classified as poor in 2012 according to Indonesian national statistics . In rural areas, the incidence of poverty is 36 per cent, and poverty affects indigenous Papuans far more than non-indigenous Papuans.
Indigenous farmers in West Papua complement swidden farming for subsistence with animal husbandry, hunting, fishing and collection of wild products (Boissière and Purwanto, 2007). In some areas, people also grow cash crops. Non-indigenous farmers are more likely to be engaged in cash crop cultivation and industrial plantation activities.
In recent decades, economic development in many parts of Indonesia has been driven by commercial land uses ranging from forestry and industrial plantations to mining operations. Although contributing to national and regional economic growth, commercial land uses in Indonesia have also led to social conflict, deforestation and environmental degradation, and in some areas have exacerbated poverty.
West Papua has not yet undergone this kind of economic transformation, and no dominant crop or land use drives economic growth. Economic growth in the province currently comes from offshore liquefied natural gas (Resosudarmo et al., 2014). However, current trends in land and resource use indicate some of the challenges that West Papua is likely to face in the future.
For example, forestry concessions, one of the prime drivers of deforestation and degradation in West Papua, rarely involve indigenous Papuans in their operations. Similarly, where industrial plantations, in particular oil palm, have been established, they have often been detrimental to indigenous Papuans while benefitting migrants from other parts of Indonesia. Conservation areas have also been demarcated without recognition of indigenous land and resource ownership. Furthermore, land and resource governance in West Papua has historically excluded indigenous Papuans and has often led to environmental degradation.
The national government of President Joko Widodo, elected in 2014, has made economic development in the two provinces of West Papua and Papua a national priority, focusing especially on infrastructure improvements . Without significant advances in land and resource governance, however, indigenous Papuans may continue to be excluded from economic development while the environment is further degraded. A system that safeguards the rights and welfare of indigenous people and their natural environment is therefore needed in West Papua.
The governor of West Papua, Abraham Ataruri, formally declared in 2015 that the province of West Papua would become the world’s first ‘conservation province’ to “help us maintain and manage our natural resources wisely and continuously so that [...] the future generation can enjoy them” . Ataruri signed the declaration in the presence of Indonesia’s Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo and regents from several districts in West Papua.
To support this goal, West Papua’s provincial government asked the EU REDD Facility and its partners for help in developing a jurisdictional monitoring system. Although frameworks for monitoring economic development and infrastructure improvements exist, mechanisms for ensuring that economic development is equitable and sustainable are lacking and a jurisdictional performance system would fill this gap.