“Land is not a commodity, but rather a gift from God.” – Laudato si’, Pope Francis
Tati is a Dayak woman living in the remote forest of West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Like all Dayak people whose values and culture are deeply linked to the rainforest, Tati’s family has relied on it for sustenance for generations.
Her community is committed to protecting its rainforest for the future and is working with Caritas Australia and local authorities to develop alternative sustainable livelihoods. This enables the community to develop a strong financial base and take the lead in managing land, as well as making decisions on how that land is used.
Her remote village lies deep in the rainforest, and can only be accessed by barely passable roads. Communication is difficult and the electricity produced by a small hydro-electric installation provides limited supply to the village.
Tati lives with her husband and two of her three children, aged 8 and 16. Her two youngest children go to school nearby while her 19-year-old son lives in a rented room 60km away so he can be near his school. The family pays for his living-away-from-home expenses, in addition to providing for school expenses.
Although Indonesia has made enormous gains in poverty reduction in recent years, more than 28 million Indonesians still live below the poverty line, with about 40 per cent of its population vulnerable to falling into poverty.
Before Tati joined the Caritas project, she and her husband mainly earned their income from rubber tapping and raising chickens.
“The challenge is that family expenses increase every year – and I have to go to the forest to tap rubber and it’s hard to manage the care of my children,” Tati says.
Over the past few years, communities that depend on the native forests have seen them shrink, along with vital habitats for endangered orangutans, rhinos, and tigers.
Caritas Australia, with its partners Karina Caritas Indonesia and the Diocesan Caritas are working with local communities to create new hope for a better future, by helping teach local people English and long-term, sustainable eco-tourism activities.
So far, 40 people, including Tati, have been trained in areas including: identifying tourist attractions, managing accommodation, playing traditional musical instruments and making souvenirs, such as necklaces, shawls and orangutan dolls from local resources.
Since taking part in the training, Tati has increased her family income ten times over, by cooking for tourists and making souvenirs. She is able to pay for school expenses for her children and is more confident in speaking English.
Tati says she loves introducing tourists to Dayak traditions and has strengthened her own links to her culture.
“I hope to continue living with fresh air, clear water, protected forest and to be able to pay for my children’s education so that my grandchildren can still enjoy the forest,” Tati says.
“Thanks very much to the Australian people who have helped us and donated to this project.”
Some 600 people have directly benefitted from the project – with hopes that it can be expanded to other districts.
Village elder Yordanus is proud that his community made the commitment to protect its forest and keep it intact for future generations.
“People depend on the forest and the river for food, fish and medicine, as well as having a spiritual connection to it,” Yordanus says.
“Other villages which have sold their land no longer have a river with clean water or their own land. Without the forest, their village is no longer cool, they’re noticing environmental changes.”
Yohanes Baskoro, Program Manager of Karina Caritas Indonesia, says the key to the project’s success is community participation – with elders, men, women and children all having a role to play in supporting eco-tourism.
“Thanks to Caritas supporters, the Indigenous community can now have their own dreams, their own hopes to protect this land, this forest, so they can make sure the future will be better for them,” Yohanes says.
He says that Tati is now in charge of the cooking at the eco-tourism project and has been an inspiration to other women.
Your generous donation can help communities like Tati’s for generations to come.