Serving to Papuans shield Indonesia’s final frontier: Q&A with Bustar Maitar

  • Bustar Maitar’s storied profession in environmental activism started within the Indonesian area of Papua, the land of his delivery and at the moment the coveted goal of extractives and industrial agriculture firms.
  • In his time at Greenpeace Worldwide, Maitar led a forest conservation marketing campaign that pressured main firms like Nestlé and Unilever to decide to zero deforestation of their provide chains.
  • Maitar’s new enterprise, the EcoNusa Basis, brings him again to Papua, the place all of it started, to push for safeguarding the forests, waters and different ecosystems of this final pristine frontier in Indonesia.
  • In an interview with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler, Maitar talks about bridging worldwide NGOs with native communities, ecotourism as a improvement mannequin for jap Indonesia, and the revival of the kewang system of conventional environmental stewardship within the Maluku Islands.

With a lot of the accessible lowland major forests in Sumatra and Borneo cleared and transformed for agriculture and industrial plantations, the Indonesian half of New Guinea is the final stand for the rainforests that when blanketed Indonesia. The variety of New Guinea’s forests are mirrored in its seas: the ecosystems round West Papua and the Maluku Islands are arguably the richest on the planet. The area can also be probably the most ethnically numerous a part of Indonesia, and a spot the place native folks depend upon nature’s bounty to a larger extent than in lots of different components of the archipelago.

Accordingly, the push to colonize, mine and industrialize the forests and seas of jap Indonesia is seen as an important menace to the area’s ecology, ecosystem companies, and cultural and organic wealth. Actors from native communities to activists to scientists have raised alarms over the large-scale plantations and logging operations which have been increasing throughout Papua and West Papua, the 2 administrative provinces that make up the Indonesian a part of New Guinea, lately.

Wajag Island in West Papua. Picture credit score: Microsoft Zoom Earth

Within the mid-2000s, the “Paradise Forests” marketing campaign by Greenpeace helped catalyze world common consciousness of the state of affairs within the area. The chief of that marketing campaign was Bustar Maitar, who was born and raised in Papua. Inside 4 years of becoming a member of Greenpeace in Indonesia, Bustar rose to a management function at Greenpeace Worldwide, the place he turned a key architect for the group’s extremely impactful campaigns of the late 2000s and early 2010s that pressed main firms within the palm oil and pulp and paper sectors to undertake zero-deforestation insurance policies.

These campaigns included a variety of ways, from producing extensively documented investigations to colourful road demonstrations in Indonesian cities to headline-grabbing stunts like sending bands of activists dressed as orangutans into shareholder conferences at Nestlé and Unilever. The campaigns additionally sparked backlash from business-as-usual pursuits, which focused Greenpeace activists with lawsuits, arrests and smear campaigns. However in the end, a whole lot of firms pledged to eradicate deforestation from their provide chains and the Indonesian authorities established a moratorium on new palm and timber concessions in peatlands and first forests. Right now most of the world’s largest monetary establishments and corporations, in addition to some governments, have modeled their commodity procurement insurance policies on the calls for made by Greenpeace campaigners.

Greenpeace activists dressed as orangutans protest in front of the building of the Nestlé annual shareholders meeting. They hold signs, written "Nestlé, give us a break", a campaign that targeted the food giant for its palm oil sourcing policy. That activism ultimately pushed Nestlé to adopt a zero deforestation policy, which became a model for the industry. © Greenpeace / Ex-Press / Tanja XX Demarmels
Greenpeace activists dressed as orangutans protest in entrance of the constructing of the Nestlé annual shareholders assembly. They maintain indicators, written “Nestlé, give us a break”, a marketing campaign that focused the meals large for its palm oil sourcing coverage. That activism in the end pushed Nestlé to undertake a zero deforestation coverage, which turned a mannequin for the trade. © Greenpeace / Ex-Press / Tanja XX Demarmels

After greater than a decade of marketing campaign work at Greenpeace, Bustar stepped away from the group in 2016 and returned to the place all of it started: Papua. Simply over a yr later, he began his personal NGO, the EcoNusa Basis, which focuses on serving to native communities in jap Indonesia safe rights to their conventional territories, enhance native livelihoods, and improve consciousness of the function Papuan folks play in combating local weather change and biodiversity loss by stewarding forests and marinescapes.

Certainly one of EcoNusa approaches has been reviving and adapting the standard observe of kewang, below which members of a group or clan within the Maluku Islands are specifically assigned with the function of defending nature and managing pure sources to assist sustainable livelihoods. The affect of kewang had been diminishing in Malukan communities, however EcoNusa is working to revive it to prominence, partly by partaking younger folks by combining conventional tradition, appreciation for nature, and expertise.

Maitar spoke about his journey as an activist, EcoNusa’s work, and the challenges dealing with communities in jap Indonesia throughout a current interview with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler. The next Q&A has been flippantly edited for readability and elegance.

Bustar Maitar. Photo credit: EcoNusa
Bustar Maitar. Picture credit score: EcoNusa


Mongabay: What prompted your curiosity in nature and environmental points?

Bustar Maitar: I used to be born, grew up, and spent most of my life in Papua.

Papua is dwelling to nearly half of Indonesia’s forests, is a middle of marine range, and serves because the homeland for Indigenous communities whose cultures and livelihoods are tied to nature.

Most of my childhood was spent within the forests and the lake that’s near my dad and mom’ home in Jayapura. I grew up surrounded by this pure ecosystem that was nonetheless pristine.

I studied forestry on the College of Papua in Manokwari, which gave me a possibility to be taught in regards to the surroundings in addition to how nature has been destroyed on behalf of financial “improvement.” I noticed this destruction with my very own eyes: How Indigenous communities in Papua have been manipulated so their lands, sources and livelihoods have been stolen and destroyed within the title of “progress.”

Bustar Maitar. Photo credit: EcoNusa
Bustar Maitar. Picture credit score: EcoNusa

Mongabay: What was your journey to changing into a outstanding Indonesian activist, then a number one determine in Greenpeace, after which beginning your individual group?

Bustar Maitar: In 1997-1998 I used to be similar to many different college college students in Indonesia. These years have been an essential and essential time for us. I joined the coed motion to battle the authoritarian regime to push [dictator] Suharto from the [presidential] palace. It was not simple, a few of my buddies are nonetheless lacking from that point, however in the end we did carry down the Suharto regime. 

After that I made a decision to work extra intently with Indigenous communities in Papua. I used to be engaged on my graduate examine in 1999 in Manokwari once I began PERDU, a NGO, to work with communities to defend their land and forests from destruction in Bintuni Bay and the Arfak Mountains.

In 2005, the folks from Greenpeace Worldwide got here to Manokwari and requested me to affix them with the intention to begin the Paradise Forest marketing campaign and launch a brand new operation for Greenpeace in Indonesia. I couldn’t converse English correctly.

In April 2005 I began working at Greenpeace, main the Papua venture. This concerned working with communities to search out options for forest safety, doing analysis and investigation, and serving as a spokesperson for the Paradise Forest Marketing campaign, which was preventing for forest safety in Indonesian Papua and Papua New Guinea.

Documentation of landcover and oil palm plantation development in PT Internusa Jaya Sejahtera (PT IJS), part of the Central Cipta Murdaya group, in April 2018. Photo credit: © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace
Oil palm plantation improvement in PT Internusa Jaya Sejahtera (PT IJS), a part of the Central Cipta Murdaya group, in April 2018. Picture credit score: © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace

My first expertise as a world campaigner started in 2007 once I joined the Rainbow Warrior to result in the UNFCCC assembly in Bali. That’s my first involvement in blocking a tanker carrying palm oil at Dumai Port [in Sumatra]. That motion obtained severe consideration from the enterprise sector and the federal government, which supplied momentum for Greenpeace in Indonesia’s zero-deforestation marketing campaign. That marketing campaign was not an anti-palm oil marketing campaign; it was a forest safety marketing campaign.

I began to guide the worldwide group in 2009. It was not simple to guide the worldwide group: I used to be typically accused by our “enemies” of being only a “puppet.” However ultimately they knew that I’m the one who made the choice on each single transfer by our marketing campaign and group.

Throughout my time we had the assist of no less than 30,000 particular person supporters in Indonesia who donated each month. I led each single high-level “negotiation” with the federal government and trade, not solely in Indonesia but additionally with worldwide firms similar to Unilever, Nestlé, Wilmar, Sinar Mas, Musim Mas and plenty of others. I led immediately nearly each single motion within the discipline, blocking bulldozers and tankers, shutting down forest-destroyer places of work, and plenty of others.

Greenpeace protesting against a company's palm oil policy. Courtesy of Greenpeace
Greenpeace protesting towards an organization’s palm oil coverage. Picture credit score: Greenpeace

Once we began the zero-deforestation marketing campaign and started to problem multinational and nationwide firms, not many individuals believed that we might achieve success. Among the skeptics included folks from worldwide organizations. But it surely looks like the “contract cancellation” marketing campaign concentrating on prospects labored. It began with an orangutan motion on the Unilever workplace in London, then the Nestlé orangutan marketing campaign in Switzerland, adopted with many persistent actions nearly each month. At one occasion, concentrating on Mattel over its pulp and paper suppliers in Indonesia, we introduced a bulldozer to “Barbie’s Home” within the U.S. Lastly, in 2010, the Indonesian authorities made a forest moratorium dedication, which was then adopted by Sinar Mas-Golden Agri’s dedication to cease deforestation in 2011. Sinar Mas-APP adopted in 2013, then Wilmar and plenty of others. Then our group and company gamers developed the instrumental HCS (Excessive Carbon Inventory Method) commonplace to simplify the method of figuring out what’s forest and what’s not forest.

Some observers stated Greenpeace’s marketing campaign managed to get no less than 70% of worldwide traded palm oil and 80% of Indonesian pulp and paper below zero-deforestation commitments. The affect of this work was such that in 2013, the Indonesian president visited the brand new Rainbow Warrior in Jakarta and delivered a speech on his appreciation of our marketing campaign. This was a really uncommon second the place a head of state was visiting a Greenpeace ship. What’s occurring now in Indonesia is one other matter, however no less than I can say I’ve made my contributions and I’m now doing one thing on the grassroots stage.

It was not a simple marketing campaign. As we predicted, there was a whole lot of pushback and plenty of battles. Lots of our activist have been deported, put in jail, acquired loss of life threats and “character assassination.” It was a part of my journey as a campaigner. My final function in Greenpeace was main the worldwide marketing campaign for Indonesian forests below Greenpeace Worldwide. In 2016 I made a decision to “take a break” from Greenpeace and return to the place I began: Papua and jap Indonesia, which is the place Indonesia’s final intact forests nonetheless stand.

Samples of the campaign against Greenpeace in Indonesia.
Samples of the marketing campaign towards Greenpeace in Indonesia.

After greater than a yr’s break, I began my very own NGO referred to as the EcoNusa Basis. It is vitally centered on jap Indonesia, particularly the island of New Guinea and the Maluku archipelago. We’re engaged on forest, local weather, ocean and Indigenous group points.

I felt I wanted to spend extra time working deeply with communities on the bottom and nearer to the precise issues, whereas additionally pushing for higher coverage at nationwide and worldwide ranges. All that should occur on the similar time as a result of we don’t have a lot spare time for our planet.

Mongabay: Greenpeace is an enormous worldwide NGO that works with giant firms, whereas EcoNusa takes a extra grassroots method by specializing in area people improvement in Papua and Maluku. How do these two completely different fashions examine and distinction with one another?

Bustar Maitar: Earlier than becoming a member of Greenpeace I used to be working with my grassroots NGO in Papua after which spent 11 years with the worldwide marketing campaign at Greenpeace. Once I did the worldwide marketing campaign, we assumed that native communities have been ready to simply accept any modifications that “nationwide or worldwide folks” talked about. But it surely’s not that easy. With my expertise each at native and worldwide ranges, I can navigate by means of my community to grasp what must occur at world and nationwide ranges and hyperlink that with grassroots stage. There’s a want for individuals who can navigate and hyperlink the motion between the group stage and wider society.

Papua fisherman. Photo credit: EcoNusa
Papua fisherman. Picture credit score: EcoNusa

Working on the grassroots stage, you can’t simply merely work at home due to the pandemic. In early 2020 when the pandemic was declared, we needed to cease our discipline operation and change to a extra “on-line mode.” However after a number of months, we determined that we can’t simply work like this whereas our group is struggling and environmental destruction continues. A number of months of the pandemic taught us alter our new regular. There may be all the time danger, however we developed robust protocols and in August 2020 we restarted the operation, going again to the sector to assist communities take care of COVID. Had we not executed that, we might not have stayed true to our mission and in society as social and environmental activists.

EcoNusa is one among only a few NGO in Indonesia that was offering front-line COVID assist, particularly in jap Indonesia. We’ve supported livelihoods and introduced docs and provides to distant areas in jap Indonesia. A few of our group obtained contaminated by COVID-19 throughout this time, however we dealt with it correctly.

EcoNusa's COVID-19 expedition. Photo credit: EcoNusa
EcoNusa’s COVID-19 expedition. Picture credit score: EcoNusa

Mongabay: Are you able to inform me about this initiative EcoNusa is endeavor to coach younger kewang, or conventional forest guardians, to handle the forest and fishery sources of Indigenous communities? What’s a kewang?

Bustar Maitar: Historically, the kewang is an individual chosen from a sure clan or tribe in Maluku who is devoted to defending nature — each ocean and forests — for sustainable livelihoods. The function of the kewang is essential to sustaining the steadiness of nature.

Sadly not many villages in Maluku nonetheless have energetic kewang as a result of the federal government system and politics have diminished the function of kewang in communities.

We wish to resurrect the “spirit of kewang” among the many younger. We consider all people ought to have the “kewang spirit.” Even in at the moment’s fast-changing society with ubiquitous expertise, younger folks can play an essential function by having the spirit of kewang, combining conventional classes with present tendencies and fashionable data.

Eli, a Haruku Kewang, is helping protect a local population of gosong birds. Photo credit: EcoNusa/Victor Fidelis
Eli, a Haruku Kewang, helps shield an area inhabitants of gosong birds. Picture credit score: EcoNusa/Victor Fidelis

Just lately we had a gathering for 25 youths from throughout Maluku on Banda Besar Island for every week to debate present tendencies and threats to nature, and to speak about how they’ll collaborate to battle for environmental and social justice.

We wish to develop this work additional to advance youth management for nature safety. This program known as the Faculty of EcoDiplomacy and it’s for younger folks in Papua and Maluku.

Mongabay: EcoNusa additionally has an ecotourism enterprise. Might you inform me about that?

Bustar Maitar: The Ecotourism enterprise is a separate entity from EcoNusa. That is one thing I began doing simply after my Greenpeace time. However I put all of it below one effort as a part of my idea of change: I consider that to drive change, you want the correct instruments, and on this case, the software is a ship, given the significance the ocean performs within the every day lifetime of many individuals in Papua and Maluku. Extra broadly, if we have a look at the teachings from current centuries, ships have performed a vital function on the planet financial system and social connection.

Having a ship offers extra entry to extra areas and communities, together with transporting group merchandise. However on the similar time, the boat may also generate income to fund the mission by means of ecotourism, which has nice potential in jap Indonesia. Being financially viable is consistent with the mission of the EcoNusa Basis.

EcoNusa work with SLANK for Marine Education in Eastern Indonesia. Photo credit: EcoNusa
EcoNusa work with SLANK for Marine Schooling in Japanese Indonesia. Picture credit score: EcoNusa
EcoNusa working with an Indigenous community in Malaumkarta in Sorong, West Papua to map their traditional lands. Photo credit: EcoNusa
EcoNusa working with an Indigenous group in Malaumkarta in Sorong, West Papua to map their conventional lands. Picture credit score: EcoNusa

EcoNusa can also be constructing group ecotourism capability in Papua and Maluku, together with serving to native communities handle their very own companies that transcend group members serving as native guides. In Raja Ampat and Kaimana, we’ve been creating examples of finest practices that different native communities within the area can be taught from and replicate.

Mongabay: Ecotourism is usually touted in its place improvement mannequin that’s much less damaging than extractive industries like mining, industrial fishing, and plantations. Do you see potential for ecotourism to scale sustainably and supply a major supply of native livelihoods within the area?

Bustar Maitar: Ecotourism in jap Indonesia needs to be constructed for a distinct segment market, not for mass-market tourism. Papua and Maluku have robust potential for this higher-end tourism, which by definition is decrease quantity and may be sustained by the area.

Ecotourism provides alternatives for native communities to advance themselves economically in addition to studying alternatives. Ecotourism, not extractive and industrial industries, needs to be the financial improvement pathway for jap Indonesia.

Mongabay: What are different promising options to sustainable improvement in Papua? In each forests and the oceans?

Bustar Maitar: Papua and Maluku are dwelling to half of the remaining forests in Indonesia and the middle of marine biodiversity. Our legacy is to guard and keep these ecosystems correctly. I consider safety and Indigenous prosperity can go hand in hand. Improvement plans have to be adjusted to deal with native Indigenous peoples.

Native commodities each from forest and the ocean have robust potential, however they have to be managed correctly on the acceptable scale.

Nutmeg flower in Jawera Village in Arguni Bawah District, Kaimana Regency, West Papua Province. Photo credit: EcoNusa
Nutmeg flower in Jawera Village in Arguni Bawah District, Kaimana Regency, West Papua Province. Picture credit score: EcoNusa
Papuans process red fruit (Pandanus conoideus) before consumption. Photo credit: Dani Kancil / EcoNusa
Papuans course of purple fruit (Pandanus conoideus) earlier than consumption. Picture credit score: Dani Kancil / EcoNusa
Ambaidiru coffee. Photo credit: Lutfy Mairizal Putra / EcoNusa
Ambaidiru espresso. Picture credit score: Lutfy Mairizal Putra / EcoNusa

On the small scale, we wish to showcase how it may be executed. EcoNusa has a plan to construct a cargo boat that may go across the island to gather no matter is accessible from village bases as a strategy to improve the worth of the product and discover the precise marketplace for it, with extra of the proceeds returning to the communities and native folks. We have to begin with what the group has and never depend upon introducing one thing new for communities. Your assist is welcome!

Mongabay: How are native communities faring when it comes to their efforts to handle fisheries sources within the face of stress from industrial fleets?

Bustar Maitar: In the meanwhile, there’s nothing that the group can do to take care of industrial fleets.

Authorities rules ought to shield small fisheries and the federal government should give room for native communities to develop and handle their marine sources. Native fisherman face a problem as a result of they can not go removed from shore, however the large industrial fishing vessels go wherever they need, together with encroaching on near-shore group fishing areas. And the massive fishing vessels aren’t managing fisheries in a sustainable or accountable manner.

What do you see as the most important challenges in group efforts to guard their sources?

The federal government wants to acknowledge Indigenous land and Indigenous forests to provide more room to native communities to handle their pure sources. This recognition has not occurred in Papua.

[Read more on this issue]

PT Inocin Abadi Logging Concession in Papua in April 2018. PT Inocin Abadi is part of the Korindo group. Photo credit: © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace
PT Inocin Abadi Logging Concession in Papua in April 2018. PT Inocin Abadi is a part of the Korindo group. Picture credit score: © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace

Entry to markets for group merchandise remains to be very difficult in locations like Papua and Maluku, however the Trans-Papua Freeway is just not an answer. We have to discover extra artistic and sustainable choices.

[Read more on this issue]

Growth of huge plantations is clearly threatening Indigenous livelihoods. Just lately the governor of West Papua accomplished the allow overview course of for oil palm with the assist of the KPK (Indonesian anti-corruption fee). Round 380,000 hectares (939,000 acres) of forest may be saved right here. We wish to see the Indonesian president flip this concession space again over to the Indigenous group and construct village-level meals safety quite than large-scale meals estates.

[Read more on this issue]

Mongabay: The central authorities just lately handed an financial restoration regulation and is pushing a biofuels mandate and a meals property coverage, all of which probably put native forests at larger danger. What’s your tackle these measures within the Papuan context?

Bustar Maitar: Biofuels will solely improve the menace to the forests. The one out there land in Indonesia in the intervening time is in Papua and Maluku. Which means there’s a race within the non-public sector to occupy forests and land in Papua and Maluku.

Forest clearance and plantation development in PT Megakarya Jaya Raya (PT MJR) oil palm concession, part of the Hayel Saeed Anam group in Boven Digoel Regency, Papua in March 2018. Photo credit: © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace
Forest clearance and plantation improvement in PT Megakarya Jaya Raya (PT MJR) oil palm concession, a part of the Hayel Saeed Anam group in Boven Digoel Regency, Papua in March 2018. Picture credit score: © Ulet Ifansasti / Greenpeace

It’s the similar with the meals property program. The unique meals in Papua and Maluku is sago, which needs to be a precedence to take care of, as a substitute of the industrial tasks the federal government is encouraging. We’ve expertise with these failed meals estates: previously, the non-public sector has solely used meals property applications as a strategy to take timber. We shouldn’t repeat these errors: it simply will increase meals insecurity and local weather danger, whereas hurting native livelihoods and resilience.

Mongabay: Just lately there have been press experiences about an rising COVID-19 disaster in PNG, the extent of which isn’t properly understood. What’s the state of affairs like for communities the place you’re employed in Indonesian Papua? And the way has the pandemic affected EcoNusa’s work?

Bustar Maitar: The pandemic is affecting all folks in Indonesia, together with folks in Papua. The state of affairs is even worse right here for the reason that well being amenities are very restricted. We’ve been doing COVID response in lots of distant areas in Papua and Maluku. We’ve present in some areas that medical personnel don’t have safety, don’t know use a take a look at equipment, and lack primary understanding of the illness.

EcoNusa has brought doctors to remote communities in Eastern Indonesia to help combat COVID-19. Photo credit: EcoNusa
EcoNusa has introduced docs to distant communities in Japanese Indonesia to assist fight COVID-19. Picture credit score: EcoNusa
EcoNusa delivering supplies as part of its COVID pandemic response. Photo credit: EcoNusa
EcoNusa delivering provides as a part of its COVID pandemic response. Picture credit score: EcoNusa

In components of Papua and Maluku, native folks could not perceive the pandemic: data is proscribed and rumors may be wild. In lots of locations, the native economic system is dying. Locations depending on tourism like Raja Ampat are at the moment like a graveyard. Neighborhood homestays aren’t functioning and there’s little, if any, assist from the federal government.

How can folks within the West turn into allies or supporters of your work?

Mongabay: We’ve constructed our communication technique to interact with younger folks within the West. We invite younger folks from the West to go to Papua and Maluku after which unfold the phrase of the nice work being executed right here. We try to construct a optimistic story that jap Indonesia is essential for local weather and if it’s not protected correctly, it would influence different islands in Indonesia like Java and Bali.

What recommendation would you give to a youngster eager to pursue a profession in activism in Indonesia?

Bustar Maitar: Simply begin doing it. Activism with robust professionalism is usually a future profession. Integrity is important — in case you have that, then you possibly can be taught issues by doing. EcoNusa is open for anybody who wish to study activism.

Traditional elevated house used by some Indigenous peoples in Papua. Photo credit: EcoNusa
Conventional elevated home utilized by some Indigenous peoples in Papua. Picture credit score: EcoNusa
Sago caterpillar festival in October 2018. Photo credit: Moch Fikri / EcoNusa
Sago caterpillar competition in October 2018. Picture credit score: Moch Fikri / EcoNusa
Activism, Neighborhood Forestry, Neighborhood-based Conservation, Conservation, COVID-19, Deforestation, Ecotourism, Atmosphere, Environmental Activism, Featured, Forest Merchandise, Forests, Inexperienced, Indigenous Communities, Indigenous Peoples, Infrastructure, Interviews with conservation gamers, Land Rights, Oceans, Pandemics, Rainforests, Sustainable Improvement

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