The Samdhana Institute and the Department of Forestry of the Government of Indonesia, both Members of IUCN, are working to identify sustainable options for Baliem Valley’s forests and its dependents, who live in the heart of Papua, the Indonesian half of New Guinea.
The island of New Guinea is recognised globally for its extraordinary biodiversity, including almost all of the world’s Birds of Paradise. Papua still has 70% forest cover, yet its Baliem Valley, which includes part of the Lorentz National Park World Heritage Site, supports one of the highest rural population densities in Papua.
Wamena, the administrative centre of the region, is growing and offering local communities increased opportunities to sell forest and farm products and buy goods and services from outside the region. In response, the local government has begun to improve roads to increase access. The forests and indigenous population are coming under increasing pressure from threats such as the timber extraction of unique, slow-growing beech trees, one of the most lucrative sources of cash for local communities. As the tree felling increases, the lower levels of the forest have started to recede, and the remaining forests have become more vulnerable to an epidemic tree disease. If the forest continues to recede, the very forest products that improve local livelihoods will disappear.
IUCN runs a Livelihoods and Landscapes Strategy with its Member organizations the Samdhana Institute and the Department of Forestry of the Government of Indonesia, empowering local communities to be involved in the management of their valley and supporting them to map their lands and resources. They provide data on timber extraction, contribute to the improved management of the Lorentz National Park, and ensure that official land use planning strengthens, rather than undermines, the traditional systems and helps to avoid destructive commercial exploitation.