Biologists like Bruce Beehler may get into their profession because of their keen interest in the world’s species, but the escalating global biodiversity crisis means that engagement with local governments and communities is an important end result of most field research. As world leaders meet in Nairobi this week for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting, Beehler reflects on the importance of local engagement in his recent expedition in Indonesia’s Foja Mountains.
The story of my experience in the Foja Mountains is partly about the wonder of new species discovery, but it’s also very much a story of partnership and collaboration. The expedition could never have occurred if our CI-Papua team had not established a strong working relationship with the local Kwerba and Papasena forest peoples – the indigenous landowners of these mountains.
This connection took several years of engagement. The CI-Papua team helped the local people map their resources and design local conservation zoning for these lands. In addition, our team worked closely with the provincial authorities to make certain they were fully engaged with our research and conservation activities. At the same time our CI-Jakarta team worked closely with the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI). That partnership allowed us to field strong expedition teams that combined both Indonesian and international scientists.
As a result, today the governor of Papua, Barnabas Suebu, sees this sort of exploratory work as an important contribution to Papua’s knowledge-base for the environment. As the governor moves ahead with a green development plan for Papua, and gets support for this vision from the national government in Jakarta as well as international development agencies, he can use examples like this Foja expedition story to inspire a future greener economy.
When President Obama visits Indonesia in June, we assume one of his points of discussion will be the environment and Indonesia’s forests as important carbon storehouses. Conservation of the Foja Mountains can help with this and other important environmental threats, and can protect the livelihoods of those indigenous forest people who use the renewable resources this remarkable mountain range produces every day.
Bruce Beehler is a senior research scientist in CI’s Science and Knowledge division. Read his previous post about field work in the Foja Mountains, or learn more about the team’s species discoveries on our Foja RAP page.