Giving People a Voice: Why Wehea is in the News

Erik Meijaard
Erik Meijaard

Sitting in the 16th floor breakfast restaurant overlooking Jakarta’s polluted skies, my eye caught an unusual news feature in the Jakarta Post, Indonesia’s biggest English language newspaper. The article was about fuel prices — which many articles are these days. But it was specifically about fuel prices in Wehea.

What’s so special about that? Well, Wehea is a largely forgotten region in a remote part of the remote island of Borneo, which name itself epitomizes the far away and unknown. To read about fuel prices in Wehea in Indonesia’s national newspaper is really quite unusual.

In Wehea, the price of fuel had reached 20,000 Indonesian Rupiah per liter ($0.43/gallon). This makes it 4.5 times more expensive than the recently lowered government price. With fuel stocks running out, price hikes cause hardship to local people.

I am sure this is happening in many remote parts of Indonesia. So what makes Wehea special? Why is someone listening to its complaints?

The Conservancy has worked closely with the Wehea community and local government since 2002. The resulting forest conservation project is a great success so far. Forest loss has been halted. Communities and local government are very supportive. And the media are paying close attention, because conservation success in Indonesia remains rare.

The Conservancy’s help in Wehea has given Wehea major exposure in both local and national media. The conservation success means the Wehea people have a voice, and that voice is increasingly listened to.

I don’t know whether the Jakarta Post article will lead to reduced fuel prices in Wehea. But I do know that if it comes to crucial policy decisions that impact Wehea, the fact that the Wehea people are media celebrities will help them steer towards favorable outcomes.

Empowering local communities, clarifying land rights, and stabilizing land use are all crucial tools for what the Conservancy wants to achieve: saving Borneo’s incredible rainforest from destruction, while allowing for social and economic development.

If you believe in the work we’re doing, please lend a hand.

Add a Comment