Written by Wendy Erb (Researcher)
The good and effective policy requires a well-informed decision-making process, particularly ones that aim for sustainable use of natural resources and conservation of biodiversity. For this reason, two crucial aspects of policy input are ecological aspects and ethnographic aspects. It is important to align both in the search for a comprehensive scientific input to the policy-making towards the sustainable use of natural resources and most importantly towards the conservation of biodiversity.
Borneo Nature Foundation in partnership with the University of Muhammadiyah Palangka Raya held 2 days research symposium and workshop on July 2, 2019, on Integrating Ecological and Ethnographic Research for Rungan Conservation in collaboration with the University of Exeter, Rutgers University, and Brunel University, supported by The British Academy and American Institute for Indonesian Studies. The interactive event brought together interdisciplinary perspectives and diverse stakeholders to promote conservation of the 135,000-hectares Rungan landscape in Central Kalimantan. Among attendees were expert from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences LIPI, Eijkman Institute, Gadjah Mada University, Palangka Raya Muhammadiyah University, Rutgers University, Brunel University, and practitioners from Central Java.
Despite comprising diverse habitats and housing an incredibly rich fauna, including the largest unprotected population of Bornean orangutans, the majority of the region is designated for logging or conversion to oil-palm and wood-pulp plantations. Indigenous Dayak Ngaju communities inhabit small villages along the rivers, whose livelihoods include small-scale mining, fishing, farming, and collecting non-timber forest products. The challenge is to develop a conservation plan that incorporates their perspectives, values, and needs and supports sustainable exploitation of environmental resources. Our event aimed to strengthen, expand, and promote the findings of our collaborative conservation research program in the Rungan landscape program through an international research symposium and training workshops.
The two-day program began with opening remarks from Central Kalimantan’s Sekretaris Daerah (provincial secretary) Fahrizal Fitri, S.Hut., M.P., who stressed the importance of multi-stakeholder cross-disciplinary work to understand the impacts of forest use on natural, economic, and social environments as well as the livelihoods of communities surrounding forests.
The first half of the symposium featured speakers from our collaborative group who provided an overview of the conservation challenges in the Rungan landscape and shared our diverse approaches to conservation research. The second half of the symposium featured invited speakers from diverse institutions including the Eijkman Institute, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Brunel University, and Swara Owa who shared their unique research perspectives and experiences in conservation ranging from topics including wildlife genetics, population modelling, ethnography, and integrating community livelihoods.
Following presentations, speakers and participants broke into mixed groups – representing universities, national and regional governments, NGO’s, local communities, the private sector, and the media – to discuss how research and conservation in the Rungan landscape should incorporate the values and needs of the diverse stakeholders there, particularly indigenous communities.
On the second day, 44 participants joined training workshops covering 3 major approaches to conservation, including Bioacoustics (led by Wendy Erb and Nick Boyd), Ethnography (led by Ethnographers Paul Thung and Kristen Morrow), and Habitat and Biodiversity monitoring (led by ecologists Dr. Frank van Veen, Bernat Ripoll, and Dr. Ben Buckley).
Each group spent 4 hours learning the basic theory and key tools for each topic, including field trips to degraded urban forests and a local mall to practice their methods. The day concluded with an inspiring group discussion about the important perspective each approach offers to conservation research and the value of integrating multiple disciplines and engaging different perspectives to develop effective and sustainable conservation. Workshop participants initiated working groups to continue developing capacity and collaborating on future research, and there was strong support to build on the foundation we’ve laid together to formalize the forum and establish an annual meeting.
This event provided an excellent opportunity to disseminate our research findings widely with key stakeholders. Further, by inviting scholars working in other topical and geographic areas, we highlighted new approaches and explored new collaborative opportunities to complement and expand conservation research. Ultimately, we succeeded in fostering multilateral relationships among scientists, practitioners, and community members, building research capacity, and advancing a discussion about how to collaboratively shape conservation in the Rungan landscape that synthesizes local stakeholders’ knowledge and values. We are excited about the seeds we have planted for future collaborative research and are grateful to the British Academy and the American Institute for Indonesian Studies for supporting this invaluable opportunity.