Being heard globally
Jikalahari is one of EPN’s key Indonesian member organisations and its co-ordinator, Woro Supartinah, is on the steering group of EPN International. Jikalahari is well known for managing the ‘Eyes on the Forest’ web portal, which has consistently highlighted the threats from the Indonesian paper industry. Behind that visible project is a great deal of crucial local organising of the struggle to protect forests and communities.
We asked Woro about why Jikalahari invests effort in the EPN. “From our viewpoint, EPN is successfully bridging the information that we have here at the field level to a global audience” she said. “With the help of EPN, our voice is heard by other stakeholders like financiers, banks and buyers.”
Jikalahari is an umbrella group of over 20 local environmental NGOs in the Riau region in Sumatra, Indonesia. Based in Pekanbaru, the group was established in 2002. At that time deforestation in Riau Province had reached a worrying level, with floods and droughts indicating that forests could no longer maintain the balance of the environment. The intention of the founding community organisations, environmental NGOs and individuals was to change this in order to save the forests of Riau.
Woro said, “What we see as a clear advantage of EPN is the diversity of NGOs. We can work together with organisations that are focusing on environmental issues but we are also able to find partners in the EPN network that are more interested in social issues, which are important in the Indonesian context.”
In Riau province, huge areas of forest are already destroyed and converted to industrial monocultures such as palm oil or acacia for the pulp and paper industry but there is still 1.000.000 million hectares of tropical forest left. According to Jikalahari, the expansion of the pulp and paper industry has stopped for now, because governmental authorities will not issue new permits for additional plantations or logging concessions. But no one knows what the future will bring. When the political leadership in Indonesia changes the pressure on the remaining forest landscapes could increase again.
Woro, who is also an active member of the EPN international steering committee, has one important suggestion for the future: “It would be good if EPN could help to transfer our knowledge in challenging the pulp and paper industry to other groups in the global south, where expansion of new pulp mills take place.” This is a challenge we hope to rise to.