The steep central mountains of Papua are covered in tropical montane forest hosting a wild diversity of flora and fauna. They are also home to many indigenous Papuan communities who depend on their sweet potato gardens and the forest for survival. Increased population, travel to cities, plastic usage and loss of some traditional farming practices and knowledge has led to a shift in the delicate balance that has been created. With more gardens being created in areas previously not cultivated, there is an increase in the frequency of serious landslides, along with more plastic pollution and water source contamination from poor sanitation facilities.
In the area of Lolat in the remote Yahukimo region, our partner Yasumat, worked together with local cultural and faith leaders to talk about how they can prevent landslides and restore practices that have been lost, ensuring that communities have enough food and water. Men, women and young people worked together to map out their communities, identifying areas for gardens, timber, drinking water, washing, forests, timber and firewood. Leaders committed to greater inclusion in decision making and sharing information have re-established their traditional dialogue gatherings to plan for planting and harvesting. There are new rules on how to use plastic, where to make toilets, wash clothes and bathe, so drinking water sources aren’t affected.
This initiative is very low cost and is built on community strengths and vision. Yasumat are working with 50 more communities in Yahukimo to ensure food security and protect the environment for the next generation.