Harapan Rainforest: The People
Indigenous people of the area
The indigenous people of central Sumatra traditionally followed a semi-nomadic lifestyle in the island’s forests. In the past, they gathered forest products such as rattan, resins and honey from the forest for use in cooking and building, and for small-scale commercial sale. They fished in the rivers, and practised shifting cultivation: burning small patches of forest and cultivating the nutrient-rich soil left behind. They would leave the land to regenerate into natural forest as they moved on to the next patch.
Very few native people are still able to follow this lifestyle due to the pressure of deforestation and development all around them. The domain of Sumatra’s Suku Anak Dalam – or people of the forest - has shrunk to one tenth of its original size.
Central Sumatra may look like a frontier land to a lot of migrant Indonesians and foreigners: rich in timber, minerals and gas, and seemingly ripe for exploitation. However, indigenous people of the area are ill-prepared to find livelihoods in this new environment.
Some indigenous peoples have been settled in villages under government schemes and have been encouraged to give up the nomadic way of life. Others have been forced into marginal roles in ‘mainstream’ Sumatran society, eking out a living in the cash economy of the industrial frontier.
Moving forward together in Harapan Forest
There are about eight indigenous family groups living within the proposed boundaries of the BirdLife-RSPB's Harapan Rainforest. Our initiative to preserve the remaining dry lowland forest in Sumatra provides hope that they can preserve aspects of their forest-dependent lifestyles.
Without BirdLife’s intervention, it is certain that the area we call Harapan Rainforest would be logged and converted to agricultural plantations, displacing these families and making their forest-dependent lifestyles completely unrealistic. The challenge, as we move forward together, is to work with the indigenous families of the area to find sustainable livelihoods opportunities – an ability to sustain their welfare and develop economic opportunities, if they want them, while supporting the conservation goals of the BirdLife Partnership.
Next Page » Harapan Rainforest: The Vision