At the C20 Forum, Mardiana Deren Shares Stories of Indigenous Peoples’ Efforts to Preserve Forests

Environment Political

JAKARTA, JAKTIMES.COM- Indigenous peoples mostly live around the forest, contributing greatly to forest conservation, because their lives are very dependent on the forest.

This is based on the support of the awareness that the environment in which they live must be preserved.

“We maintain this because the earth has given birth to all sources of life and breath of life for indigenous peoples,” said Mardiana Deren, one of the indigenous peoples in East Barito when she was a resource person at the “Calling for Environmental and Climate Justice in C20” discussion session initiated by working environmental groups, climate justice, and the C20 energy transition.

According to Mardiana, indigenous peoples are closely related to nature, forests, and the creatures that live in them. Nature provides them all and they have been used wisely. “We really love nature, Earth, because we know Earth has done a lot for us,” he added.

Therefore, Mardiana rejects all accusations that call indigenous peoples as destroyers of nature. According to him, it is not true and they never did. “We are not guilty of destroying nature, clearing forests, destroying the environment,” he said.

In fact, every time they clear land, indigenous people perform rituals, as a form of clash with nature and their ancestors. “Permission to Earth. Traditional rituals to ask permission. After that, we asked for the blessing of nature through dreams,” he explained.

Usually, notifications through dreams or symbols under trees are a sign as to whether indigenous peoples are allowed to clear forests or not. After obtaining a permit, they cleared the land.

“When we open the fields, we collect the wood in the middle. We work together to build firebreaks with the local community and garden owners,” said Mardiana.

After clearing the land in the traditional way, indigenous peoples begin the next process, namely planting rice. As before, this activity was carried out together.

“On the edge of the field are usually planted with vegetables, tubers, and banana trees. That’s important while waiting for the harvest,” he said.

When the harvest arrived, the residents returned to work together. All the results are collected in one place, then divided equally. The rest are selected to be seeds that will be planted in the following season.

“After harvesting, people are chosen to look for field rice seeds. After that, we performed a ritual of expressing gratitude and gratitude to nature. The ritual is carried out at the village boundary,” he said.

Before oil palm plantations and coal mining companies came to their area, according to Mardiana, forests provided many things they needed. One of them is medicine.

“There are medicines in the forest still available. There are nice forest flowers. This flower was saved from oil palm plantations and coal mines,” he said.

At that time, the indigenous people lived in harmony and peace. “Without money, our lives are prosperous. Now what do we feel? After the entry of oil palm plantations and coal mines, our lives were squeezed and we were not free,” he explained.

However, when the investors came, the forest which was the source of the indigenous people’s life, slowly but surely continued to experience deforestation, as a result the local community lost their source of livelihood.

“We lost a source of life, a source of economy. loss of rice barns, sources of health, forest fruits, loss of clean water, loss of fish, even crocodiles are gone,” said Mardiana.

“We breathe in the dust. Bathed in waste. There is no health and well-being for indigenous peoples,” he complained.

On that occasion Mardiana also refused when indigenous peoples were accused of being a hindrance to development, while there was very little forest left. On the pretext of development, entrepreneurs have damaged the forest, while the local government has given permits to entrepreneurs.

“We have to deal with the words ‘Kopassus’ in the mines. We are against the PM, the police and the local government,” he said.

For the 64-year-old woman, her courage and fighting spirit exceed those of men. It was proven in 2006, Mardiana assisted indigenous people in the Villages of Dayu, Balawa, Murutuwu, Sarapat and Patai Island.

“In 2007 we were already fighting against oil palm under the pretext of development. At that time the land was valued at only Rp. 300 thousand/per ha. Now it may have gone up. Our nature has run out,” he said.

In 2011, Mardiana also took part in advocating for communities in Mount Karasik, Bahalang, Lalap, Bentot, Betang Nalong, then in Janah Mansiwui, Danau, Biwan, Ampari and Janah Jari.

“Our forests and swamps are being moved for palm oil plantations. In the mines, our springs are lost. The river is being moved, even though water is the source of life,” he said.

According to Mardiana, this is a form of betrayal to God. Only because of the greedy nature of a group of people, indigenous peoples suffer the consequences. That’s why he asked that all plantation and mining permits in East Barito be reviewed.

“Imagine an oil palm plantation in the middle of the city, only a few kilometers from the regent’s office. For that we ask for evaluation. Give us back our right to live in the forest. Restore our right to life. We are ready to help the government,” he explained.

The firm attitude of the grandmother of 4 grandchildren often angers company personnel. In the eyes of the government, Mardiana is considered a hindrance to development. It is not surprising that if he participates in fighting for the rights of indigenous peoples, he always faces law enforcement.

“In fact, we only ask for the source of the economy, the source of our life. Licensing is like a cancer virus attacking Earth. We ask you to stop illegal logging. Stop new permits,” said Mardiana.

Furthermore, he asked the government not to blame indigenous peoples. The reason is that environmental damage occurs because the government itself sells out permits to oil palm plantations and coal mining haphazardly.

“Don’t legalize any means. If you want this country to prosper, immediately pass the Indigenous Peoples Bill. Acknowledge and protect us,” he concluded. (Jekson Simanjuntak/Wan)

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