Documentary - Save the People and Forests of Papua

Gaharu: Selamatkan Manusia dan Hutan Papua

(Save the People and Forests of Papua)

Produced in 2007, uploaded in March 2010 to Engage Media


The 16 minute documentary explains the multidimensional impacts of the gaharu trade on the environment and indigenous Auwyu dan Wiyaghar, in Assue District, Mappi, in the South of Papua Province. The film then explores the new hopes that emerged with the deployment of a government fact finding team to resolve the issues, which produced some solutions, suggestions, and reduced disagreement.

Full description

Assue District is located in Mappi Regency, southern Papua, which is famous for its gaharu yields. Eci town is in the center of Assue. The area has a population of about 9.745 Auwyu dan Wiyaghar tribal people who live as forest gatherers. The port of Eci is where gaharu and the basic necessities of life are brought inn and out of the area. The economic value of gaharu trees is found in clumps of gaharu wood generated by a natural process fungal infection. The condition of the natural environment is important gaharu trees to grow and for clumps of gaharu wood to develop. The Gaharu business started in 1995 when traders began exchanging kitchen and fishing equipment, air rifles, rice, salt and other products for gaharu collected by locals. Following this, the Auwyu dan Wiyaghar poople started felling trees, whether they held the valuable gaharu wood or not. Once the trees beace rare, the locals began digging under ground to find gaharu. Since 2000, they have resorted to seeking dead gaharu trees lying in swamps. In this area, the gaharu business can circulate between a hundred million and one billion rupiah (us $ 10,000 – 100,000) Many people hope to profit significantly from the trade, and because of this they pay little attention to the risks involved. Many outsiders have entered the area, including many from outside the district, Papua and even Indonesia. It seems unavoidable that these conditions will result in the local communities being marginalized and pushed out of their lands. The community is negatively impacted by the often greedy and socially and environmentally damaging competition that Gaharu has brought. Clear regulations for the local community and consistent law enforcement from other institutions are urgently needed for the sake of the people’s collective welfare. For example: regulation restricting the maximum volume that can be taken from the forest; local tax regulations about, and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) from trader; local regulations requiring the cultivation of gaharu; and local regulations restricting the sale of alcoholic beverage circulation, gambling, and prostitution. For gaharu to remain a valuable commodity in the future, the protection of remaining natural gaharu, and efforts o cultivate it, perhaps even in a large scale, is required now. The government and businessman must be serious in implementing these measures.