Papuans strive to move forward

Papuans strive to move forward

The Jakarta Post , Puncak Jaya, Papua National
Irawaty Wardany

According to the World Bank, more than 40 percent of Papuans still live below the poverty line, while the province has the country’s highest HIV/AIDS rates. The problems have been compounded by a low-intensity revolt that continues to grip the province due to widespread disappointment in the government. The Jakarta Post’s Irawaty Wardany journeyed to Puncak Jaya in Papua to see the implementation of the National Program for Community Empowerment (PNPM) in villages there. Below are her reports.

While most provinces in Indonesia are busy with economic development, some of which are already creating prosperity, Papua, the country’s easternmost province, is still struggling to catch up.

Ironically, Papua is the province that contributes the most revenues for Indonesia from its mines, especially PT Freeport Indonesia’s gold mines, which have generated trillions of rupiah in taxes.

However, most of its people still live in abject poverty.

“After almost 50 years of social and economic development, the condition in Papua has not shown significant change,” Frans R. Kristantus, from the provincial planning and development agency (Bappeda), told reporters recently.

Geographical conditions have cut some regions off from access to transportation, while the fact that many Papuans are still unaware of the importance of education is blamed for the shortage of skilled human resources in the province.

Frans said the top-down development strategy implemented by the government was not effective because it was oblivious to the real conditions of Papuans.

Therefore, he said, Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu had in 2007 initiated a program called Strategic Planning for Kampung Development (RESPEK), focused on helping people develop themselves from the village level.

Through this program, the Papuan administration provides Rp 100 million of regional autonomy funds to each village so that villagers can participate actively in determining development needs and designing activities for their kampung.

Since 2008, the program has been integrated with the National Program for Community Empowerment (PNPM-Respek), in which the Papuan administration is obliged to provide direct public aid of Rp 100 million per village for 2727 villages in the province, while the Home Ministry provides more than 1,000 facilitators through PNPM Mandiri.

Syamsuddin Daerlan, a local official, said villagers would conduct discussions among themselves to determine activities that they would prioritize according to the available funds.

“After they agree on certain activities, the villagers will be responsible for the implementation of the programs as well as their sustainability.”

Wilhelmus Ngamelubun, a specialist from PNPM Mandiri Respek in Papua, expected Papuans to have a feeling of ownership in the development in their villages.

Mathias Kogoya, a facilitator recruited for Kuyawage district in Jayawijaya, said he helped villagers list potential resources from their kampung.

“After that, we usually conduct village meetings to determine activities that we will carry out to realize the potential,” he said.

He added villagers in Kuyawage district, comprising 10 kampungs, were now able to broaden their farming from breeding only pigs, to including rabbits and fish.

But lack of transportation facilities has made it difficult to sell the products, while making material prices high.

“Just imagine a sack of cement in Jayawijaya Regent costing Rp 600,000 [US$50] to Rp 1.5 million, not to mention other material, while they need such material to build bridges or alleys,” said Vonny Leiwakabessy, a facilitator from Wamena district. “Papuans actually have a high motivation to improve their lives, but such obstacles hamper their efforts.