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Paris Peace Forum 2023: Indigenous Knowledge for Social Resilience in Addressing the Food Crisis in Indonesia

Indigenous women actually play a central role in development. They often become the voice for their villagers so that the development process that takes place remains in harmony with the preservation of the nature they live in.

Based on baseline data conducted by KEMITRAAN in 2022 on the condition of indigenous women in 7 provinces in Indonesia, it shows that indigenous women have minimal involvement in their customary communities, this is because 53.91% are still considered to have no capacity and 21.25% are still high male dominance in decision making.

Indigenous peoples are highly dependent on natural resources. Forests and the surrounding environment are the living space that ensures the survival of them and their communities. Indigenous women, in particular, have an important role as custodians of indigenous knowledge. They inherit traditional knowledge from their ancestors.

Inequality excludes them from the development process, especially in expressing their opinions. This condition often renders them vulnerable to various gender-based violence practices in the community and exacerbates the impact of climate issues.

These issues increasingly marginalize women’s roles as custodians of customary knowledge in maintaining the survival of their village communities. Consequently, their roles become confined to domestic affairs, leaving them voiceless in policy-making processes related to development.

Therefore, as one of the implementing partners of the Australia-Indonesia KEMITRAAN Towards Inclusive Communities (Inclusion) program, KEMITRAAN contributes to strengthening the role of women in the development process. It also aligns with the broader development goal of ensuring that no one is left behind throughout the entire development process.

Seeing these challenges, KEMITRAAN, together with 10 local partners, is collecting and documenting indigenous knowledge that will support research and studies for evidence-based policies,” said Widya Anggraini, KEMITRAAN Project Manager.

As well as building awareness among indigenous communities to utilize indigenous knowledge as a strength in supporting both social and economic resilience, KEMITRAAN also participated in the Paris Peace Forum held on 10-11 November 2023 in Paris, France. The Paris Peace Forum serves as a platform for sharing initiatives from numerous practitioners worldwide addressing social issues such as the environment, climate change, and gender issues, aiming to encourage this initiative to become a shared learning experience at the international level.

In this forum, KEMITRAAN addressed topics related to women and agriculture. This focus aligns with KEMITRAAN’s work in promoting the self-reliance of indigenous women through the utilization of natural resources to address food crises in their communities.

In one of KEMITRAAN’s intervention areas in Toro Village, Sigi, Central Sulawesi, indigenous women hold authority in designing agricultural work. Additionally, they frequently engage in resolving conflicts within the villages.

We also organize the management of rice fields and farmlands, including determining the appropriate time for harvesting,’ stated an indigenous woman from Toro Village, Rukmini.

Similar circumstances are observed in Meurumba Village, East Sumba Regency, where the tangible benefits of development are beginning to be felt. While development efforts in the past were primarily focused on infrastructure, they now extend to meeting the specific needs of its residents, particularly in agriculture.

One of the important figures in the development process is Rambu Bombu, a woman who follows the Marapu faith in East Sumba Regency. Rambu stated that development in Meurumba Village used to be limited to providing infrastructure. However, the villagers also needed other assistance, such as the provision of seeds and agricultural tools.

We feel a change where indigenous women, when given space and opportunities, especially involvement in discussion forums to policymaking,’ said Rambu, who serves as a village and indigenous community facilitator in Meurumba Village.

‘Previously, every musrembangdes decision only accommodated for infrastructure matters, now there is support for seeds and agricultural tools, such as grass cutting machines and water pumping machines for agricultural activities and the village economy,’ Rambu continued.

The stories from Toro Village and Meurumba Village serve as examples of how providing equal opportunities for indigenous women can ensure security and maximize their role as custodians of traditional knowledge in natural resource management. This contributes not only to their families but also to their communities.

Talking about food is not only about commodities, but also about the survival of the community. This is certainly a common concern because climate change has a double impact on indigenous women.

It is hoped that the Paris Peace Forum 2023 can open a wider networking space to raise the issue of indigenous women in addressing the challenges of the food crisis faced by many communities, especially indigenous communities. This is because preserving indigenous knowledge is not only about upholding traditions and values but also ensuring the survival of present and future generations.