Jakarta (Antara News) - Forest and Sumatras Orang Rimba tribe are inseparable, and they could not survive without each other.

For the semi-nomadic tribal community living in Rimbas forest, losing forest means losing home, therefore Orang Jambi tribal members have the interest of preserving forest area.

Recognizing the importance of both forest and Orang Rimba tribe, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg was willing to walk far into a muddy tick forest to meet the tribal community in Senamat Ulu traditional forest area, Bungo District, Jambi Province, central Sumatra, on April 15, 2015.

The lady prime minister, who was accompanied by Indonesias environmental affairs and forestry minister, Siti Nurbaya, had a dialog with some members of the tribes and listened attentively to what they said.

During the dialog with Norwegian prime minister, members of the Orang Rimba tribe recalled the starvation they had suffered as they could not hunt or harvest forest products since most of the forest area within their range had vanished.

A spokesman of the semi-nomadic Orang Rimba tribe spoke about how their life has become difficult as the forest has been transformed into palm oil plantations, which are managed by companies.

In the past, the Orang Rimba used to easily gather tubers, rattan and resin to sell, before plantation companies converted parts of the forest area.

"I felt very sad after learning about the condition of the Orang Rimba tribe. We realize that forests are crucial and very important for the world," Erna Solberg stated after the dialog.

The preservation of Jambi forest should go hand in hand with the survival of the Orang Jambi tribal community, emphasized Erna Solberg.

She emphasized the need to find a way of preserving the forest, but at the same time ensuring the survival of the Orang Rimba tribe in the forest.

The prime minister decided to visit Jambi because it is one of the 11 provinces that have been included in the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus(REDD+) program financially supported by the Norwegian government.

The REDD+ program is an attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to deforestation and forest degradation, estimated at up to 20 percent of the global total, by offering incentives for preserving forests.

Minister Siti Nurbaya said she had learnt some lessons from the dialog between the Norwegian prime minister and Orang Rimba.

The minister stated that the indigenous tribe of Jambi expressed their keenness to open farming areas as they could no longer hunt animals in the forests.

Nurbaya said she would report to President Joko Widodo about the on-field findings, so that they could be translated into government policies.

The Joko Widodo administration has stated that forests are for the welfare of the people, and the government will formalize the scheme that has been formulated, she noted. The nomadic and hunting traditions of Orang Jambi will still be considered, she added.

The schemes for Orang Rimba include the definitive establishment of forest villages and the peoples nucleus forests or community forests.

The Orang Rimba tribe will be encouraged to earn a living from the forest, while at the same time preserve it, she affirmed.

Earlier, in March 2015, Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa went to visit the Orang Rimba tribe in deep forest area to present financial assistance worth Rp55 million to families of the Orang Rimba Tribe that lost relatives due to starvation.

She also gave them 180 T-shirts, cigarettes, coffee, tea, sugar, salt, and 166 flashlights to the tribal people in Bukit Duabelas National Park (TNBD), Sarolangun-Batanghari district.

Later, the cigarette gifts for the indigenous tribe has become a controversy as the minister was strongly criticized by anti-smoking NGO activists, for "encouraging" the tribal members to smoke.

The minister also held a dialog with members of the Rimba Tribe and listened to the problems they said they faced that led to the food crisis.

At least 11 members of the Rimba Tribe, which is headed by three chiefs Marituha, Nyenong and Ngamal, died of starvation as the clan was hit by a food crisis.

Some chiefs of the tribe told the minister that they needed land to cultivate crops to feed their children and grandchildren.

In particular, they requested for a 114-hectare plot of land, which was managed by PT Wahana Perintis, claiming that it was their ancestors land.

Minister Parawansa assured the chiefs that she would discuss the matter with the minister of environmental affairs and forestry, and would help the tribe regain possession of their land.

"First, I express my deep condolences for the demise of some members of the Rimba Tribe. Regarding the 114-hectare plot of land for Rimba people, I have contacted the forestry minister who guaranteed that the land will be returned to the tribe," Parawansa affirmed. She also offered scholarships for Orang Rimba kids to study either in Jambi or in other provinces.

On the same occasion, Deputy Governor of Jambi Fachrori Umar gave assistance in the form of 2.5 tons of rice and 40 boxes of instant noodlesto the tribal people.

The previous day, the Jambi police chief and army chief presented rice and other staple food items to the same tribe.

In the meantime, Manager of Peoples Empowering Program of KKI Warsi Robert Aritonang said a number of Orang Rimba members who live in Bukit Duabelas National Park of Sarolangun-Batanghari District, Jambi Province, suffered starvation due to lack of food sources as their forest area has partly been converted into oil palm plantations.

"The number of Orang Rimba who live in Bukit Duabelas reaches 3,850 people. Currently, the forest areas to search foods for them are declining due to part of the forest have become plantation areas," Robert Aritonang said.

According to him, from January to February, at least 11 Orang Rimba died due to starving and eight of the victims were toddlers.

Unfortunately the Orang Rimba also did not receive proper medical treatment, particularly immunization, making them vulnerable to diseases, he added.

The Jambi provincial administration has ordered plantation companies to allocate 20 percent of their areas for a range area of Orang Rimba tribe.

The local government with the cooperation of plantation companies, has been in the process of establishing a customary village for the Orang Rimba tribe, including by building permanent houses and installing clean water facilities for the tribe, according to Jambi Governor Hasan Basri Agus. (*)
(T.F001/A/F001/A/H-YH) 22-04-2015 21:39:51

Reporter: Fardah
Editor: Fardah Assegaf
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