Valentius Heri

Ashoka Fellow
Indonesia,
Fellow Since 2009

Citation

This profile was prepared when Valentinus Heri was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
Heri and his organization, Riak Bumi, have facilitated the development of an innovative honey business in the West Kalimantan forest community, allowing indigenous forest dwellers to use forest resources while preserving natural biodiversity. He seized the potential of a forest honey community business which had already been built up by earlier generations to connect local producers to outside markets. Now the forest honey collectors, the majority of whom are young people, have increased their income eightfold. Riak Bumi helps communities enter competitive markets by developing their harvesting, packaging, and marketing techniques. With this newly developed, flourishing business, impoverished forest dwellers are no longer pressured to earn a living by cutting down trees or exploiting forest resources in an environmentally unfriendly way. Though providing for family members takes precedence over protecting forests, people are more likely to respond to initiatives to protect their environment and understand the effects of resource depletion if they can first connect their own survival to the forest.

The high economic return has raised concerns from the wider Indonesian population for the need to protect the forests, which are the habitat of Asia’s indigenous honey-producing Dorsata bees, from unsustainable resource exploitation. This viable, sustainable livelihood is supported by customary law (i.e. an indigenous law or custom that protects native population’s land rights). It states that the rights of local populations must be taken into consideration with the management of natural resources within or around their communities. Along with developing the local economy by selling forest products in other markets, Heri is working with all jurisdictions to revitalize this ineffective law to give local populations their legal right to participate in resource management. He has facilitated a relationship between forest communities and legal bodies to enact a policy that limits commercial exploitation of forest areas. The model has successfully reduced forest fires, incidences of cyanide explosive fishing, and other environmentally hazardous practices in the Santarum Park in West Kalimantan.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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