Women Lead Pendidikan Seks
October 19, 2017

Indigenous West Sumatran Women Protect Forest

In celebration of the International Day of Rural Women on October 15, here's a photo essay to highlight how indigenous women in West Sumatra work the fields and protect their forests at the same time.

by Uslaini Chaus, WALHI Sumatra and Global Forest Coalition

My name is Uslaini or Chaus. I come from a farming family of the Minangkabau indigenous tribe in West Sumatra. My passion in life is to work with rural communities and women so they can have a better life. I am the sixth of seven children. As a child, I used to work the fields to earn enough to cover my school fees. I’ve always wanted to help other rural women.
Today, I am an activist and work for the development of rural communities and conserve our forests. I am the Director of an organization called WALHI Sumatra Barat in Indonesia, which works among forest and indigenous communities. I also like to take photographs, and these are pictures of some of our daily work.
Deforestation has a devastating impact on women and local communities who are dependent on forest resources. It affects the availability of clean water for the community, including for families and for farmers' small-scale agriculture, and the collection of non-timber forest products that forest communities, and especially women use regularly.
WALHI works on a range of environmental and social issues, including gender justice. We campaign and advocate for community development in rural and forest villages, and we run projects that help to transform people’s lives in really practical ways in harmony with the forest. Our non-timber forest products project is a good example of conserving forests with sustainable use.

Uslaini (Photo by Kanlaya)


Illegal logging is a common occurrence in these communities. Here you can see the damage done to the forest by loggers in Nagari Sungai Kecamantan Baru Sijunjung Regency in West Sumatra province of Indonesia. (Photo by Fadli)

We're helping women in four local communities to set up production units so that they can sell products made from Cacao and Pala fruit. (Photo by Chaus)

The Maninjau Lake at Agam District is being used as a source of water for the Maninjau hydropower plant and for agriculture in the subdistrict of Lubuk Basung . While this hydroelectric power plant helps to meet the demand for electricity in West Sumatra, the design of the dam impedes fish migration thus endangering some species of endemic fish in Lake Maninjau. The nine village communities around the lake  hasasked the government to provide funds obtained from hydropower water taxes for forest conservation, but no response has been given by the government. (Photo by Chaus)

Many women work as farm labors to earn a side income, but they earn a wage only half of what men earn for the same number of work hours. In this village, WALHI works with community women to obtain social forestry management permits, to ensure that they can conserve their forests and also benefit from the sustainable use of forest products. (Photo by Chaus)

Women from Batipuh Selatan, Tanah Datar, traditionally produce coffee and cloves. WALHI supports indigenous peoples here to gain customary rights over their forests. Their rights ensure that they can conserve their forests and have the ability to grow coffee and cloves. (Photo by Chaus)

Women also produce household materials with local raw materials, such as this Belanga, a traditional soup cauldron used in West Sumatra. WALHI helps women to market their artisan products in local markets. (Photo by Chaus)

Women peel the Pala fruits which is used to make nutmeg syrup. WALHI supports indigenous women to set up small production units so they can process Cacao and Pala fruit. The skin of the Pala fruits is used to prepare fruit juice and nut butter. (Photo by Chaus)

The skin of nutmeg is usually wasted, but now under the guidance of Dr. Tuty Angraini from the Department of Agricultural Product Technology Faculty of Agricultural Technology Andalas University, this agricultural waste can be processed into processed products with higher economic value. (Photo by Chaus)
Nutmeg syrup bottled and ready for consumption. (Photo by Chaus)

A traditional house in the middle of a rice field sustainably built with old coconut wood and Enau leaves by the Minangkabau community in Bukittinggi. Such local construction methods using traditional building methods can protect forests from illegal logging for construction needs. (Photo by Chaus)