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Mapping indigenous lands in Indonesia’s tallest mountains

21 / 04 / 2017, Mongabaycom News

ASOLOKOBAL, Indonesia — Laurensius Lani’s footsteps can be heard at dawn alongside the traditional honay thatched-roof houses of the Baliem Valley, here in the archipelago country’s eastermost Papua province. This is a region of biodiversity and riches. Asolokobal sits on the southern end of Indonesia’s sole snow-covered mountain range. Tasmanian tigers (Thylacinus cynocephalus), long thought to be extinct in the wild, were said to be spotted here not long ago. Yet, 125 miles north along the Jayawijaya range is the world’s largest copper and gold mine, operated by U.S. company Freeport-McMoRan. Since 1996, Lani has worked with the Foundation for the Customary Development of Walesi (YBAW), a local NGO, to map indigenous peoples’ customary lands. He sees such mapping as the first step towards empowering these communities to use their land sustainably. The lack of clearly delineated boundaries is a big problem in Indonesia, one often taken advantage of by large companies trying to acquire community lands for development. Over the last 20 years, the foundation has mapped 19 of the 27 customary territories here in Jayawijaya district – not easy work given the many peaks in Indonesia’s highest altitude region. Jayawijaya customary lands include Mount Trikora (4,750 meters/15,600 feet above sea level), Mount Mandala (4,700 meters above sea level), Mount Yamin (4,500 meters above sea level) and Lake Habema (3,200 meters above sea level). These magnificent land features sit in Lorenz National Park — the largest national park in Southeast Asia. The territories the team has mapped range from…

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