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Local communities take action in conserving the Heart of Borneo


Nestled near the borders of Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam, lies the the Heart of Borneo: one of the last remaining tracts of tropical rainforests in Southeast Asia and the most biodiverse habitats in the world.


In recent years, illegal logging, expanding agriculture and forest fires have caused significant damage to the rainforest and the lives of the indigenous communities surrounding the area. The forest - along with its Labian-Leboyan watershed, an important corridor that connects Danau Sentarum National Park and Betung Kerihun National Park - is the home and the livelihood of the Dayak Iban and Malay tribes. These communities realised that they needed to come together to protect their home and their way of life. 



villages in Kapuas Hulu participated in the project


main themes were identified: conservation, people and culture, and eco-tourism


villagers took part behind the camera


photographs were produced 


photo stories were exhibited



Documenting what matters

Throughout the Photovoices project, the indigenous communities in Kapuas Hulu were encouraged to document important things in their life, such as their customs and beliefs, the environmental and social challenges they were facing, and their hopes for the future.  


The pictures they took and the stories they told brought forth unfiltered ideas about nature, traditions, and aspirations. They also served as a means to reflect on the community’s own lives and led to a conversation on what needs to be protected, improved, and developed within the communities. 


Getting involved in planning

The communities in Kapuas Hulu Regency were able to use the pictures and stories produced during the project in proposals for development budgets when engaging with government stakeholders. For example, the photo of the broken bridge in Dusun Temparau managed to prompt immediate visits of officials from the sub-districts and the regency. Through the pictures and the data produced, the communities managed to propose several better development programs with specific information relating to their area.

Understanding each other better

During the project, the community members were able to verbally convey their aspirations in public forums and build stronger solidarity between communities living upstream and downstream. Ideas on how to better grow the local economy and conserve their traditions were shared, and they encouraged a better understanding of the culture and beliefs between the different tribes - Iban, Malay, and Tamambaloh.


Changing the stigma

The methods changed the unfortunate perception that the community would only engage with the government to solicit funds. By using visual evidence and storytelling, the communities were able to present all their challenges concisely and cohesively, and other stakeholders were able to count on the communities as a trusted source of information.

  1. The project inspired the community to create Forum Komunikasi Masyarakat DAS Labian-Leboyan to address environmental problems within the Labian-Leboyan area and to promote better dialogues between different tribes in the area.

  2. The community decided to include photography in a local school, SMP 1 Lanjak. The school was provided with one computer unit for this purpose. 


Heart of Borneo Initiative

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