With a Little Love and Support, Our Artisans Enjoy Success

By Wendy Tamariska, GPOCP Sustainable Livelihoods Manager 
Finding steady work and earning enough income to support a family has been a very real challenge for many of the communities living around Gunung Palung. Most adults are undereducated and there are very few employment options for them in their small villages. Oftentimes, these communities depend on harvesting natural resources from the rainforest in and around Gunung Palung National Park for income. These activities have included illegal logging, growing crops, and hunting wildlife, sometimes even orangutans. Protecting these forests takes these sources of income away, and thus building local capacity for sustainable alternatives is one of our essential conservation strategies. We work with local people to develop these sustainable livelihoods, and our participants have become quite successful over the years. More and more slash-and-burn farmers and loggers are interested in joining our program as a result of our artisans’ successes.
In 2009, GPOCP established our Sustainable Livelihoods Program, and for the past eight years we have been working closely with communities and local government to help people adopt “forest-friendly” livelihood options, thus reducing their dependence on economic activities that exploit the environment. One of our Sustainable Livelihood programs is supporting our Non-Timber Forest Product (NTFP) artisan groups.
A small sample of some of the crafts the GPOCP artisans make from pandan and nypa leaves.
Our NTFP artisan groups operate in four villages in the GPNP buffer zone: Sejahtera, Pangkalan Buton, Batu Barat, and Harapan Mulia. Group members weave traditional handicrafts from readily available forest products, such as pandan and nypa leaves. These crafts, with the help of GPOCP and our partners, are then sold at local, national, and international markets and art expos. Our four groups encompass approximately 60 local households, with an additional group of 10-15 junior and senior high school students who are mentored by Ibu Ida, our most experienced craftswoman.
You may recall one of our previous success stories about Ibu Vina, a local woman from Sejahtera village. She previously earned income by harvesting rocks and sand from inside of the National Park to sell to construction companies. However, she completely stopped that work and dedicates her time now to weaving jewelry and tikar mats from readily available forest materials.

We have another success story to share about Ibu Rajemah. She is part of our NTFP artisan group, Peramas Indah, in the village of Pangkalan Buton. Revenues from the sale of her pandan crafts enabled her to afford to send her son to college, the first in the family to attend university!  There was even some extra funds left over to allow her to renovate and tile her house.

Ibu Rajemah was recently able to send her son to college (and tile her porch) with money she earned from selling her handicrafts.
Another artisan who has been able to earn a living now from the sale of her handicrafts is Ibu Ayu Baiti from Sejahtera village. Ibu Baiti was able to to pay off her motorbike, an essential mode of transportation in Indonesian villages, ahead of schedule. Her children also insisted that she treat herself to something nice as a reward for her hard work. Thus, she bought herself a bracelet and two gold rings, all through selling her handicraft products!
Ibu Ayu Baiti showing off the jewelry she treated herself to with money she earned through the sale of her handicrafts. 
The monthly income from the sale of their crafts covers the daily expense of their families and has allowed Ibu Ayu Baiti and Ibu Rajemah to enjoy a better quality of life, expand their families’ education and make improvements to their homes, all through sustainable means. It is not just these two artisans who are experiencing such great success with the help of GPOCP’s Sustainable Livelihoods team, many families are flourishing and are able to save money, something that never seemed attainable through previous methods of earning income. GPOCP looks forward to helping other communities create successful, sustainable groups and improving livelihoods throughout the Gunung Palung landscape.