From the Forests of Papua to the Forests of Michigan

Rina Nelly Jowei

Photo 1. Rina Nelly Jowei in New York City

What do Papua, Indonesia's easternmost province, and Michigan, a northern State in the U.S., have in common? The answer to this question is the reason why Rina Nelly Jowei studied for her Master of Science degree in Forest Management at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. Forests are one of the major resources in both Papua and Michigan, and how this resource is managed is important to both Indonesian and American researchers and forest managers.

One of USAID's major areas of environmental assistance to the Indonesia is through research and long- and short-term training in the field of sustainability of forests as a national and local resource. As part of the assistance, USAID offers PRESTASI scholarships to Indonesian personnel in the public and private sectors to study in the U.S. to discover ways to help with the management of forests in Indonesia.

Ibu Rina Nelly Jowei is a lecturer and researcher in the Faculty of Forestry, University of Papua (UNIPA) in Manokwari. She applied and interviewed for a PRESTASI scholarship, and was awarded a scholarship for a two-year graduate program in Forest Management. She selected Michigan State University which specializes in the science of Forestry. Rina was able to spend two summers researching in Tree Study Center (Tress Research Center/TRC) of Michigan where she was active in her personal area of interest, nursery management.

The knowledge and skills that Rina learned in Michigan have been useful in her work back home in Papua. "There have been several opportunities for me to apply the knowledge that I learned at Michigan State University. For example, I was assigned to do a Potential Survey and Identification of Non-Timber Forest (HHBK) in Mamberamo Raya. Where the purpose of the survey is: to know the type, potency, and the spread of HHBK commodities in Mamberamo Raya; identify technology utilization, allocation and marketing of HHBK's commodities; Provide clear direction for government policy in order to utilize forest products in general; and also provide accurate data for the business world in the development of investment in the use of HHBK's in Mamberamo Raya," said Rina.

In addition she was also involved in the data collection Procedures for Granting Permission and Retribution Licensing Utilization and Forest Product Harvesting on Indigenous and Other Forest Area in Fak-Fak Regency, West Papua. Data collected in the field in the form of surveys and interviews with local people, owners of customary rights, a distributor of wood and forest products, and local policy makers. The purpose of the data collection, Rina explained, is to make an informed and sustainable.

"With the results learned from the data collection, our team reviewed and formulated the region's current policy on the harvesting and use of local wood. The government policies related to wood products is under review, and modifications will be proposed so that policies are made to accommodate the interests of the public either local customary rights owners, consumers, and distributors or businessmen. But more important is to save the forests in Fak-Fak regency from the dangers of illegal logging," said Rina.

Rina and the UNIPA team's recording of the use of wood for industrial purposes is an important task. Developed countries importing wood now require that imported timber be certified as legal. In Indonesia the certifying agency is the Indonesian Ecolabel Institute. All wood-products that are certified as legal enter the international market at a higher price. The additional money earned from the sale of the wood is targeted to assist with the development of the local communities where the timber originated.

Rina Nelly Jowei

Photo 2. Rina while doing interviews with traditional leaders of indigenous forest owners in the village Burmeso, Mamberamo Raya Regency, Papua

Rina's work with the UNIPA team provides her with the opportunity to cooperate with local and international NGOs and other universities. She also collaborates with the team of West Papua Provincial working groups in preparing an Academic Paper and Special Local Regulation (Raperdasus) Draft for the Province of West Papua as a Province of Conservation. Rina is also currently finalizing the terms of reference for a special project that aims to reduce the status of utilization of forest areas as a consequence from the regional development based on Law No. 21 of 2001 about Special Autonomy. This exciting project is just starting up, but it already has funding from the Government of Norway and has targeted 2016 to effect the change in status. Rina is proud to be trusted to be directly involved in this special project.

In addition to improving her English language skills and her knowledge in the field of Forest Management, Rina says that a major benefit of her studies at Michigan State University was to expand her professional network of contacts. "The establishment of communication with my professors and colleagues at Michigan State University created a discourse that allows for cooperation on projects between Michigan State University and the University of Papua," said Rina.

Although Michigan is on the other side of the planet from Papua, Forest Manager Rina Nelly Jowei manages to bring together people and ideas that will help preserve and sustain the forests and forest communities of her homeland.