Story of the Land, merging local wisdom and the environment

Published by Team WISE on

Nagekeo, a regency in Eastern part of Indonesia, has been increasingly concerned about the problem of unmanaged trash in some public areas. The impact of people littering around the road is quite visible such as in the main bus terminal. WISE is starting a project called ‘Story of the Land’ (SOTL) to address the area’s problem. Rosa, a WISE Core team member will lead the project. The project’s goals are to reduce trash and to educate people about littering by leveraging local wisdom.

A pile of trash in Danga Market, Mbay, Nagekeo (Source: NTT News, 4 Feb 2018)

To execute the project, Rosa is working with local organisations and volunteers. Working in an area where tradition is still quite strong, SOTL was inspired by another project in Auckland, New Zealand, where waste management was based on a local Te Ao Māori (Māori world view) principle, the kaitiakitanga, to involve the public in order to attain a clean and healthy environment. This principle has been proven to improve public sanitation system.

Kaitiakitanga means protection and guardianship. The concept looks at the mother earth (Papatuanuku) as the one who gives humans and all other creatures life, therefore it should be protected. Maori people believe that nobody owns any part of earth and that it is everyone’s task to keep it for the future.

Similarly, SOTL’s focus is to gather local folktales and stories with values of preserving the environment and nature. However, it will not stop there, since the project’s goal is to get rid of the trash that is piling up in Nagekeo’s public areas. It will not be as easy because this involves many steps and the changing of people’s mindsets. Starting by documenting folktales and stories, Rosa hopes that she can convey the importance of keeping the environment clean to the residents who are mostly still ignorant about the need to care for the environment. Instead, residents litter in random places and regularly consume products with environmentally unfriendly packaging. By bridging people’s actions to local stories, the project aims to help people feel connected to their surroundings and slowly take action to stop littering.

A Pagomogo villager tells the story of Da’i, a hunting ritual before growing season 📷 Rosadalima Dee Panda (15 Nov 2019)

Besides that, the project also hopes to gain governmental support to renew the regulations regarding waste management and to further spread awareness of the significance of a clean environment to the public, through a ground-up, community-based approach. SOTL does not expect to see a sudden and drastic change but rather a gradual difference and reform in public attitudes, regulations, infrastructure, and other matters involved such as better knowledge of good cultural value, or more practical changes like the use of eco-friendly packaging and community engagement in the society.

✍️ Ifa Karmidi was mobilised through UNV’s Online Volunteering Service.


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