Lunang Tlang Ota Ine: Forest is our mother. She breastfeeds us like her children.
The ‘Lunang Tlang Ota Ine’ philosophy is a foundation of the Punan Adiu worldview. As a community who relies on the forest, the people respect nature as an integral part of their life: as a mother who loves her children.
Children take a bath by the Malinau River, North Kalimantan Province of Indonesia, 2020.
After successfully obtaining the right to protect and manage the customary forest, a new question arose:
How can the forest sustainably support the livelihood and contemporary lifestyle of the Punan Adiu community?
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A broken gun. The Punan traditionally used blowpipes to hunt animals. Now, guns are more commonly used. 2020.
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A new electrical pole in Punan Adiu Village. Access to road infrastructure, information, technology and close contact to modern life has lead the Punan Adiu community to embrace a new lifestyle and adapt to modernity while still maintaining their subsistence culture. Punan Adiu Village, North Kalimantan Province of Indonesia. 2020.
Children pick ferns as their vegetables in the riverbank of Punan Adiu customary forest. 2020
The Punan Adiu use wood as house material. The logger should inform and get approval from the village leader before they cut the tree. 2020.
A farmer rests at lunch. Adapting sedentary farming, the Punan use shifting cultivation as their agricultural system. After several years of cultivation, a plot of farmland (jakau) is abandoned for a long time to restore its natural vegetation, nutrients and fertility. After several years of recovery, the fallow land will be slashed, cleared and planted in crops again. Punan Adiu Village, North Kalimantan Province of Indonesia, 2020.
The penetrations of the modern world also create new and complex challenges to the community. The exploitative industries in neighboring villages – such as mining and large-scale plantations – have destroyed the surrounding forest and polluted water source and lured several communities to convert their forest.
A road built by the timber industry to transport wood and mobilize workers into the logging site. Much of the customary forest in Punan Adiu and neighboring villages around North Kalimantan Province is under concession to timber, pulp and paper, coal mining and palm oil plantations. The exploitations began in 1968 during the Soeharto regime and continue until today. 2020.
A truck transports coals to Malinau, where it is shipped to Indonesia and the global market. 2020.
With increased pollution due to coal mining tailing in Malinau River, the Punan Adiu community no longer can consume its water. They conserve water from the nearest hill and collect rainwater to fulfill their needs. 2020.
Children carry fresh water in jerrycans. As the water from Malinau River is polluted by coal mining, the Punan Adiu community creates alternative water sources. They use small ponds and collect rainwater to fulfill their fresh water needs. Although this water is neither sustainable nor good quality, it has become the community’s primary source for freshwater. Punan Adiu Village, North Kalimantan Province of Indonesia, 2020.
One economic challenge is that parents need cash for their children’s education and other household needs. A long drought due to climate change has destroyed the crops and forced people to find other jobs to make ends meet. The Covid 19 pandemic has also forced families to spend extra money on technology, so children who can use phones and the internet to study.
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Lukas and his son, Ansel, take a rest inside their farming tent. Ansel is good at animal hunting. But because he needs to study in the town, Lukas will no longer have a good companion in animal hunting. “He is brave enough to do night hunting alone in the forest”, said Lukas.
Mariana and her children travel from Malinau, the nearest town, where she sells cash crops and buys stocks. The Punan Adiu community regularly travels to Malinau, the nearest town, for shopping and other activities. Malinau, North Kalimantan Province of Indonesia, 2020.
A boy and his grandparents watch a YouTube video on a smartphone.
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Ilin Markus with his daughter. Ilin is the current chief of Punan Adiu Village. Punan Adiu, North Kalimantan Province of Indonesia, 2020.
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While they continue with their subsistence lifestyle, the Punan Adiu has created plans to generate more income for the community. Optimizing the farming land, planting gaharu (ironwood / Aquilaria spp.) as a cash crop; selling non-timber forest products and rattan handicrafts; and ecotourism program and joining a carbon offset market are several of the activities which will generate more income to the community.
A boy goes fishing. Punan Adiu Village, North Kalimantan Province of Indonesia, 2020.
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Rain water. With increased pollution due to coal mining tailing in Malinau River, the Punan Adiu community no longer consumes its water. They conserve water from the nearest hill and also collect rainwater to fulfill their needs. 2020.
Martha slashes the bush in her farmland. The Punan Adiu community use slash-and-burn methods to clear farming land. After years of abandonment, fallow lands are slashed and burned. The ashes are then used as fertilizer for crops. To avoid bushfires, they create a divide along the outer border.
Irang makes a rattan handicraft. The Punan use rattan as a material for traditional pouches, bags and other handicrafts. Sometimes they sell the handicrafts as souvenirs. 2020.
Daniel prepares his spear and flashlight for night hunting. The Punan are well known as a hunter tribe in Borneo. 2020.
Some programs work well while others do not. With only 32 families in the village, they have limitations and capacity to conduct all the new plans. But working with NGOs and partners, they are continuing to manage the forest and community programs. Like nomads who always adapt in a fast changing environment, they try to find any possible solutions to harmonize natural conservation and economic empowerment.
A scarecrow. Farmers use scarecrows in the farmland to scare birds, monkeys and other animals from the nearest forest. Punan Adiu Village, North Kalimantan Province of Indonesia, 2020.
Ura takes a rest during her farming work. She complains that rats have destroyed her harvest.
Supri checks a fishing line in Malinau River. No fish are caught this day. With increased pollution due to coal mining tailing in the Malinau River, fishing has become a harder game. Locals need to go deeper to intact forest areas to catch the fish.
Collectivity is the core value of the Punan Adiu community. The forest is owned and managed by the community. People help each other and work together to reach communal prosperity. This social capital is the most precious wisdom inherited from tradition.
A group of Punan Aidu have breakfast together in Adiu River before starting their collective work (senguyun). Living in a collective community requires people to reciprocally help each other and get involved in senguyun. In senguyun culture, someone exchanges their services to mutual benefit. Instead of being paid by money, the workers can request the employers and friends to work in their future project or work. Punan Adiu Village, North Kalimantan Province of Indonesia, 2020.
Awang Tangga plays with his granddaughter in his house. As a collective community, it is common for elders to stay with their children. Punan Adiu Village, North Kalimantan Province of Indonesia. 2020.
A choir sings during Sunday Mass in Punan Adiu. 2020. The history of Catholicism in Punan Adiu began in 1976 when Italian missionaries came to the Malinau Region. Through church education programs, the Punan Adiu and other tribes in the area have gained knowledge that helps them in empowering their own community.
A nomad will always be a nomad. As a collective group, to survive is to always adapt and protect each other. Solidarity, fraternity and respect to nature are the core virtues that will ultimately help the Punan to survive both in the present and the future.
Alang paddles his canoe along the Adiu River. The river has abundant biodiversity and provides food for people. Adiu River, North Kalimantan Province of Indonesia. 2020.
A boy swims in An River. Punan Adiu customary forest. 2020.
A boy carries his puppy. Dog is Punan’s best friend. The Punan always accompanied by their dogs when hunting in the forest.