Biological Diversity And Cultural Diversity, Base of Human Understanding To Respect for Nature And Build Sustainable Development (Case Study: Dayak Meratus Local Wisdom, South Borneo, Indonesia)

Talking about biodiversity isn’t eassy. It is a complex, scientific subject that encompasses everything and everyone. However, biodiversity is also an inspiring and exciting story, biodiversity also have linkage with other sector, like economic and social. Include in social aspect here is cultural diversity. H
ow the indigineous people and local communities protect the biological diversity with their local wisdom.

Base by The United Nations Millennium Declaration (2000) called for “Respect for Nature” as one of the fundamental values for humanity. The Declaration urges: “Prudence must be shown in the management of all living species and natural resources, in accordance with the precepts of sustainable development….”, and declarate of SCBD about The theme of the International Day for Biological Diversity in 2010 is Biodiversity for Development and Poverty Alleviation. This shows that some of this and future years natural protection and sustainable development in terms of community perspective will be noticed and developed, therefore the relationship between society and biodiversity deserve to be studied.

Well, the relations between cultural diversity and biodiversity often seem little more than a vague analogy. They take on a much more specific meaning when biodiversity produced over time by human action is regarded as a manifestation of the diversity of cultures. Cultural diversity is thus an essential basis for worldwide action in favour of sustainable development. But to be able to manage something, one must first know what it is.

Meratus mountain is natural tropical rain forest left in South Kalimantan province, where it’s ecosystem is mountain area divides South Kalimantan province into two parts, along more than 600 km from southeast turn left to north until East Kalimantan border, total area is more than one million hectares. This ecosystem is fragile and sensitive area, so we have to very careful  in the developing of this mountain (see Article 13 CBD – Convention on Biological Diversity; Mountain Ecosystem and Sustainable Mountain Development).

Geographically, Meratus mountain lies between 115O38’00” to 115o52’00” Eastern line and 2o28’00” to 20o54’00” Southern line. This mountain is part of the nine regions (Kabupaten) in South Kalimantan province, namely Hulu Sungai Tengah, Hulu Sungai Selatan, Hulu Sungai Utara, Tabalong, Kota Baru, Banjar, Tapin and Balangan. Meratus mountain can be classified as low mountain  forest, with high level biodiversity, some dominant species such as White Meranti (Shorea spp), Red Meranti (Shorea spp), Agathis (Agathis bornensis), Kenari (Canarium dicolatum BI), Nyatoh (Palaquium spp), Kempas (Koompassia sp), Medang (Litsea sp), Durian (Durio sp), Gerunggang (Cratoxylon arborecens BI), Belatung (Querqus sp), etc.   Cause of this forest area is an upstream of catchment area, so it is very important as water reservoir of South Kalimantan.

There are some local communities lived in this forest area, called Dayak Meratus. They live in this area hundreds even thousands years ago (Tjilik Riwut in  Radam, 1987), along  the rivers bank of the mountain. They lived in a small group called “balai”. I don’t know exactly the numbers of balai in the area, Kompas magazine said at least 300 balai, event ones said not less than 700 balai. To live in the nature Dayak Meratus society life in five principles on natural resources management are : sustainability, togetherness, biodiversity, subsistence and adat rules enforcement, by this term them life and managing the nature.

Dayak Meratus society is very wise in managing of natural resources, they believe that nature is their friend and source of life. Forest is not only source of food for their life, but also has an important role in the depending their life and religion. Their motto : Forest is our mother, if you take us out of the forest it means you cut our life chain. In managing natural resources, Dayak Meratus society not only extracting, but also stepping wised process. The process based on their experience and their grand- grand father tales. Before cutting the forest for cultivation area, cutting and burning, cultivating (planting) the land, harvesting and past harvesting they do some ritual ceremonies.

Dayak Meratus society applied shifting cultivation or shifting agriculture in order to solved decreasing land productivity problem. They cut the forest for planting area (ladang = payah) and burn in the end of dry season and planting rice and other crops in the beginning of rainy season for two or three years. They leaved their land for   10 to 15 years, until old ladang become secondary forest (=fallow period) and cut the forest in same way for new ladang. Tight relationship between people and forest  (natural resource) that served their needs, expressed in community party (=aruh). Indirectly, aruh is held to remain the society to keep the relationship between people and forest and also the death souls always in balance.  There are nine community parties are held by Dayak Meratus society since preparing cutting the forest till post harvesting (Radam Haloei, 1983).



Forest position as breath life of the Dayak Meratus society, makes them keep and manage the forest in the right way. Forest becomes their ideological base, social and also support their economic. They believe that Jubata, Duwata (God of Dayak Meratus) will punish who destroy the forest, so in the daily life of Dayak society, people and forest are unity, serve and protect each other. Using of forest and its product is  arrange in the society rule, punishment will be given to the people who broke rule, decided by Kepala Adat or Damang.  For example, punishment will be given to the people who cut the trees in the wrong way or doing some thing makes some one unhappy.

The examples from the Dayak Meratus life indicates that there is harmony between cultural diversity and biodiversity. How nature leads the community and how the people think and act wisely in managing their nature. This is the basis which we have and must come up again and preserve it, particularly in modern society which tends careless in managing nature. There were interesting expressions from my father, he said the local community with an ax to cut down trees need many days to trunk one tree, while modern society may be cutting hundreds of acres just a matter of seconds, with them high-tech saw named a PEN.

This issue just one little example of local wisdom from local communities, their many local communities and indigineous people from all over the world which have the relations between societies and nature, from the Philippines to Benin, from the sub-Arctic to Melanesia, and from Thailand to France. The perceived separation between biological diversity and cultural diversity obscures the reality that both diversities are mutually reinforcing and mutually dependent. We cannot understand and conserve the natural environment unless we understand the human cultures that shape it. Each culture possesses its own sets of representations, knowledge and practices. Human action with respect to the environment, including management itself, is a social act and an expression of culture. Together, cultural diversity and biological diversity hold the key to ensuring resilience in both social and ecological systems. The Seville Strategy for biosphere reserves shows the links between biodiversity and cultural diversity through sites which serve to test and demonstrate approaches to sustainable development.


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