Healthy Community, Healthy Land: rediscovering the art of community self-governance

A Report on the visit of a delegation from Raja Ampat, West Papua Province, Indonesia to Scotland – The Isles of Lewis & Harris, April 2019

by Alastair McIntosh, Vérène Nicolas & Sibongile Pradhan

Between 20th and 30th April 2019 a delegation from the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua (covering the western half of New Guinea) visited Scotland to learn from people in the Hebrides about what it takes to rekindle and govern community, and to share their own experience with these things.  Most of the delegation’s time was spent meeting with
Community Land and Development Trusts on the Hebridean island that is known as Harris in the south and Lewis in the north.

The core of the delegation were village leaders from a range of island settlements involved in community-based ecotourism and who are members of the Raja Ampat Homestay Association (PERJAMPAT). The Association represents around a hundred indigenous, family-run, ecotourism businesses dedicated to sustaining their island home and way of life.

The exchange explored how land reform in Scotland has given communities the means to recover from bygone trauma of eviction, decades of emigration and the loss of language and identity. It revealed the common ground that rural communities in Papua share in that story, and facilitated discussions around:

(1) The importance of remembering and celebrating community language, history and identity, and of ensuring that future generations learn about these things, too.
(2) The qualities of collaborative and spiritually grounded leadership needed to hold healthy community, and to work accountably and in service of others.
(3) The role that community ownership and enterprise play in meeting basic needs such as health, education, energy and housing, while strengthening the bonds between people and with the land.
(4) Supporting organisational structures that serve to keep land in community ownership and management; and to engage government.

Read the full report here.