Meeting Challenges in Indonesia’s Papua Region

Photos by UNDP Indonesia

Decked out in a chicken feather hat and a western football garb, Dernus Jikwa carries a bunch of sweet potato leaves on his left arm to feed an army of furry rabbits inside a wooden cage.

“People come and buy these rabbits…they use them for food and rituals …,” the father of two said excitedly in broken Indonesian, referring to medicinal rituals which often involve animals as sacrificial objects.

Dernus is a member of a tribe in Bolakme district in the central highlands of Papua who not long ago struggled to make ends meet. The rabbit farming is one of many projects under UNDP’s People-Centered Development Programme (PCDP); it’s given him extra cash to buy basic needs and provide school supplies for his children. 


  • Papua lags behind in terms of achieving the MDGs, with around 40 percent of Papua's population live below the poverty line.
  • UNDP's People-Centered Development (PCDP) has been supporting the people of Papua, designed to the specific local traditions and circumstances of the community.
  • UNDP aims to to partner with the local government, ILO, & other key stakeholders to support more people in Papua.

His achievement may appear miniscule but it’s a result of a community empowerment programme which involves comprehensive interventions in policy-making and budgeting processes at all levels in Papua province.

At the eastern end of Indonesia, the vast province of Papua offers unique and complex challenges.

According to a 2004 and 2009 UN backed assessment, the main hurdle halting the development of Papua is weak governance, including lack of local capacity for policy-making and to deliver basic services to its over 3.5 million people.  Moreover, in terms of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), Papua lags behind most other provinces, especially in the areas of poverty and health. 

In tandem with its community development efforts that place strong emphasis on active participation from communities, PCDP has been supporting the integration of MDG and human development indicators in local policy-making and resource allocation processes. Among other things, the project is supporting the development of a provincial Human Development Report, as well as training in pro-poor planning and budgeting (P3BM) for provincial government authorities. In other provinces where the P3BM methodology has been adopted,  a 17-20% average real increase in local government budgetary allocations to the poor has been witnessed.

“UNDP played a major role in influencing the local government to put more resources and money on community empowerment programmes and towards MDG related issues such as education, and health,” says UNDP’s Community Development Specialist in Papua, Bishnu Ghimire, who has been involved in the PCDP since its inception in 2006.

Bishnu adds that a critical but often overlooked breakthrough has been to make the local government aware of the importance of working with faith-based groups and local NGOs, in order to facilitate projects in isolated or hard to reach rural areas such as Bolakme.



Impoverished and underdeveloped, in many ways Bolakme district reflects the overall picture of Papua, a vast and scarcely-populated province where 40 percent of the population live below the poverty line.

Just getting to Bolakme is a challenge in itself. Half of the road is littered with potholes, some as big as the car.  While it is only a two hour drive from Wamena, a trading centre with its own airport, poor infrastructure means Bolakme feels much further than its more developed neighbor.

Like the residents of most indigenous communities in Bolakme, Dernus comes from a tribal group who until recently practiced prehistoric customs.  The first contact of these tribes with outsiders was made in the 1950’s during the Dutch colonization. Some say that until today there are tribal groups in Papua who remain hidden from the outside world.


Each community-based component of PCDP is designed to the specific local traditions and circumstances of the community.  In Bolakme, rabbit farming has been successful because raising animals was already an integral part of daily life.  Most of the materials for the cage are also sourced locally and the food is already available in the community.   

High in protein, rabbits have also become part of their daily consumption, providing an alternative solution to improve the quality of food intake in Papua where almost half of the population suffers from malnutrition.



The community in Bolakme says a successful project like the rabbit farming has given them a sense of achievement, and they are hoping that other villages will do the same.

Standing near a cluster of fish ponds behind the rabbit cage,  the head of the farming  project, Amius Tebuni talks about his other plans to become even more self-reliant.

The pond is part of the community fish farming project developed under the PCDP programme in conjunction with a local NGO and the local Fisheries and Livestock Department.

After receiving the UNDP grant, villagers in Bolakme decided to build more than 100 ponds to breed fresh water carp fish and tilapia. Like the rabbit farming, the pond fish has also generated extra cash for Amius and others.

“We sell the fish to the market…..I hope someday I can become fish supplier (to Wamena),” says Amius. 

Villagers say all restaurants in neighboring Wamena town receive their fish supply from outside Papua.  

Amius says he can sell the fish to those restaurants at a cheaper price but is hoping to develop greater skills in marketing and business management.

UNDP aims to partner with the local government, ILO and other key local stakeholders to support Amius and thousands more. In phase 2 of the project, UNDP and ILO will work to design a province-wide micro-enterprise lending and business support services programme in partnership with local bank(s) and NGOs. PCDP is also supporting the development of the central government’s  Accelerated Programme for the Advancement of Papua, and aims to foster stronger partnerships between Government and NGOs/CSOs to sustainably deliver basic social services to hard to reach communities across the province. 


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