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  • Writer's picturePatricia Chu

Mitra BUMMA: Accelerating Indigenous-led climate solutions

Source: Mitra BUMMA

What are your backgrounds, and what inspired you to found Mitra BUMMA? 

We’re Dominique and Ruwi, and we serve as co-CEOs of Mitra BUMMA, currently a project of the for-profit arm of Forest Watch Indonesia (PT Fajar Wana Indonesia) with plans to incorporate as our own legal entity in the near future. We co-founded Mitra BUMMA in 2022 in collaboration with Abdon Nababan, the former Secretary General of the Indigenous Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN), the largest Indigenous membership organization in the world. Our unique partnership brings together Abdon’s 30+ years of leadership in Indigenous Peoples' issues, Ruwi’s pioneering social enterprise models that redefined Indonesia’s extractive forestry and fishery sectors, and Dominique’s business management background working for the largest private supply chain solutions provider in commercial aviation.

We created Mitra BUMMA to address the urgent need for genuine business models supporting indigenous-led climate solutions. Despite Indigenous Peoples stewarding 80% of the world's biodiversity, they receive less than 1% of climate financing. Mitra BUMMA aims to rectify this inequity, demonstrating that environmental preservation and Indigenous culture can coexist. Mitra BUMMA seeks to scale a collective resource model from micro-level community projects to larger tribal initiatives with global market engagement. 

Describe Mitra BUMMA and its business model in a nutshell.

Mitra translates to “partner” in Bahasa Indonesia. As such, we partner with Indigenous tribes in Indonesia in developing their Indigenous-owned Enterprises (BUMMAs). We do this by providing them with holistic support ranging from business development to technical services such as GIS Mapping to capital support. The BUMMAs developed then function as the mechanism for each tribe to secure and manage their territories and forests. BUMMAs serve as a practical solution to simultaneously address Indigenous Peoples’ sovereignty and climate change.

Upon the successful operation of the BUMMA, Mitra BUMMA receives a share of the revenue. This revenue sharing agreement, along with fees for additional management services, serves to reimburse the initial capital invested in incubating the BUMMAs. Recognizing the growing interest in this model, we also extend our consulting services to other tribes and NGOs seeking guidance in developing their BUMMAs.

Source: Mitra BUMMA

How is Mitra BUMMA driving environmental and/or social impact for the Namblong and Mare communities in Indonesia?


Mitra BUMMA achieves environmental and social impact in four key ways:

First, development of BUMMAs allows tribal members to collectively benefit from managing their customary lands.


Second, we address external and internal threats to deforestation. We work with Indigenous peoples to promote conservation and create livelihood opportunities to foster their local economy. By strengthening existing assets and creating products with ecological and financial value, the communities are less susceptible to internal and external threats such as land sales to extractive companies.


A third avenue focuses on enhancing gender outcomes. Many women are currently excluded from leadership and participation in the economy. The BUMMAs provide an opportunity to hire and train women from director to entry level. Tribal women lead our pilot BUMMAs, serving as CEO and CFO of the Namblong and Mare tribe BUMMAs, respectively.

Lastly, we contribute to impact by preserving customary lifeways. Our products, such as ecotourism for example, incorporate Indigenous rituals, traditional foods, and immersion in land management practices.

What is your focus on now that you have completed set up and are looking to improve operations for Namblong BUMMA’s vanilla business?

Vanilla serves as our initial focus among potential non-timber forest products. In the inaugural year, we laid the groundwork by conducting surveys on farmers and market conditions, developing a business plan to elevate the value chain with dry vanilla beans, bringing in trainers, constructing facilities, and formulating a standard operating procedure.

This second year, we are focused on operational efficiency, producing high-quality vanilla beans, and securing our first buyers. After the initial batch of vanilla beans fell short of our quality standards, we conducted a thorough investigation, adjusting processes accordingly.  

The structures and processes devised for vanilla will be extrapolated to other products such as coconut, cacao, and taro.

Source: Mitra BUMMA

What makes you unique?

Our uniqueness is how we cultivate partnerships and our authentic Indigenous leadership.


The noken, acknowledged as UNESCO's world heritage, is a fundamental woven bag integral to the daily life and identity of every Papuan. It serves various purposes, from carrying crops to representing qualities such as flexibility, openness, transparency, and usefulness.

Our partnerships are crafted to embody the values exemplified by the versatile noken. Our meetings are conducted in the forests we are seeking to protect and spoken in native languages. For many Indigenous people, each tree, plant and species is a living being with its own spirit. When we discuss our work in the forests, each of those spirits bear witness to our work and hold us accountable to the social contracts we have made to each other.

What feedback have you received from Indigenous communities and from other organizations involved with Indigenous communities, and how are you addressing it?

One significant concern raised by Indigenous communities is the challenge they have in doing their work due to a lack of resources. This difficulty extends to transportation, hindering their ability to attend meetings and organize peers. Communication is also challenging due to a lack of phones, computers, and cell service.

In response, Mitra BUMMA provides resources to support the operations of Indigenous communities. Reciprocity grant agreements have been established between Mitra BUMMA and BUMMA Namblong and Mare, offering support for monthly operational expenses and a modest budget for capital expenditures such as equipment and technology. The grants will be the first opportunity for the tribes to collectively manage financial resources.

Other feedback has been to focus on providing small, tangible wins for the community in order to build trust in the process and partnership. To address this, Mitra BUMMA is strategically developing non-timber forest products like vanilla and ecotourism, which have shorter lead times to profitability compared to ecosystem services and carbon.

Source: Mitra BUMMA

What are the major challenges you have overcome?

Mitra BUMMA has encountered and overcome three major challenges.


The first challenge is scepticism and cynicism from various stakeholders, including tribal members, NGOs, government officials, and philanthropic and investment funders. The historical context of colonialism and marginalization in Papua left tribal members doubtful of the potential for systemic change. However, through persistence, commitment, and tangible results, Mitra BUMMA successfully shifted their perspectives. We gained public support at a stakeholder conference on November 28th hosted by the regional government, BUMMA Namblong, the Samdhana Institute, and Mitra BUMMA.

The second challenge is systemic. We are pioneering the legal basis by which Indigenous-owned corporations can manage ecosystem services within their own territories. Mitra BUMMA is addressing the gap in regulation by developing and socializing a comprehensive white paper outlining the framework and strategy to affirm tribal partners' clear ownership and control over their territories. Apart from the regulatory requirements, current mainstream funding options are not flexible and not designed for Indigenous peoples nor their BUMMAs. We are working to address this issue by partnering with values- and heart-aligned funders to support our work, such as Imaginal Seeds.

The third challenge relates to establishing routine business operations. The reality of doing this work means building a functional team and conducting work across a 17-hour time zone difference, navigating at least four different languages and cultures, and coordinating with 16,000 community members in 75+ villages across 100,000 hectares with varying levels of access to transportation and communication resources. Though navigating this diversity was challenging at first, it has become one of our greatest strengths. Our team’s diversity reflects the (bio)diversity in nature and allows our team to be more adaptable, resilient, and balanced.


How are you funded, and are you looking to raise more funding?

Our funding is sourced from grants and service agreements. We are actively seeking seed capital in the form of grant funding for the next five years to complete the initial two pilot BUMMAs. Looking ahead, we are currently designing an investment option for impact investors. 

What are your goals and expectations for the next 5 years? How do you see Mitra BUMMA evolving in the long-term?

In the long term, we want to see the 53 million hectares of land in Indonesia currently stewarded by Indigenous peoples to be formally managed by BUMMAs to ensure continued protection and conservation of their forests, oceans, and culture. This would protect biodiversity and improve the livelihoods and sovereignty of millions of Indigenous peoples.

As this is a pioneering concept, our goal is to successfully develop, incorporate, and begin generating revenue for the first two pilot BUMMAs in Indonesia. We aim to develop a roadmap or blueprint that will allow other Indigenous tribes to streamline development of their own BUMMAs.

What are milestones you hope to achieve working with the Namblong and Mare communities in the near term and long term?

Since the tribal recognition status as well as the governance of the two tribes vary, the pathways to BUMMA Namblong and Mare’s development are distinct.

Our near-term milestones are ensuring that the non-timber forest product lines (vanilla and ecotourism) for BUMMA Namblong are self-sufficient.

Since Mare currently does not yet have a governance system at the tribal level nor tribal recognition, we continue to work with the village chiefs to design their tribal governance structure and collaborate with the local government to gain land recognition and rights. Just this week, the Papuan legislation, informed by data our team collected, voted to recognize the tribes in the Maybrat district, which includes Mare.


Lastly, we aim to complete the design of the carbon projects for both tribes and secure necessary funds for its successful implementation.

Read more about Mitra BUMMA's work here.



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