Valentinus Heri

Riak Bumi

Heri is a member of the Iban Dayak people, and was born in Lanjak, West Kalimantan. He grew up in the current National Park, which was his playground when he was a child. His father is a well-known figure in the area, and he sent Heri to elementary school in Singkawang, outside of their village, and to high school and university in Pontianak. In 1995, Heri began working at the Wetlands International Indonesia Program on the Lake Sentarum National Park wetland conservation project, as a Community Conservation Officer. During his three years of work there, he learned about local forest honey collectors’ potential and needs, such as addressing quality, price, and market control by middlemen. In search of sustainable techniques to improve forest honey quality, Heri visited Vietnam and learned about alternative harvesting methods. He then sent some of the Indonesian forest honey collectors to Vietnam to learn these methods. However, the Wetland International Indonesia Programme closed the project in 1997, and the honey collectors still faced problems over the price control set by middlemen. Over the following three years, Heri worked at Dian Tama Foundation as a project leader, where he gained experience in product development. For years, Heri tried to work out how to overcome the forest honey price monopoly of the middlemen. He was moved by the forest honey collector’s complaints that the Dian Tama project bought honey from only some of them. Heri then realized that an association of honey collectors was required in order for them to control the price themselves. He resigned from Dian Tama, and alongside several colleagues he co-founded the NGO Riak Bumi, in order to develop the forest honey collectors’ association and help them to balance conservation and sustainable livelihoods.