The environmental group WWF has joined forces with Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s biggest Islamic organization, in an effort to preserve the environment by raising public awareness of the issue.
Nyoman Iswarayoga, director of climate and energy issues at WWF-Indonesia, said on Monday that his group was eager to work with large organizations in a bid to spread the message about saving the environment.
“It’s easier to approach the public through a mass organization that is connected to a group of followers,” he said.
“This is actually not the first time we’ve engaged with mass organizations, including religious ones, for this purpose. For instance, we held a public discussion on preserving the environment from an Islamic perspective in Aceh before the 2004 tsunami.”
He was speaking after the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the WWF and NU.
Efransjah, head of WWF-Indonesia, said the agreement called for a combination of environmental conservation and religious values to deal with the impact of climate change.
“We’re confident that the wide network of organizations under NU will help us to raise public awareness about preserving the environment and the country’s biodiversity,” he said.
NU has a history of campaigning on environment-related issues. In 2004, it set up a community-based disaster risk management body to address issues such as flooding and landslides resulting from deforestation.
In March this year, it renamed the body the Disaster and Climate Change Board (LPBI-NU) to better reflect its wider focus on addressing the impact of climate change.
Avianto Muhtadi, head of the LPBI-NU, said that since its 2004 inception the board had worked with various local and international environmental organizations to set up community programs, backed by local clerics, to help preserve the environment.
“NU has 70 million followers and a network of 15,000 pesantren [Islamic boarding schools] in Indonesia,” he said.
“To get the message across to them, we’ll draft material for a dakwah [a campaign through preaching] and train local clerics to present it.”
Avianto said the material would be drafted based on “Islamic values and national or international environmental laws, such as the Hyogo Framework and Indonesia’s 2007 Law on Disaster Management.”
The Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-15 aims to identify ways to build countries’ and communities’ resilience to disasters.
“So far we’ve reached our goals in several districts in Indonesia,” Avianto said. “For instance, we’ve planted 12,000 trees in Jember district in East Java.”
Iswarayoga said while Monday’s signing marked the first formal agreement between the WWF and NU, the two had worked together on environmental issues for the past four years.
As part of the agreement, he said, both sides would set up climate change adaptation programs for different district, tailored to the kinds of problems they were facing.
“We’ll have to identify what kind of problems they have because each district will have a different issue,” Iswarayoga said.