In our work for Dutch environmental and human rights organizations we see that international cooperation can make a difference for the organizations in Asia we work with. These are relatively small, strong groups that engage with local communities, restore surrounding forest areas or take action when forests and rivers have to make way for large-scale agricultural projects or infrastructure.
International cooperation strenghtens these local organizations: it offers an international stage for their story, exchange of experiences with like-minded organizations and access to international knowledge. It has also helped to gain more recognition in their own country. Some of them now lead formal steering groups to increase local community participation in river basin policy. Or they are advisors to cities that want to involve citizens more in plans for large-scale coastal development.
As an independent consultancy in the Netherlands, we are getting to know more and more Dutch organizations and institutions with ideas to protect the rivers in Asia. They have the know-how, but they can’t always find their way there. Sometimes the right local contact can help turn the idea into a great project.
Makara is an initiative of Christa Nooy. Local communities that actively protect their natural habitats are central to her work. Christa is an Indonesia specialist and has extensive experience with projects in the field of sustainable river management. After having been active in Asia for over 20 years, she has a wide international network of environmental organizations in Indonesia and Asia. With Makara she develops international projects with environmental organizations, knowledge institutions, governments and companies.
During her work trips through Asia she regularly comes face to face with Makaras: impressive mythical creatures from the Hindu culture with the head of an elephant, the skin of a fish and a crocodile tail. They serve as a fountain in water temples located in forest areas in Asia, at the source of rivers. In these places, humans and nature have traditionally been in balance for centuries. The trees in these “sacred groves” are traditionally protected by the surrounding local community. The groves give healthy rivers back in return.