Meet Erlinda Ekaputri: Indonesia Country Director

Erlinda Ekaputri, Indonesia Country Director

By Tamara Anisa, Communications Specialist Indonesia

Meet Erlinda Ekaputri, our Indonesia Country Director at Wildlife Works. She joined us in May 2021 and is one of two female country directors in our organization. Erlinda started her career as a researcher at a local NGO on public policy analysis, where she focused on social economics for five years. During this time, she learned about economic disparities and how policy can either improve or worsen the lives of many. She also learned about environmental degradation and its impact specifically on rural women.

“One day, I got a task to study the impact of a water and sanitation project. During my interviews with some households in an Indonesian village, I learned that women and girls are the ones who suffer the most from environmental degradation,” shares Erlinda. The lack of clean water due to environmental destruction has forced women and girls in the families to walk miles away to fetch water for their daily needs. As someone who is living in the city where you can just open the tap to get water, this suffering is unbearable.”

Erlinda then moved to a DFAT project on Indonesia Infrastructure Initiative (IndII) to learn how to turn research into action. She held a position as National Monitoring and Evaluation person where one of her tasks was to ensure that project interventions, including providing clean water, would bring about positive impacts for those who need it most.

After working for an infrastructure program, Erlinda grabbed an opportunity to level up her knowledge and experience by taking a leadership position in the department of Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) at Indonesia Forest & Climate Support (IFACS), a USAID funded project. “To me, M&E is always a part of science and a part of art. It should not be an add-on to any projects. It’s a powerful management tool. It enables you to make an informed management decision. Think about having a trip where you’ll get lost if you don’t have a map; that’s what M&E is all about. Data equips you with a map, so you will know if you are or aren’t achieving your goals”. This job exposed her to natural resource management, environmental politics, and how they intertwine.

Erlinda then continued her works from IFACS to USAID Lestari. Lestari means everlasting in Bahasa Indonesia. As with IFACS, the goal of this program was to reduce greenhouse gas emission from land use and to conserve biodiversity in carbon-rich and biologically significant forest ecosystems.

“At USAID Lestari, I became the Deputy Chief of Party (DCOP). I managed project activities in two large landscapes of Aceh (Sumatera Island) and Central Kalimantan (Borneo Island), learning about changing people’s perceptions and behaviors towards the environment,” Erlinda reflects.

In early 2021, Wildlife Works recognized Erlinda’s outstanding contributions and invited her to join as the Indonesia Country Director, entrusting her with leading the company’s growing expansion in one of the most important forested countries. Her dedication to abate environmental destruction aligns seamlessly with our commitment to long-term, community-centric conservation.

“I was particularly impressed by the Kasigau Project, to learn how protecting the environment can indeed leading to improving communities’ welfare,” Erlinda states.

Erlinda, with her background in Monitoring and Evaluation, relies on data. She believes in the success of projects like Kasigau and Mai Ndombe, which prove that nature conservation is the solution to poverty alleviation. She is passionate about putting people at the center of forest conservation.

The Central Agency of Statistics records that there are 81,616 villages in Indonesia. Of this number, data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) states that 25,863 villages (31.68 percent) are located in and around forest areas. In 2021, BPS reported that 36.7 percent of villages located in forest areas were categorized as poor.

“When the rate of deforestation and degradation is high, the people who live close to the forest are the most affected,” says Erlinda.

Erlinda realizes that it is normal to feel desperate while witnessing our environment be deteriorated at an unprecedented rate, but remains hopeful.

“There is no Planet B. At some point down the road, humans will be left with no choice other than working hand in hand to save the environment.” Despite challenges posed by climate change, Erlinda stays optimistic, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and trust. “I believe that communities are our true allies in saving the environment. Gaining their trust is crucial. Any efforts won’t work if you don’t trust your partners,” Erlinda stresses.

“Outside of work, I enjoy reading during my free time,” Erlinda shares. Erlinda is currently reading “Filosofi Kebahagiaan” (Philosophy of Happiness) by Dr. Fahruddin Faiz, an Indonesian author and university lecturer. She also seeks wisdom from figures like Plato and Al-Ghazali.

“I have come into conclusion that happy people won’t do harm. Happy people are not greedy. Because all the teachings about finding true happiness are centered on living a balance life, and living in a harmony with nature.”

Erlinda’s story reflects her unwavering dedication to environmental conservation and sustainable development for forest communities, making her an invaluable part of the Wildlife Works team.

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