Mama Aleta Baun was awarded the Goldman Prize in 2013 for organizing hundreds of local villagers to peacefully occupy marble mining sites in “weaving protests,” which stopped the destruction of sacred forestland on Mutis Mountain on the island of Timor, Indonesia.
In the year since winning the Prize, Baun has continued to empower the people of the Timor Tengah Selatan district, whose livelihoods are constantly threatened by the extractive industries, climate change and poverty.
“Poverty drives people to exploit natural resources, and in the process destroy those resources and divide communities – pitting elders against community members, and communities against other communities,” said Baun.
In an effort to combat poverty and natural resource degradation, Baun and her organization Pokja OAT have developed five program areas that focus on food security and storage; environmental restoration and tree-planting; empowering women through weaving and other sustainable income-generating activities; legal advocacy and a credit union.
Since 2011, the number of community groups working with Pokja OAT increased from 120 to 320, keeping Mama Aleta and her team busy with field visits to remote villages.
Since winning the Prize, so many funders have showed interest in supporting Baun’s work that she decided to create the Mama Aleta Fund. A team of advisers is currently helping set up the fund, with plans to officially launch in November 2014.