Tourism Can Help Save Indonesia’s Rainforests
Six indigenous communities have launched an ecotourism initiative that would show off their ancestral forests. They hope to develop alternate economic models that local governments in Indonesia could embrace, other than extractive industries such as mining and palm oil plantations. The initiative, called Green Indonesia, would ultimately help the communities secure the rights to their own lands, an elusive goal that they have long pursued.
Indonesia has the third-largest area of rainforest in the world, and the Indigenous Peoples and local communities who live in and depend on these forests play an important role in conserving them. With global climate change challenges looming—deforestation is the leading source of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions—the fourth most populous country in the world is searching for a green economic pathway to lift people out of poverty.
Green Indonesia sees significant potential in community based eco-culture tourism—one recent study found that for 26 percent of the traveling population, sustainability and responsibility play a big part in their decision making.
Indonesia is blessed with a more than 400 ethnic groups who inhabit the largest archipelago in the world, over 18,000 islands. The six partner communities of GreenIndonesia are:
- The Sui Utik Indigenous Forest in West Kalimantan;
- The Mollo Sacred Lands in Nausus, Timor Tengah Selatan;
- The Paluanda Lama Hamu cloth weavers, in East Sumba;
- The Guguk Indigenous Forest in Jambi, Sumatra;
- The Sawai community in Seram Island, Maluku; and
- The Jatiluwih community in Tabanan, Bali.
Through GreenIndonesia, women weavers from all over Indonesia connect, share knowledge, and keep their traditions alive. The communities work with many local plants to create unique colors and pay close attention to maintaining the environment where the vegetation grows.
The Sawai community, on the island of Seram, Maluku, have transformed themselves over the last decade from poaching endangered birds for illegal wildlife traders to sustainable forest managers of one of the best birdwatching havens in Eastern Indonesia. Other partners also have inspiring successes. The Guguk Ancestral Forest community, for example, has kept logging and palm oil expansion in their territory at bay. Their forests provide a sanctuary for the critically endangered Sumatran tiger, whose population has dwindled to about 250.
The communities hope to show that resilient and green economic development is possible when local community land rights and the integrity of natural ecosystems are equally protected. The national government has been supportive. This support reflects the new government’s focus on addressing climate change and Indigenous community rights in an effective and fair way.