Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Empowerment of Local Community Through Ecotourism

I have been working as a tour operator since 2010. I don't run a big travel company. I prefer to work side by side with the indigenous Papuan people on the development and promotion of their natural resources as tourist destinations. The destinations include coastal areas along Abasi beach and Cape Bakaro as well as mountainous villages such as Syioubri, Kwau, Warmarway, Senopi and Asai. New Guinea is the largest tropical island in the world. Its forest and coral reef are home to great number of plants and animals. Half of the island, the Western New Guinea, is under the administration of Indonesia. There are two provinces in Western New Guinea, i.e. Papua and West Papua.
Some American tourists and Papuan people in the jungle of Arfak range
My eco-tourism program is a community based one. Local people will be the ones who own the guesthouses, guide the tourists and carry the bags that belong to the tourists while trekking in the jungle. This scheme will make the indigenous people give more value to their natural resources that have become the target of local, national and multinational companies. Huge areas of tropical rainforest in Western New Guinea have been converted to palm oil and cacao plantation. Significant percentage of the land have been deforested and changed into farmlands where migrants from other islands of Indonesia are invited to open rice fields, vegetable and fruit gardens.
When a group of 5 tourists go trekking in Arfak mountains, they will spend between 500 to 1,000 US dollars. This money is given directly by the visitors to the local villagers who take turn surfing the tourists. Children will gather firewood whereas mothers work as cooks. Youths will be the porters who help the visitors carry their bags and photographic equipment.
When villagers get money from this tour, they know that they have to preserve their environment if they want to get more guests. Pristine forest and coral reef absorb CO2 gases that are emitted by all of us around the globe. This simple community based ecotourism program greatly helps us in preserving our environment.