Indonesian Aboriginal communities launched a project on Friday to encourage foreign tourism in ancestral forests to slow the advance of logging operations and palm oil plantations.
Non-governmental organization GreenIndonesia, working with six indigenous groups, said the plan would ease poverty, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and diversify from traditional forest-based incomes such as weaving.
“We’re trying to draw tourists to areas of Indonesia where communities are working to preserve their land and ... show how they are helping to prevent forests from being lost,” GreenIndonesia head Chandra Kirana said.
The project was inspired by similar initiatives in the Amazon region of South America, she said at a tourism exhibition in Oslo.
West Kalimantan’s Sui Utuk community head Raymundus Remang said the villagers, who have preserved 9,000 hectares of forest from illegal logging and palm oil expansion, would welcome more visitors.
Tourists could stay in the community’s vast longhouse, where about 250 people live.
“Everyone in the village has the same feeling of having to protect the forest, because it comes from our ancestors,” he told reporters via an interpreter.
Indonesia has lost huge tracts of forests in recent years, threatening the livelihoods of forest peoples, as well as endangered creatures such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers.
Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar endorsed the ecotourism project and said the government of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who took office in October last year, was working on a decree recognizing the rights of Aboriginal groups.
Kirana said she hoped the initiative would draw hundreds, perhaps thousands, of tourists in the first year. She added that the communities would seek ways to limit the extra stresses on fragile ecosystems from more visitors.
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