‘If the forests around us are not lasting, we would be losing our livelihood. And we are ready to do anything to protect these trees and protect our livelihoods.’ – Ira, Local Guide and the current generation of the community whose main job was to illegally fetch out the wood from forests. People of Tangkahan, Indonesia found their bread and butter only in illegal tree cutting activities. Their grandfathers and fathers also had logging as their main source of income. It is nothing less than a miracle when the very next generation of this community talks only about preserving their forests. The reason for this miracle is Ecotourism development in Tangkahan.
Tangkahan is located on the Batang River, bordering the GunungLeuser National Park of Indonesia. Home to Sumatran Elephant, Tigers, Orangutans – this region is expanded into 7,927 Sq. Km. This is where the generations of illegal loggers lived and eventually spent a couple of years in jail for exploiting nature. Pak Okor, currently the founder of Tangkahan Tourism was also one of them. During the time he spent in jail, he realized the next generation does not deserve the kind of life he and his elders lived. Their future has to be changed and for that, this generation old practice of logging has to be stopped. He came out with the determination to preserve the forest and creating dignified livelihood opportunities for the youngsters. He developed a successful Ecotourism model whose strengths are – Product development, creating fair opportunity, and investing back in education and maintenance of the place.
Ecotourism – In Local Context
He set up an Ecotourism Model suitable to the place where various tourism products such as Elephant Walks, Forest Walks, Bathing Elephants in Batang River, are formed that are lead by the youngsters of the village. These elephants are rescued from conflict zones and left here. When the animals are not with guests, they are roaming freely in the forest. The only entering point for the tourists to come to Tangkahan is through Community Tour Operators (CTO). These CTO explain the concept of Ecotourism, community homestays where the guests can stay, and activities they can do. Guests make their selection of homestays and experiences through CTO. Local guides take these guests around for various experiences in forest and with the community. Profit generated through these tourism activities goes towards improving education and waste collection and management. As the focus of the model is to build a better future for the next generation, the community happily agrees to it.
It becomes a success story when the government authorities see it as a model that should be replicated in other regions for the conservation and developing livelihood for locals. The success of the model lies in implementing Ecotourism in the local context – To create dignified future for next-generation and developing tourism experiences around nature preservations.