Anton Muhajir, Contributor, Nusa Ceningan, Klungkung | Thu, 06/25/2009 11:23 AM | Surfing Bali
Dressed in a dark-blue T-shirt and shorts, Kadek Sukadana accompanied seven foreign tourists walking around Nusa Ceningan, one of the Nusa Penida islands in Klungkung regency, about 70 kilometers east of Denpasar.
Sukadana’s main occupation is as a seaweed farmer, and does this part-time job of tour guide for any visitors who drop by his little island. Unlike other registered tour guides, Sukadana doesn’t have to change his “fashion style” and put on intricate Balinese traditional costumes while accompanying his guests.
On this particular bright morning, Sukadana eloquently explained the potential of the 306.5-hectare island to his guests as they trekked along the hilly terrain.
Since June 2002, residents of Nusa Ceningan have been running a village ecotourism network in which they exploit their natural resources as attractive tourist destinations. The network gives residents the opportunity to develop tourist packages and to manage local tourism to involve the entire community.
In adopting this system, residents benefit directly from any tourism-related activities, meaning they receive some income from tourism both to provide for them and to look after the island’s environment.
Since Bali was first opened to foreigners in the l950s, the island has become an easy target for investors, with many accusing those investors of developing tourist facilities for their own profit to the detriment of the environment and local people’s welfare.
Many believe mass tourism has not been good for local residents, as it tends to employ more people from outside Bali, while eating up fertile land and rice fields for glittering hotels, villas and restaurants.
In 1999, a number of large-scale investors, PT Puri Loka Asri Bali, the Bali Tourism Development corporation together with the regional government of Klungkung planned to develop Nusa Ceningan into a top-of-the-range tourist destination, complete with luxury hotels, a spacious golf course and entertainment centers.
A project such as that would have driven local residents elsewhere to make way for the project development. The locals would have had the right to live only in an area of no more than 20 percent of the total land area.
“There were about 1,500 families living on the island,” said Sukadana. “Each family was previously granted only 400 square meters of land.”
The residents strongly opposed the plan on the grounds it would destroy their lives and diminish their future as a Balinese Hindu community.
“We have been living here for years,” said Gede Lama, a member of Nusa Ceningan Community Forum. “Our forefathers established the community including our places of worship. With the project, all of our precious heritage would be gone. What about our grandchildren?”
So the community took matters into their own hands.
“We rejected the development proposal and set up our own tourism development program. It was a really small-scale one yet it benefits our own people,” Lama said.
Supported by Wisnu Foundation, a number of villages in Bali have established rural-based eco-tourism networks. Among the villages are Pelaga village in Badung regency, and Tenganan ancient village and Sibetan and Manggis village, all in Karangasem regency in East Bali.
I Gede Pratama, coordinator of the eco-tourism network, explained that the rural-based tourism scheme emphasized a number of factors including actively involving the local community, maintaining traditional culture and preserving the environment of each area.
Under the scheme, a village can set up a primary cooperative unit that is responsible for managing tourism activities and financial transactions in the village. Every resident becomes a member of the cooperative.
“Any tourism-related program is designed, planned and executed by local residents with assistance from various NGOs such as the Wisnu Foundation, Bali Legal Aid Institute and other community-based organizations,” Pratama said.
He gave an example of an eco-tourism package with prices ranging fom Rp 490,000 to Rp 1.7 million per person. The package includes transportation, meals and a tourist guide.
“The price was set and calculated by local residents,” he said. “Around 75 percent of the money will go to the cooperative.”
A member of the cooperative can borrow money from the cooperative to add to their working capital.
The other 25 percent goes the secondary cooperative.
“This is a scheme where the community has a place to empower themselves and to increase their working skills and to manage their own natural resources for their own welfare,” he added.
Residents in other villages such as Sibetan and Pelaga have been active in implementing the rural-based eco-tourism programs – and they have already felt the benefit of managing their own villages as tourist destinations.
Gede Wiratha, a farmer from Pelaga, and Komang Gede from Sibetan village also worked as traditional tourist guides.
“It is impressive. I like the informality in the way they treated us as tourists. Everything was so genuine. No exaggeration,” said Hendrikus Gego, one of the tourists.
“The program was good,” added Steff Deprez, a Belgian now residing in Bali. “I would like to come again some time.”
Sukadana said that it was high time for the regular people of Bali to benefit from the tourism industry which is community and environmentally friendly.
“We get only a small amount of money from the program yet we are very proud of it,” he said. [a!]