From logging and poaching to adventure and tourism, West Sumatra

Indonesia’s tropical forests are disappearing faster than any other forests on earth. The Gamaran Protected Forest in West Sumatra hosts a myriad of wildlife, wild rivers, waterfalls and expansive cave systems. It is a potential hotspot for outdoor enthusiasts and a critical link to the local community conservation vision.
 
In the forest
In the forest

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The Project

The current threats to the forest include poaching and illegal logging to supply wood for building, brick firing and illegal export. There is a strong drive amongst the local communities to develop alternative livelihoods that nurture the forest and support their local economy, cultural values, language and ancient traditions.

This project will train local poachers and illegal forest workers and their families in biocultural diversity tourism, hospitality and conservation management. New trails and adventure activities will be developed in the forest buffer zone to attract outdoor enthusiasts to the area and bring in alternative income streams. The project will also enable reforestation and promote agro-forestry.
 
Guide Training
Guide Training

The Update

The project has been centred around four main villages on the periphery of the rainforest, and developing new adventure activities. Training has been given to 66 guides in different activities (first aid, water safety, lifeguarding, tubing, abseiling). Seventy community members have received training in conservation and tourism development. CLI has given talks to 3 local universities and 10 local schools about the EOCA funded project on the importance of community environments and the role tourism has to play in future conservation and its potential economy benefits.

Each of the four new activities, (tubing, caving, abseiling and expeditions/hiking), have given employment to over 80 guides directly, which has had a knock on effect in creating alternative employment indirectly, from shops to transport and accommodation,  the majority of whom would have used illegal logging as part of their livelihood strategy. In three of the villages, 10 new trails and 3 extended trails have been created.

The idea of adventure activities has added great excitement and interest within the local communities. Each of the activities has had increased users each week, mainly from local tourism. Tourism numbers in the past would have been between 50 to 100 visitors a month, this number has doubled in the last three months to between 200/300 monthly visitors using the new trails and the adventure activities.       

To date CLI has been notified by the local department of forestry about the reduction of trees being removed from the forest and  there has been a considerable decline in the number of complaints about logging within the area.

Training of community members on conservation monitoring is ongoing. One village has started to restore part of its degraded areas through cultivation. In 12 hectares they are planting cacao and mango trees. They have also started a fish conservation project in a the stream which has had a no catch enforcement in place for three years. 
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We are hugely grateful for the support of the European Outdoor Conservation Association, without whose support we could never have realised such an ambitious project.
Hugo Tagholm, Surfers Against Sewage