The earliest recorded history of Rumah Kinangkung, a small village in north Sumatra, Indonesia tells of the Dutch invaders who came to Indonesia in the early 1600s. The forests surrounding the village were used by the local resistance to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Dutch occupation force. The natives lost that struggle and Indonesia became the Dutch East Indies.
The Dutch Occupation of Indonesia ended only when the Japanese invaded Indonesia in 1942. Throughout this whole time, the village of Rumah Kinangkung and its residents survived off what protection and food the surrounding jungles provided. The close ties between the forest dwellers and their surroundings remain today but things have changed.
Including Local Communities as The Way Forward for Conservation
In the case of Rumah Kinangkung and its 70 households, Indonesian NGO, Indonesian Species Conservation Program ( ISCP ) is working a project from the bottom up. Having studied the area for the past three years, ISCP is now engaging local communities in conservation. The challenge will be to find alternative livelihoods for these people. A live pangolin for example, can fetch $30 per kilo while the casque of the Helmeted hornbill can bring as much as $600 each. These are good payouts for people whose income from forest products average $150 monthly.
Convincing all the hunters from the village to stop hunting and work in farming will not be easy as the villagers see it as a customary right and tradition to take from the forests. ISCP’s researched showed that most of the villagers actively hunt for food and income. Others that claimed that they did not hunt, admitted that they do kill any wildlife that threatens their crops.
Rudianto Sembiring who heads ISCP is worried about the status of wildlife in the area.
It’s not only the birds that have disappeared from our forests. Pangolins are becoming very rare.
Potential wildlife in the forest area of Sibolangit is big, especially in the vicinity of protected forest village areas in Rumah Kinangkung, Pagaraji and Buluhawar. These areas border with Bukit Barisan park as well as the Leuser Ecosystem area where many of us encounter animal wildlife such as silver leaf mongkey, macaca, gibbon , siamang, sun bears , orangutans and pangolin.
We have to raise the profile of forest areas in Sibolangit to the same level as the Leuser in Aceh, Langkat, Batang Toru, Batang Gadis and other high conservation areas in North Sumatra.
A farmers co-op has been created with a few families to grow high demand crops like palm sugar and asam gelugur. Both of these require a few years before their fruits can be harvested so in the meantime, fast growing crops like chili peppers and corn will be planted in a permaculture set up to provide food and income.
Will a low budget conservation project succeed where big funds from international conservation groups have failed? I think so. The mistakes made by the big conservation groups in excluding local communities have been noted by ISCP. The biggest concern that the director, Rudianto has, is that he has to learn a new skill for conservation, which will be marketing the produce from the farmers group to ensure their income from farming will be enough to reduce their dependence on the forests.
In his most recent trip into the forests around Rumah Kinangkung village, hornbills were seen. It’s a good sign that it’s not too late to introduce conservation to the area by providing the forest peoples with alternate livelihoods.
My Tour Guide is a kind of environmentally friendly tourism. That is, through activities related to nature, tourists are invited to see nature up close, enjoy the authenticity of nature and its environment so as to make it tempting to love nature. All of this is often referred to as Back-To-Nature. In contrast to tourism that we are familiar with, ecotourism in its implementation does not require the availability of modern or glamorous accommodation facilities that are equipped with luxury eq
Contact Rudianto Sembiring