Tangkahen Last Forest Initiative; Deteriorating ecotourism in Indonesia

In Indonesia, a forest ecotourism project is at risk of being abandoned in order for deforestation and mining to take place putting a rare and pristine ecosystem at huge risk. A group of local people have come together in an attempt to save the project in the village of Tangkahen, located on the island of Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo); all they need is £1300.

The forest around Tangkahen has been heavily logged and has faced destruction for many years. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic the area was seeing a rise in ecotourism to help counteract the damaging effects of years of tree logging. However, tourism has been thwarted since 2020 and this has prompted a group of local villagers to create the Tangkahen Last Forest Initiative (known as the TLFI) which seeks to promote agroforestry in order to restore the forest in conjunction with promoting tourism.

Leading to the Tangkahen of today

Text Box:  Figure 2: The last remaining trees in TangkahenTangkahen has a population of 1,635 people; across the village education levels vary, and many of the local people undertake manual jobs including gold mining and farming which are often detrimental to the land. Located on the banks of the Kahayan River (a river responsible for much of central Kalimantan’s ecology) Tangkahen is a diverse ecosystem, comprised of peatlands and lowlands as well as some small islands and many fire-prone areas. 

As a former HPH concession (a government allocated area designated for logging)  Tangkahen forest was logged by companies between the 1960s and 1980s. In 2015 the area came under control of the Kalteng Green Resource Industrial Plantation whose concession area was granted to surround the entire forest area of Tangkahen village – this 150-hectare forest area is a secondary forest (regrown after felling) with thin peat which is prone to burning during the dry season. The combined threats of fire damage and heavy logging puts the Tangkahen village forest at huge risk. 

The village forest is managed by the Tangkahen Village Forest Institute (LPHD) which falls under the legal protection of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. LPHD is managed by 22 people, led by one chair person. Their ecotourism group made surveys in 2019 to understand the potential of village forests. As a product of these surveys LPHD created an ecotourism business plan which helped to develop tourism in the area, and in the last 6 months from the end 2019 until February 2020 the forest has had 200 visitors both domestic and international. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused stagnation in tourism visits and since March 2020 the forest has seen no tourists at all. Not only is this bad for the area, it has also caused demotivation for the members and management of LPHD.

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If tourism continues to stall many people will seek other jobs in order to provide for themselves. This will see activities such as gold mining and illegal logging in the Central Kalimantan Green concession increase.

How the TLFI can create change

The Tangkahen Last Forest Initiative (known as the TLFI) is a small community project created by the people residing in the village itself. TLFI agreed the community organic agroforestry pilot project to help rebuild the motivation of local people. The project is an organic agroforestry model based on the community’s traditional wisdom system; agroforestry encourages the planting of trees among crops and pastureland in order to maximize woodland and forest density. Agroforestry in Tangkahen forest incorporates fisheries and animal husbandry pastures as well as crops including local rice, fruit and vegetables. The initiative aims to strengthen famers’ agroforestry lands, and to help manage them in an organic manner.

To ensure success of the initiative an initial incentive fund of 25 million Indonesian rupiah is required: approximately £1,304. This fund will be used to implement organic agroforestry training for LPHD member farms as well as the procurement of local plant seeds and seedlings to reinstate the local ecosystem.

There are also plans to sell organic agricultural products as part of a tourism drive by including them in the price of ecotourism packages and combining them with the marketing of local markets. If these funds are raised they will be handed to and managed by the LPHD management team and monitored by the South and Central Kalimantan government to ensure the purpose of the funds is achieved.

This beautiful and diverse area deserves the injection of compassion and money it needs to have its dedicated local people protect it.

To donate to the project fundraiser please click HERE.

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