Enhancing forest-related ecotourism for the Semelai in Tasek Bera, Malaysia
Community-based organization was formed by the local community around Tasek Bera
In 1999, a community-based organization was formed by the local community around Tasek Bera. These people are the indigenous Semelai, one of the Orang Asli natives in West Malaysia. This organization has taken up eco-tourism as an alternative source of income that benefits the local people.
Environmental education for Semelai school children
In just two years from 2003 to 2004, Wetlands International with funding from Toyota Motor Foundation and in collaboration with Semelai Association for Boating and Tourism (SABOT), successfully conducted Environmental Education in Tasek Bera for the local indigenous children. The primary aim was to educate the younger generation on the importance of conserving this natural site, whilst providing useful guidelines for this conservation effort.
At the same time, the local community notably the local guides from SABOT, who have indigenous and local knowledge on forest, assisted in the Environmental Education School Camps. During this time, they too took on knowledge on conservation and wise use of wetlands. It is important that the local community is educated on this since they are the direct users of the wetlands and its surrounding areas. With this effort, it is hoped that the local community will start to manage and use their natural resources in sustainable ways.
Developing the capacity of SABOT
Wetlands International has been playing a facilitating and advocating role to SABOT in various matters. With a 5-year funding from UNDP SGP GEF from 2001-2005, numerous training had been carried out to enhance the capacity of SABOT members, in hope they can manage the organization independently, hence forming it to a firmly rooted and financially self-sufficient organization.
Under the project, training on financial management and computer skills was conducted to assist the members in managing their organization using the contemporary method.
Among others, Wetlands International also assisted SABOT in organizing certified training for nature guiding conducted by the government. This training helps to ensure nature guiding, an income generating activity that is based on knowledge that the local people already possess, can be done with a more effective and proper approach.
Sharing experiences in eco-tourism
Study tours to other indigenous settlement were also organized to provide opportunity to the local Semelai to experience living with the other group, as well as learning about their culture and beliefs.
The women of Tasek Bera were encouraged to generate an alternative source of income with their traditional handicraft. Interested women participated in a study tour to other indigenous settlements where handicraft making was done actively, and with promising results. Furthermore, the women were trained on financial management, specifically on matters in relation to handicrafts sales.
Community development initiatives did not stop here. Another funding was obtained in early 2005, from EC UNDP Small Grants Programme for Operations to Promote Tropical Forests (SGP PTF) in Malaysia and this time with an aim which is more distinctive on building human capacity. Titled as Enhancing forest related eco-tourism services and products for SABOT in Tasek Bera, this project continues to aim towards strengthening human capacity in local efforts, in this case the eco-tourism venture in Tasek Bera.
Donors: United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), European Union, Malaysia Small Grants Programme promoting tropical forests