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Ecotourism Preserving Flores Traditional Villages

Waerebo is a small and isolated heritage village with seven traditional houses (Mbaru Niang) situated in a beautiful mountain scenery. The village is accessible via a steep pathway, three hours walking distance from the nearest village, Dinthor (six-hour drive from Labuan Bajo). In 2012 Waerebo received an Award of Excellence in the culture and tourism category at UNESCO Asia Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation – the highest award for cultural heritage conservation.

September 18, 2015 Comments (0) Environment, Indonesia & The EU, Uncategorized

tololela1tololela1Besides the splendour of its natural wonders, the homeland of Komodo dragons enchants visitors with its diverse cultural heritage: ways of living, ethnicity, language, origin, belief systems, social structures that found their way through history into the present. In order to preserve and foster such cultural treasures, the European Union is supporting a local NGO, the Indonesian Ecotourism Network (INDECON), with a three-year programme that aims to develop environmental-friendly tourism and expand the economic base of traditional villages in several districts in Nusa Tenggara Timur. In the past weeks I was lucky enough to visit six of the villages involved in the project, get acquainted with the “kampong” daily life, experience local traditions, typical food, and ceremonies. Our journey started from the Jerebu’u area, where we visited three villages located on the slope of the volcano Inerie: Tololela, Gurusina and Bena – signposts of Ngada culture. The villages’ shape is characterized by high thatch-roofed houses (rumah adat), stone altars, megaliths and ancestral shrines that embed mystical and religious elements. The daily life in each village is marked by long-standing rituals and agriculture is the most important activity from an economic point of view.

Tololela. The pleasant sound of the traditional bamboo instruments accompanied our visit. The locals will try to break the Indonesian record for the highest number of bamboo instruments and musicians in one performance at the music festival that they will host in September.

Tololela – The pleasant sound of the traditional bamboo instruments accompanied our visit.

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The locals will try to break the Indonesian record for the highest number of bamboo instruments and musicians in one performance at the music festival that they will host in September.

The locals will try to break the Indonesian record for the highest number of bamboo instruments and musicians in one performance at the music festival that they will host in September.

 

The villagers warmly welcomed the EU staff.

The villagers warmly welcomed the EU staff.

Situated about 16km from Bajawa at the foot of Mount Inerie, Bena is the most famous and most visited village in the Ngada district, with more than 11.000 tourist per year.

Situated about 16km from Bajawa at the foot of Mount Inerie, Bena is the most famous and most visited village in the Ngada district, with more than 11.000 tourist per year.

 

Old women chewing betel nut and weaving ikat, tie-died textiles with sacred value, which are still worn as everyday dress. The ikat weaving motifs range from animal patterns like horses, chickens, elephants, and the sacred symbols of the ancestors.

Old women chewing betel nut and weaving ikat, tie-died textiles with sacred value, which are still worn as everyday dress. The ikat weaving motifs range from animal patterns like horses, chickens, elephants, and the sacred symbols of the ancestors.

 

Gurusina - Bamboo rumah adat decorated with skulls and horns of cows, buffaloes and pig jaws which were sacrificed at different ceremonies. The traditional houses are situated around a wide courtyard, which displays several sets of ture lenggi, the ancestral stone altars. At the moment, 33 families live in the village.

Gurusina – Bamboo rumah adat decorated with skulls and horns of cows, buffaloes and pig jaws which were sacrificed at different ceremonies. The traditional houses are situated around a wide courtyard, which displays several sets of ture lenggi, the ancestral stone altars. At the moment, 33 families live in the village.

 

 

In the next days we moved to Waerebo, Tado and Melo, where we experienced the hospitality of Manggaraian people and drank the locally produced coffee, which is grown in family plantations surrounding the villages without any chemical fertilizer.

Waerebo is a small and isolated heritage village with seven traditional houses (Mbaru Niang) situated in a beautiful mountain scenery. The village is accessible via a steep pathway, three hours walking distance from the nearest village, Dinthor (six-hour drive from Labuan Bajo). In 2012 Waerebo received an Award of Excellence in the culture and tourism category at UNESCO Asia Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation – the highest award for cultural heritage conservation.

Waerebo is a small and isolated heritage village with seven traditional houses (Mbaru Niang) situated in a beautiful mountain scenery. The village is accessible via a steep pathway, three hours walking distance from the nearest village, Dinthor (six-hour drive from Labuan Bajo). In 2012 Waerebo received an Award of Excellence in the culture and tourism category at UNESCO Asia Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation – the highest award for cultural heritage conservation.

Waerebo famous coffee. Blooming flowers.

Waerebo famous coffee. Blooming flowers.

Tado. Spider web rice fields (lingko) reflect the traditional system to divide the land among each clan in the village. As this system is now being replaced by rice terraces, lingko can only be found in a few places in Flores, Tado being one of them.

Tado. Spider web rice fields (lingko) reflect the traditional system to divide the land among each clan in the village. As this system is now being replaced by rice terraces, lingko can only be found in a few places in Flores, Tado being one of them.

Enjoining traditional food and coffee with Indecon staff.

Enjoining traditional food and coffee with Indecon staff.

Melo. The village is famous for its caci performances, which is a major element of Manggaraian cultural identity and an important part of ceremonial life.

Melo. The village is famous for its caci performances, which is a major element of Manggaraian cultural identity and an important part of ceremonial life.

 

 

As many of these villages are off the main road, our visits were enriched by pleasant hikes through flourishing landscapes with rice field view, interspersed with mountainous areas and neat bamboo forests. Until not so long ago these areas were hardly penetrable, a fact that contributed to the preservation of the local traditions and culture.

However, such isolation often meant poor livelihood for the local people. Since the simple farming could not allow decent living conditions or support health and education needs, many villagers abandoned the traditional lifestyle and the local communities, to the detriment of the cultural heritage.

Since 2007, INDECON initiated the refurbishment of traditional houses and helped the local people in revitalizing village life, by maintaining the authenticity and nobility of the traditional construction process and providing a learning process for the younger generations. All of the hard work proved fruitful, as the number of eco-tourists visiting the communities has increased steadily over the last years, and the communities’ members gained new life skills and knowledge, especially women and youth.

The close association with farming and handicraft is also maintained and valued. Visitors are encouraged to learn about the stories behind the local products, assist to local ceremonies, and appreciate the sustainable ways of production. And as they know more, they also want to buy more gifts for their family and friends, thus providing an additional source of income to the local people and supporting the economic development of the village.

 

Innovative Indigenous Flores Ecotourism for Sustainable Trade (INFEST) is a three years program funded by the European Union and implemented by INDECON. It aims at promoting sustainable tourism to improve livelihood and contribute to poverty reduction, by working hand-in-hand with village communities, tourism stakeholders, and local government.

 

Find out more at: http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/indonesia/projects/list_of_projects/308920_en.htm and http://www.indecon.or.id/en/

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