Ecotourism in West Kalimantan introduces an application for the adoption of mangrove trees. The community can support and monitor conservation efforts.
The soft caress of the wind blowing from the Kapuas River estuary welcomes visitors to the Telok Berdiri mangrove ecotourism area in Sungai Kupah, a village in the Kubu Raya district of West Kalimantan.
An elevated wooden path winds its way through the swamp while the South China sea appears in the background. The beauty of the scenery, as the sun was on its way down was further amplified by the silhouette of a nearby lighthouse.
Rudi Hartono (25), who is better known by his fellow villagers as Bacok, wants to share this beautiful setting more widely and for the public to participate in its conservation. It all started three years ago for Bacok, who heads the Sungai Kupah tourism conscious group (Pokdarwis) when he spearheaded the mangrove ecotourism with his fellow villagers
They developed Map Marker, a digital mapping application for their conservation work.
The development of this application started when students from the Pontianak State Polytechnics held a field visit to Sungai Kupah. “I asked their help to develop an application,” Bacok said.
The public response to the app-based adoption service has been good. There has been a little over 7,000 mangrove trees adopted by individuals and at least 10,000 adoptive groups or communities. Before the use of the application, there were somewhere between 500-700 adoptions.
Bacok hopes that this adoption program would help improve the mangrove vegetation in the estuary as the surrounding community has been using mangrove woods as firewood while their roots are used as a fish trap. “Their (the mangrove) numbers are continuously diminishing,” Bacok said.
For each mangrove tree adopted, Map Marker will charge a one-time donation of Rp 10.000 and anyone interested in adopting a mangrove tree can register both online and offline.
Those who choose an offline adoption, they can visit the location and pay the donation directly, while choosing the seedling they wish to adopt and where they can plant it.
“After it is planted, the mangrove will be photographed together with the adoptive parent. The coordinates of the tree will also be recorded by the application,” he explained.
Through the application, an adoptive parent can monitor the growth of their plant as long as other adopted plants in the area.
“Beside using that application, the management also provide information on the growth of the adopted tree through email,” he said.
The digital adoption and mangrove supervision concept has clinched Bacok a second place as Pioneering Youth in the field of natural resources, the environment, and tourism in the 2020 national event held by the Ministry of Youth and Sports.
“I’m thankful for an achievement that has promoted the region, and hope that more people would be willing to adopt a mangrove tree,” he said with a thin smile.
The head of the West Kalimantan chapter of the Indonesia Youth and Leader Empowerment, Kristina, is one among those who have adopted a mangrove tree in Sungai Kupah. The application, Kristina said, has been able to increase interest amongst tourists and young people in conservation issues, specifically on mangroves.
Kurniawan from Bengkayang district who is completing his university studies in Pontianak City, said he was interested in adopting a mangrove tree after a friend had invited him to join the program.
The tree he has adopted is now eight months old. He follows the development of the plant through his mobile device, something which he said made him feel connected with his adopted tree.
“I came directly to the location to adopt a mangrove tree while at the same time traveling in the area. The use of technology in the conservation of mangrove can attract many people to join the adoption program,” he said,
The head of the ecotourism unit of the Telok Berdiri village, Ahmad Kamal says that the digital adoption and monitoring of the growth of mangrove trees has had a good impact on the number of tourist visiting Telok Berdiri. The management levies an entrance ticket of Rp 5,000 per head.
Prior to the pandemic, some 600 to 700 people came to visit the Telok Berdiri ecotourism site in a week and the management would earn between Rp 2.5 million to Rp 3 million from tickets. However the number of visitors has dropped by a half due to the COVID-19 pandemic as restrictions on mobility were put in place.
Ahmad hopes that those who have adopted a mangrove tree and can digitally monitor its growth will continue to feel connected to their adopted plant and would return to visit the location.
The village authority has been channeling the earning to further develop the tourism area.
“The ecotourism site is hoped to prompt the development of infrastructures such as village roads, or at least a road to the ecotourism area,” Sungai Kupah Village head Ismail said.
One other benefit from of the mangrove ecotourism area, Ismail hopes to see is the prevention of corrosion of the coast line, as well as a fish breeding ground . Fifteen percent of the population of Sungai Kupah are fishermen, Ismail added.
“At present, the mangrove trees that have been planted are between one to three years old and thus their impact cannot yet be felt,” he said.
Dwi Astiani, a professor at the forestry faculty of the University of Tanjungpura confirms that mangrove does not only prevents erosion of the coast line, but also serves as a rich habitat for many species of fish. She also adds that rehabilitation of a mangrove ecosystem can be done by replanting the cleared mangrove forest patches.
“It takes process for mangroves to have any impact on its surrounding environment, the process could take some three years. Many factors contribute to that, one of which is a good mangrove tree density level ,” explained Dwi.
Other factors that contribute to a healthy development of mangrove ecosystem are planting zone, salinity of water, and type of trees.
The district authority has also welcomed the innovation in Sungai Kupah. The head of the Kubu Raya Youth, Sport and Tourism Agency, Iping Hindrawati, projected that there would be a development of local crafts and food in the area and expressed hope that the products could be marketed online, to satisfy cravings amongst tourists at a time when mobility is restricted.
“Crafts and specific food in a tourism area can become quite an important supporting factor. In Sungai Kupah village, villagers have been provided with training to produce specific local food such as fish floss and shrimp sticks that are ready to sell,” she said.
The seriousness of the government in supporting ecotourism area is reflected in the revised district budget for 2021, Iping said, without giving details on the amount allotted for the development of the ecotourism there.
“I am convinced that if we are observant and are willing to work hard to find and manage existing tourism potentials, there will be progress in the development of the tourism in Kubu Raya district. Due to the hard work of all parties in the Telok Berdiri ecotourism site, it has been nominated for the 2021 Indonesia Tourism Award,” Iping said.