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Indonesia to build first ecotourism village in the world

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YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia – Habitat for Humanity Indonesia today announced it is partnering with Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) to create Habitat’s first eco-tourism village of more than 420 homes and guest ac

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia – Habitat for Humanity Indonesia today announced it is partnering with Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) to create Habitat’s first eco-tourism village of more than 420 homes and guest accommodations near some of Indonesia’s most picturesque ancient temples.

The development will take place in the village of Soran, located near the famous Prambanan Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, built around 850 AD. The village is also located near Mount Merapi, the nation’s most famous volcano, which erupted last year.

Soran has a long tradition of creating music and crafts, but 60 percent of families there live below the poverty line.

The project will improve housing for most villagers, while establishing a sustainable, eco-friendly hospitality business built on the community’s historic cultural traditions. The development will share the area’s natural and cultural treasures with the world by creating accommodations for tourists who wish to tour the sacred temples, visit nearby natural landmarks, or enjoy the cultural performances.

“This is the first Habitat project in the world that creates shelter and economic opportunity for an entire community, and it is precisely the kind of project needed to combat Indonesia’s poverty,” said James Tumbuan, National Director of Habitat for Humanity Indonesia. “This unique program not only improves housing for most of the community, it also allows Soran villagers to economically benefit from the art and culture they have preserved for centuries and to share it with the world.”

Aida Greenbury, sustainability managing director for APP, said the company’s support of the project is part of APP’s ongoing commitment to preserving Indonesia’s national treasures – both natural and cultural.

“The Soran project will help the world better understand Indonesian culture by making it more accessible to international visitors,” she said. “It will protect national treasures while creating sustainable economic opportunities. We are proud to add Soran to our list of commitments. With it, we plant another seed that will flourish into lasting prosperity for the nation and the world.”

The three-year project will outfit family homes with additional space and facilities to accommodate eco-tourists who visit the historic Central Java area. The homes will have either:

• Guest quarters where visitors can sleep.

• Laundry facilities to wash guests’ clothes and bedding.

• Expanded kitchen facilities where guest meals can be prepared.

Homes will also be made earthquake-proof and 20 percent of APP’s annual contribution to the project is being set aside for ongoing disaster relief.

While details of the development initiatives are still being finalized with community members, the initial plan is to train more than 250 villagers to operate eco-tourist accommodations:

• 50 villagers will be trained on laundry management.

• 100 villagers will be trained to properly prepare traditional foods for visitors.

• 100 families will be trained on cultural performance and marketing traditional arts.

In addition, several hundred villagers will be trained in disaster risk mitigation.

“Our husbands are farmers and laborers. But I want my children to go to the university,” said Partini (many Indonesians only use one name), a Soran resident. “As a housewife, I can do crafts and arts. Sometimes, housewives practice [the traditional performance art of] gejog lesung. But we don’t know how to make gejog lesung into a money tree or make our crafts marketable. I hope this program can help me and others improve our family incomes. We will work hard since we all share the same dream: moving forward.”

Work has been expected to begin on the new development last year but was delayed because of Merapi’s eruption. Soran was covered in volcanic dust, but villagers completed a cleanup with the help of cleanup kits and cleaning materials donated by APP. As with all of its programs, Habitat Indonesia will engage community leaders, local stakeholders, and the villagers themselves in all stages of the development – from planning through construction.