Perspectives

Yervina: Exploring the Potential of Ecotourism for the Future of the Community

Yervina
Yervina Bendahara BUMKam Lebo Asik Kampung Merabu, Berau © YKAN

“My dream for Merabu Village is to be more advanced, with better human resources in the economic field with skills to improve our community economies. Simply, more advanced than it is now." - Yervina, Bendahara BUMKam Lebo ASIK

Yervina is no stranger to the people of Merabu Village, Berau, East Kalimantan. Playing the role of an elementary school teacher at SDN 001 Merabu, Yervina is also known as a charismatic figure who flexibly guides the village women in Family Welfare Empowerment activities or PKK.

She activates the PKK working group, such as creating a living pharmacy garden in the form of medicinal plants that can be used daily. Each family medicinal plant garden or toga contains 30 local medicinal plants, provides cooking and sewing skills training, and organizes PKK members in Merabu ecotourism operations, which provides consumption for tourists.

On the other hand, the members of the Village-Owned Enterprise (BUMKam) Lebo ASIK recognize this scholarly woman as a person who saved their institution from a financial crisis. Having an academic background in accounting and experienced in managing a basic food business, Yervina was asked by her husband, who at that time served as the Head of Merabu Village. At that time, it was discovered that BUMKam was threatened with sinking even though it had received three injections of funds. As the treasurer of BUMKam, Yervina identified the issues that caused this. None other than because the stake is bigger than the pole. Disorganized financial records also exacerbate this situation.

She also made several changes, one of them— liking it or not—lowering the monthly salaries of Village-Owned Enterprise (BUMKam) managers. This method has proven to be able to stabilize the financial condition of BUMKam. Not only that, business operations under BUMKam have become more efficient and sustainable. BUMKam Lebo ASIK provides a medium for the community to work together to manage natural resources into several businesses. This is very important because most of these efforts are closely related to natural resource management.

Merabu Nature for Merabu Residents

Located in the Sangkulirang Mangkalihat Karst area, the beautiful nature of Merabu Village is the foundation of the lives of its residents. Merabu forest is a source of food and medicine. The magical Nyadeng Lake with a tinge of turquoise in the middle of the Merabu Forest, is not only a tourist magnet, but also a source of water for the village community.

Mount Ketepu and Bloyot Cave is a must-visit list for adventurers. Domestic and foreign tourists do not hesitate to go deep into the forest, climb hills and cave cliffs, in order to find stunning beauty with augmented historical value. Beloyot Cave, for example, is a relic of ancient times, having hand paintings on the walls of the cave which are distinctive.

The potential of these valuable assets and natural resources is the main reason for the residents of Kampung Merabu to be able to manage them in a sustainable manner. Since 2018, Yayasan Konservasi Alam Nusantara (YKAN) has continued to provide support for institutional strengthening of Village-Owned Enterprise (BUMKam) Lebo ASIK. Together with partners from the government, private sector, and NGOs, YKAN uses the Community Inspiring Actions for Change (SIGAP) approach to strengthen community capacity in managing BUMKam, particularly managing ecotourism in Merabu.

The Merabu ecotourism business is one of the economic pulses of Merabu Village. Currently, there are 15 guides, 15 homestay owners, and Family Welfare Empowerment program or PKK members providing consumption needs. The income from the results of this ecotourism can also be felt directly by the people involved in it, both guides and homestay owners. Tourism can help provide income for families, both to meet daily needs and children's education.

Although also affected by the pandemic, especially in terms of ecotourism, Yervina remains optimistic in managing Village-Owned Enterprise (BUMKam) Lebo ASIK funds. His heart was filled with joy when he found out that BUMKam could be present to answer the problems of the residents' lives.

Yervina educates the next generation for sustainable Merabu.
Future Generations Yervina educates the next generation for sustainable Merabu. © Merry Tobing/YKAN

This single parent with persistence is raising her three children after her late husband passed away a year ago has rippled enthusiasm and hope of the people of Kampung Merabu to be independent. Now, she is preparing the next generation, cadres of hope to be able to continue the steps she has pioneered. For the sake of sustainable Merabu, the lives of its citizens are always radiant.