Conservation education: The Kemenuh Butterfly Park hopes to teach Balinese people and tourists the importance of environmental conservation.
We can learn a lot from butterflies, says Ida Bagus Witara, who has been enchanted by these forest fairies since he was a small boy. 'Butterflies are not only beautiful but also of good character. Bees and other insects sting, but butterflies never bite. They don't have poison to harm others, so butterflies not only look good, but are of good heart also. That is a philosophy we should also live by,' says Ida Bagus Witara, who has newly opened a butterfly park in his home village of Kemenuh in Gianyar regency.
In his role as manager, Witara says the aim of the park is threefold, with employment, education and conservation as its mission statement.
'Our mission is not profit-oriented, but we focus instead on creating employment and training for the jobless in our village and surrounding areas, and also on nature conservation. Butterfly numbers in the wild are growing smaller and smaller. Pollution is one factor, another is loss of habitat. We are losing forests and rice fields, while plantations have changed use to housing, tourist accommodation and restaurants, so there are fewer plants for butterflies to breed and feed on,' says Witara of what he believes are the negative impacts of tourism in Bali.
These impacts and solutions will be under discussion next week during the Desa Wisata (tourist village) meeting.
The Kemenuh Butterfly Park goals in education, employment and conservation are a perfect fit for the future of village tourism, or Desa Wisata program. This grassroots-driven program aims to better share the economic benefits of Bali's tourism across the island, says I Wayan Sila, one of the founders of the Desa Wisata concept.
Next week, 60 representatives of the Desa Wisata program, which has a membership of 180 Balinese villages, will meet to establish a master plan for village tourism, with each village defining its unique character that can be developed for tourism.
'All we [villages] get is the dust from tourism. Everything is changing. Bali has tourism, but who eats? Not the small people, so Desa Wisata seeks to share the economic benefits. Kemenuh is an example of this. The village has restaurants and homestays, culture and now the butterfly park,' says Sila, stressing that tourism is an essential industry for the island, but one that needs greater community-based inclusion to succeed in the future.
'As a small island, we don't have huge industry or a great amount of natural resources. We only have tradition, culture and our environment, so tourism is our fate,' he says, pointing out that next week's Desa Wisata meeting will host representatives from villages already successful in tourism, such as Penglipuran, which markets its superb bamboo-roofed architecture, villages that are still identifying their niche in the market and mid-level villages, such as Kemenuh, which are in the process of defining their place in the tourist industry.
Beauty of nature: The lifecycle of delicate butterflies can teach children about the wonders of the natural world.
For Witara, environment, culture and agriculture can be the mainstays of tourism in his village. 'Kemenuh, for me, is not like Ubud. We don't want to become like Ubud. In the future I hope Kemenuh becomes better known as a tourist village that has the environment as its priority,' says Witara. He believes educating young children on the wonders of the natural world is a good beginning for long-term environmental protection.
'We have many kindergarten children visiting the park soon. We believe after the kids come here, they will be more appreciative and protective of the environment, at least in their own homes. I hope they try to plant some of the bushes and flowers they see here at the butterfly park in their homes to attract butterflies and increase the habitat,' says Witara.
Kemenuh Butterfly Park could be an example of positive tourism that not only includes local residents, but depends on them for its development. Witara says local farmers will receive a percentage of profits and financial assistance to support them in sustainable farming.
'Our restaurant enjoys the beauty of the rice fields, so we must support the farmers. We need to contribute to local farmers to support their ongoing farm practice,' says Witara. The park also employs almost 30 local people, offering them training and language classes, enhancing their job prospects, while also growing local employment.
With the Kemenuh Butterfly Park is already showing signs of success through its mission of conservation, education and employment, Witara plans to turn his attention to the protection of the Petanu River that runs through the village, ending in a spectacular 100-meter waterfall.
The river's waters, however, are muddied as a result of sandstone-mining that not only silts the river, but also destroys the habitat of the long-tailed monkeys living along the river's banks.
'In the long term we want to stop the sand-mining, but this is very difficult. We hope to shift employment there from mining to an income and jobs through conservation. I would like to create a place where tourists can enjoy nature so that Kemenuh can become a destination known for its conservation of the environment and culture. That is my mission,' says Witara, who with his financial supporter, also from Kemenuh, has taken the first steps of his butterfly philosophy to bring beauty, education, conservation and prosperity to his village.
Conserving for the future: The park's manager Ida Bagus Witara dreams that one day his village will be known for its conservation efforts.