The Indonesian archipelago, spread out across the Indian and Pacific Oceans is a marvel to behold. Teeming with wildlife like tigers and orangutans, home to hundreds of ethnic groups and possessing a strong spiritual energy, it is a region where the heart and soul come together. However, in the last century, several processes have kicked off, signalling a crisis of utmost urgency. Locked in a battle between the chaos of modernity and the traditions of centuries, several ecological, economic and cultural issues have emerged in the country. Economic mismanagement by a corrupt government in the past has led to vast social inequality, and further increased the pressure on natural resources as the local population struggles to keep up with modern aspirations. Migrations from villages to big cities are commonplace and see a diluting of native cultures as people get more and more urbanized. With these slowly fading traditional lifestyles, important lessons are lost: lessons of community, lessons of ecological balance and lessons of spiritual importance.

In such times, with economic factors taking a staggering toll on the ecology and culture of a place, projects that seek to preserve nature and community are of utmost importance. There are several projects underway in Indonesia that empower local stakeholders and develop solutions by harnessing the power of the community. Metamorfosa’s work can be seen as a shining example in community-oriented initiatives. Based in the village of Sumberkima in North West Bali, this reef restoration project is pioneered by one of Sumberkima’s own – Totok. In combination with Sumberkima Hill, Metamorfosa has built a manifesto that is as inspiring as it is replicable. Ultimately, it is the locals that have the deepest vested interest in the regeneration of an area and it is essential to involve them in the solution.

 

 

Metamorfosa focuses on holistic growth, keeping environmental, economic and cultural goals in mind. For the reef to be revived and thrive, the fishermen need to cooperate as their ways of catching aquarium fish are damaging to the delicate reef systems. Under the initiative, they are taught to farm sea cucumbers, scallops and seaweed as an alternative. The participants in the project are all locals, several of whom would have had to migrate to Denpasar for opportunities otherwise. Metamorfosa collaborates with partners at various levels, using the endeavour as a platform to build a strong network through the village to tackle the environmental crisis head on. The aim is to build a successful model of ecotourism in order to monetize the project so that more from the village can be supported through Metamorfosa. With exciting activities like snorkelling, canoe trips and island barbecues on offer, it is easy to involve tourists in the project in a meaningful way, enabling them to create a positive impact with their purchasing power.

 

There is much to be learnt from the way in which Metamorfosa has built a solution to the far reaching ecological problem. There is an ongoing awareness and education program which seeks to heighten the interest and commitment of the village folk by bringing them face to face with this reality in simple, clear terms. Rather than attempting to isolate Sumberkima from the inevitable influx of tourists, Totok and his team are optimizing this eventuality and wielding it to the benefit of the project. The most crucial aspect of the project is that it constantly invokes the community in every step of the way and uses the power of this tightly knit group to bring change for everyone.

 

 

In the face of imminent modernization, Metamorfosa’s efforts do not force Sumberkima to choose between modernization and traditional living. Using modern methods to enhance the traditional way of life, the Metamorfosa team has found a way to entwine the best aspects of both so as to enrich the lives of the villagers. By preserving the strong spiritual ethos of Sumberkima, which has inbuilt guidelines on environmental conservation, Metamorfosa has created a system which is truly sustainable in every sense.