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Organisational empowerment

About the Implementing organization

Name: Asosiasi Usaha Homestay Lokal Kabupaten Raja Ampat

Country: Indonesia

Year of establishment: 2013

Type of organization: Community-based association or organization / Legally recognized non-profit status / Community enterprise or business / Indigenous group or organization


Local people in Raja Ampat came up with the idea of an association themselves. They realized that their homestay businesses would be more successful if they collaborated than if they competed. The Association is now actively involved in community decision-making over church affairs and village budgets. Local government consults the Association over tourism and marine protected area policy. The Association succeeds because of four years of dialogue and reflection through which people have acquired the self-confidence to contribute ideas and the skills to listen and communicate. They have also learned what it means to be a democratic organization: to be properly represented and to be accountable.
This approach is innovative because it is based on a new set of principles for engagement with community-based conservation:
a. Start with the issues that people feel most strongly about, not with what we outsiders think is important.
b. Resist the temptation to put answers in people’s mouths.
c. Respect the choices of the people we facilitate, however modest.
d. Give people the space to act on their own and to learn from their mistakes.
e. Agree on clear terms of engagement, from the outset.
This set the parameters for a 'learning partnership', with the goal of redefining how conservation is interpreted and managed by people rediscovering how to work together in their own land, in their own way.

Nature Element

Forests / Oceans / Coasts / Wildlife

Type of Action

Protection / Sustainable use / Access and benefit sharing / Pollution prevention, clean up / Awareness and education / Advocacy for land & water rights

Sustainable Development Element

Jobs and livelihoods / Food security / Peace and security / Health / Renewable energy

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)


Environmental Impacts

At the request of the Homestay Association, the government has trained local community forest patrols. Homestay owners say these have eliminated illegal logging around their businesses. Informal deterrence by homestay owners has reduced destructive fishing by 90%, in areas that homestays are close to. Homestays also report recovery of coral gardens and fish populations. All homestays routinely remove rubbish from beaches. 90% have stopped providing bottled water, installing water dispensers for free refills instead.

The Association has also organized a collective response to careless development. In September 2016, the Association initiated a dialogue with the local government in which they called for the cancellation of proposed roads. They argued that marine transport would better serve local people. They also called for a suspension in resort licensing. The government agreed to conduct a detailed impact assessment of proposed roads, and establish and enforce waste disposal and recycling.

Sustainable Development Impacts

The Homestay Association has facilitated the development of a new, sustainable ecotourism sector in Raja Ampat. This has created 600 new jobs across 13 villages, and new business opportunities to supply local produce. It is now the most dynamic part of Raja Ampat’s local economy.

These opportunities strengthen social cohesion. They create the support homestay owners need in the wider community in order to run their businesses and protect the environment. Other than the church, the Association is the only structure at the community level that regularly convenes people from multiple villages to discuss matters that are too big for each village to address on its own.

Building on its Vision for Life the Association’s is also formulating a “blueprint” for sustainable development in Raja Ampat which it will advocate government. This will include quantified targets for forest and marine protection, and for waste management which the Association hopes to achieve through it own practice.


The Raja Ampat Homestay Association is the largest of its kind in Indonesia, and other regions with similar conditions have been watching it with interest. There have already been some study tours to Raja Ampat, from groups within Indonesia and also from abroad. The concept of combining transformational training with good standards and global market links will be suitable in many other parts of Indonesia.

However, it would not be appropriate to scale up the Association itself to a national scale, as thereby it would lose much of its identity. But we have explored the idea of a national federation of community-based tourism associations, which could share learning between regions.


The Association’s experience highlights five things that enable replication: (1) focus on what makes most sense to local people as a livelihood opportunity, rather than impose ideas; (2) empower people to build real businesses with the ability to meet household needs and aspirations (micro-credit is not enough); (3) enable businesses to interact directly with buyers and consumers (and not through imposed monopolies) so they learn to define and price their product; (4) invest in representative structures that enable community businesses to access skills, share resources, tackle collective problems and command better prices; (5) work with structures that make most sense to local people: people in Raja Ampat chose not to set up a cooperative because its rules are ill-suited to their extended family and clan structures; and (6) empower people to define what is sustainable, and to monitor and adapt to social and environmental change, in order to live within defined limits.

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