Commissioned by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), photographers Firman, Muhammad Sidik and Faizal Abdul Aziz from Rekam Jejak Nusantara Foundation captured images mainly in Bribin watershed, which are now documented on a series of postage stamps. Issued by Post Indonesia, the country’s national postal service, they celebrate the 190th anniversary of the Gunungkidul District in Yogyakarta Province, where the geopark is located. At the virtual launch , Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, Governor of Yogyakarta, signed the first day cover, noting that the local community had been empowered by the conservation initiative.
The stamps were issued as part of the Gunung Sewu UNESCO Global Geopark Series to raise its public profile. Situated across three regencies in two provinces in Java’s cultural heartland, “the geopark plays an important part to the ecotourism industry in the area, in which it contributes to both the landscape sustainability and economic self-sufficiency for the people,” said Budi Martono, General Manager of Gunung Sewu Geopark. “Further, the initiatives are contributing to the promotion at the international level on the existence of the Gunung Sewu Geopark in the Global Geoparks Network (GGN) and Asia Pacific Geoparks Network (APGN) forums.”
The Gunung Sewu Geopark and the Gunungkidul Tourism Agency welcomed the initiative. “We hope that this development cooperation will be continued to facilitate the improvement of local community welfare through ecotourism, while ensuring sustainable management,” said Asti Wijayanti, head of Gunungkidul Tourism Agency.
The spectacular karst scenery, which attracts adventure seekers along the Bribin Watershed from upstream to downstream, is central to studies conducted by CIFOR and its partners involved in the Kanoppi Project, which aims to improve smallholder livelihoods through sustainable landscape management. Challenges persist for the karst landscape due to improper natural resources management above and below ground, which causes parts of the fragile karst system to collapse. Erosion, pollution and overuse threaten to contaminate the water and harm the unusual geological formations.
CIFOR scientist Ani Adiwinata, who led the Kanoppi Project Policy Team, identified an abundance of underground water resources, demonstrating that they could be used to help local communities operate more intensive aboveground agriculture and agroforestry practices – as long as they are managed sustainably.
Flooding and landslides caused by unsustainable exploitation of the area threaten the stability of the underground limestone landscape. “In 2017, widespread flooding caused the tourist attractions along the river and the caves to close because the underground river overflowed and endangered the safety of visitors,” Adiwinata said. “Integrated policy frameworks at the district and provincial level can help.”
The Kanoppi Project brought local government agencies – including the regional planning agency – and community representatives together to study the watershed’s problems and develop plans and policies for better management. A multidisciplinary team from Watershed Management Technology Center led by Nunung Nugroho, coordinating scientist, played a role as a strategic partner in this ongoing research. The study found that the Bribin watershed is essential to local livelihoods supporting the creation of ecotourism industries, and securing water availability for residences of the capital city, Wonosari.
The Kanoppi researchers undertook studies of various scenarios of strong institutional arrangements or governance, the policy framework required for landscape-based forest management to improve the livelihoods of communities living near forests. The research develops an integrated participatory baseline in Bribin Watershed, Gunungkidul District, covering land biophysical, water management/hydrology, social, economic and institutional arrangements aspects. Adopting a participatory action research approach in selected villages, the study formulates integrated recommendations for scenarios to foster a sustainable management for the landscape.
The Kanoppi research has led to publication of a series of booklets offering guidance for sustainable management of the karst-based Gunung Sewu Geopark. The first booklet in the series describes the Bribin watershed profile and surrounding village characteristics, covering aspects of its biophysical make up, water management, socio-economic and institutional arrangements.