Bambike Ecotours – Community Empowerment Through Ecotourism

Incitement is the implementing agency for the Volunteering International Professionals (VIP) Fellowship Programme 2017, a National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS) project monitored and overseen by the National Strategy Unit (NSU) of the Malaysian Ministry of Finance. More information about this collaboration between Incitement and the Malaysian Ministry of Finance can be found here.

The VIP Fellowship programme took place from August 19th till December 17th 2017. During these 4 months, a total of 10 social impact projects were implemented with the help of 50 international professional volunteers, touching the lives of 12,840 beneficiaries.

This is Impact Project 10: Bambike Ecotours
This project laid the groundwork for a sustainable livelihood programme for the indigenous Dumagat Tribe of the Philippines through ecotourism tools.

Project location: Angat Dam, Philippines
Host organisation: Bambike Revolution Cycles
Impact area: Community Empowerment through Eco-Tourism
Website: bambike.com/ecotours, facebook.com/BambikeEcotours


Key project outcomes

  • 1,132 villagers impacted
  • 1 solar powered Bambungalow designed (status: deployment pending)
  • 20 villagers were trained in Tourism
  • 12 villagers were trained to build bamboo bikes
  • 1 Ecotourism blueprint created

Bambike Ecotours uplifts the quality of life for the indigenous people of the Dumagat Tribe through higher earning potential, providing the community with a complete bamboo bike ecotourism operation in an area that attracts about 50,000 visitors per year.

With the professional help of the VIP 2017 Fellows, Bambike Ecotours targeted the following issues during the VIP Fellowship Programme:

  • The Dumagat Tribe are not economically bene ting from the 50,000 tourists that visit their conservation every year.
  • They have little to no access to markets.
  • They are usually exploited by ‘middlemen’, who pay them little so they can maximise their own profits.
  • They lack the knowledge that is needed to develop products from their raw bamboo and rattan produce.
  • They lack the experience to implement a sustainable tourism operation for the Dumagat tribe.

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For the VIP 2017 Programme, Bambike Ecotours and the Fellows worked with a specific community of the Dumagat tribe who are living in a 63,000 hectare forest reserve that is home to the Angat Dam water reservoir, which provides up to 95% of metro Manila’s fresh water supply.

Bambike Ecotour focuses on helping communities come out of extreme poverty while preserving the environment. The purpose of this VIP impact project was to create a sustainable livelihood initiative for the Dumagat Tribe in the field of ecotourism, ultimately uplifting their quality of life through higher earning potential. 500 Dumagat families (more than 2,000 people) live without access to economic opportunities and electricity.

Brian McClelland, founder of Bambike Ecotours explains: “It’s ironic, because they’re living in such a critical biosphere, yet lack basic needs such as sanitation, clean water and electricity. This VIP project is a means through which we can ignite sustainable livelihood development in their community. Bambike Ecotours will serve as the green spark that will catalyse sustainable livelihood development in the Dumagat community, responsible tourism in a conservation area, and access to renewable energy for the beneficiaries.”

“The triple bottom line (People, Planet, Progress) was how we measured the success of the project”, explains Bryan: “Being in the Philippines, which is really a biodiversity hotspot, we have a ripe environment for innovation and problem solving through creative kinds of holistic business models that take into consideration People (reinvesting in the community), the Planet (sustainable manufacturing and creating green products) and working towards Progress (developing a more inclusive growth economy). We intended to foster a more inclusive growth ecosystem that empowered the beneficiaries through the expansion of sustainable tourism opportunities. As a result, the natural environment and native inhabitants will be more recognised and appreciated. Moreover, sustainable livelihood will be achieved when responsible tourism operations generate sufficient profits and benefits for all stakeholders, while the project remains purpose driven.”

This VIP project improved the lives of the indigenous Dumagat community by empowering them to do smart business. Kausar, a VIP 2017 Fellow from Malaysia, explains that “the villagers were doing business with a ‘middleman’ and it was very common for them to be exploited because they are not offered a fair price for their products and services. For example, when they harvested bamboo and cut it down into roughly a one-meter poles, they’ll then sell that pole for one peso to the middleman. That middleman might sell it for a couple of pesos somewhere else. They basically weren’t being paid a fair wage for the work that they put in.

Bambike basically serves as the bridge that empowers and connects the community to a better, more fulfilling and sustainable way of life.
VIP 2017 - Bambike Ecotours

As Bryan explains: “Bambike taught the Dumagat community how to add value to a pole of Bamboo. For example, when the bamboo is cut into something smaller, like a keychain with a logo on it, then it becomes a trinket or a souvenir. That original PHP1 pole of bamboo could now turn into fifty keychains, which they can sell for PHP5 per piece. So, that one peso pole then turns into PHP250 worth of revenue for their community. By helping them to understand how to add value to their products by putting in a little bit more work, they were able to create jobs amongst themselves and create huge multiples in income generation that they otherwise would not have access to, by selling directly to tourists instead of the middleman. Bambike basically helped them by being the bridge that empowers and connects the community to a better, more fulfilling and sustainable way of life.”

Teaching the villagers to add value to the bamboo they harvested not only provided a sustainable income for the community, but also served as a way of preserving the forest. Awaludin, an International Fellow from Indonesia elaborates: “Because it’s a forest where they live, and since the Dumagat tribe is the only community that can enter the forest and make use of its natural resources, the middleman encourages them to cut the trees and sell it to them. By introducing a new method of earning their livelihood through bamboo, we eliminate the need for them to rely on the middleman, which means we preserve the forest as well.”

Not only did the Fellows create fair trade opportunities for the Dumagat tribe members by teaching them how to develop actual products, like souvenirs, from their bamboo and rattan produce, effectively cutting out the middleman, the Fellows also prepared members of the Dumagat tribe to take on roles as tourist guides, by improving their English and by showing them how to properly communicate and do business with tourists. This was done in anticipation of the deployment of the Bambox.

VIP 2017 - Bambike Ecotours

The Bambox, which is a prefabricated modular facility made entirely out of bamboo, can be erected and setup anywhere. Rebecca, a local Fellow from the Philippines and architect and designer of the Bambox, explains the concept behind it and how it will help the community earn a sustainable livelihood: “The Bambox provides the community with a complete bamboo bike ecotourism operation in an area that attracts about 50,000 visitors per year. It will serve as the starting point for Bambike Ecotours and will be a showcase of sustainable materials produced by the tribe.” Ultimately, the goal of deploying the Bambox is to provide the indigenous Dumagat community in Angat Dam with sustainable income.

This VIP project is a means through which we can ignite sustainable livelihood development in their community. Bambike Ecotours will serve as the green spark that will catalyse sustainable livelihood development in the Dumagat community, responsible tourism in a conservation area, and access to renewable energy for the beneficiaries.

During this project, the Fellows succeeded in designing the Bambox, though it is yet to be built. Also, they trained the Dumagat villagers to take on jobs as tour guides by improving their English and teaching them how to communicate with tourists. The Fellows also trained more than twenty of the beneficiaries how to run the operations of the Bambike Ecotours activities and conservation workshops, preparing them to take on roles as tourist guides. The villagers were also trained in product development by the Fellows, enabling them to build bamboo bikes, maintain the bike trail and build the Bambox.

With Bambox being the starting point for ecotourism tours and the villagers being able to produce a variety of products out of bamboo, the Dumagat tribe were well on their way to having access to a sustainable livelihood that will create a micro-economy based on ecotourism within their community, through a documented model that is replicable and scalable across other communities.

VIP 2017 - Bambike Ecotours

Learn more about the VIP 2017 Fellowship Programme: VIP.org.my

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