Langkawi becoming a UNESCO Global Geopark has greatly benefitted the local community by creating opportunities for the people to improve their livelihoods in the services sector – tourism.
No longer relying on agricultural activities like farming and fishing to survive, many have found work in the hospitality and food and beverages businesses, and some have turned entrepreneurs.
Village folks have also ventured into enterprises of their own. In Kampung Kilim, villagers have set up the Kampung Kilim Cooperative in 2010 to do business to generate income and look after the interests of its members.
Their success has not gone un-noticed. At the Visit ASEAN@50: Golden Celebration launching in Singapore this year, the cooperative was accorded the Community-based Tourism Award.
The cooperative’s deputy chairman Kasa Harun says the cooperative is proud of receiving the award and has seen its membership grown from 68 when it first started to 130.
“We have 120 boats belonging to our members that are chartered to take tourists out for river cruises to see the sights at the Kilim Karst Geoforest Park.
“Those who want to rent out their boats must be registered members with the cooperative. We encourage our fellow villagers to do this because this is a way for them to make extra income for their families,” he says.
The Kilim Karst Geoforest Park is famed for its mangrove forests, making it a must-see for nature-loving visitors; and the ancient limestone karst hills with vertical and overhanging cliffs.
It also has beautiful lagoons and beaches. Other attractions include the Bat Cave, Cave of Stories (Gua Cherita) and fish farms.
Other than nature tours and cruises, the Kampung Kilim cooperative also runs a restaurant, catering service and canopy renting business. It also has vans to rent out for tours.
“We took part in national village competitions and won some grants that made it possible for us to invest in these other businesses.
“We are hoping to start a handicraft business too but we need to find people who can make quality products. We hope we can do it in the near future,” he says.
Apart from doing business, the cooperative also serves Langkawi by taking part in programmes organised by the Langkawi Development Authority and other agencies for the betterment of the geopark and the people.
“We give our commitment to take part in any programme by the authorities like green and environmental-friendly initiatives. Anything that is good for the geopark will be good for the community,” Kasa says.