KOPEL is a village-based co-operative. We are a joint venture of local rural people, fishermen and farmers. Our mission is creating an alternative path of co-existence with the remaining rainforest ecosystems, to nurture and protect these special places, and to generate a sustainable long-term income generation for the local people of our area. The driving mechanism is Eco-Tourism. The core business activity and product is the Conservation of Forest Ecosystems and Biodiversity of the Lower Kinabatangan. The relationship between tourism and conservation is key to sustaining alternative livelihoods, as well as the long-term protection and restoration of the last remaining habitats, rainforests, and wildlife of the Lower Kinabatangan.our story
KOPEL members and the community of Batu Puteh Kinabatangan have worked since 1998 to conserve and restore their surrounding rainforest habitats and ecosystems. Forest habitat restoration, including tree planting, is one of the core conservation activities being initiated as early as 1999 (now more than 20 years).
Over the years, KOPEL has planted more than 400,000 trees with the help and support of volunteers, and many contributing organisations. KOPEL’s conservation activities have also expanded since that time, to include lake restoration, cave restoration, wildlife monitoring, water quality monitoring, and environmental education, just to name a few of the key conservation activities run by the co-op.
KOPEL Bhd was formed by joining of several community groups, being led by the MESCOT Initiative and the Miso Walai Homestay Program in 2003. Today the Community Cooperative KOPEL Bhd encompasses a number of ecotourism ventures and conservation initiatives and has more than 340 members (cooperative shareholders) from the surrounding villages.
KOPEL’s agenda is broad and ambitious. As a Social Enterprise, KOPEL’s key responsibility is its members, and first and foremost this means creating and sustaining employment and contributing in meaningful ways to local livelihoods. Alongside KOPEL’s numerous conservation activities, KOPEL has a parallel social agenda, with numerous community and member focused benefits from micro-finance through to awards, donations, and training opportunities.
In the early days of the restoration activities, KOPEL like many community organisations had its hand out, and relied totally on grant money and donor organisations to fund the conservation work. KOPEL worked out the hard way, that funds from the conservation (NGO) community were not sustainable and tied to limited project life cycles - at best 3-5 years. When the funds dried up, KOPEL had to make hard decisions about the future of these activities, and the people who had invested years of hard work to make it happen.
Fortunately, visitors to KOPEL were keen to learn about and get involved in the conservation activities. This catalysed a major shift in focus, and a growing reliance on ecotourists, volunteers, and the income from these activities to get the conservation work done. Along the way KOPEL has merged and hybridised these funding pathways so that KOPEL can best continue its conservation agenda, whilst maintaining high value experiences for visitors. Today, we encourage those who are keen to support our work, to come and visit, and contribute through their stay with us. In this way, we too can give something back to our supporters, through our activities, the experience, and the learning along the way.