Eco Friendly Destination Feature: Nihiwatu Resort Reduces Local Malaria

Near the resort, Nihiwatu, on the island of Sumba, Indonesia, the Pasola ritual occurs in February and March. Blood is shed. Thousands of horseman charge one another on a battle field. Injuries are anticipated, and sometimes horses and riders die. Blood is necessary to make the ground fertile for the rice harvests in April and May. In the old days, wounded persons were without a medical clinic. Now, due to the efforts of Nihiwatu, there are five clinics in the area to help with medical problems.

The owners of Nihiwatu founded the Sumba Foundation to help the islanders. Thanks to medical clinics and clean water, the resort has been credited for raising the life expectancy of more than 20,000 people living in nearby villages.  Malaria infection rates have been reduced by 85% in regions of West Sumba. The Sumba Foundation also opened a malaria training center in 2010, and they will graduate over 100 students this year, which will help diagnose hundreds of thousands of cases in the area.

A large part of funding for the Sumba Foundation comes from their guests. Including, actually, as the founder notes in a recent video, the children who visit. Children who visit sometimes start fundraisers at home, mail duffel bags of toothbrushes, and work with the community to install malaria nets. Many visitors to remote resort of Nihiwatu are touched by the Sumbanese, and make donations to the Sumba Foundation.

In the past few years, the locals have also begun farming. When the founders of Nihiwatu arrived twenty years ago, there were no farms, though the slash and burn method was used. Cassava, supplemented with corn and rice, is the primary diet of the Sumbanese. Cassava is a low-protein starch with roots that contain poisonous compounds. This results in chronic protein deficiencies and malnutrition. The Sumba Foundation is seeking donations for water pumps and tractors to help the islanders learn to farm and improve their diet. Nihiwatu, meanwhile, raises poultry and vegetables and passes along farming knowledge to locals.

Recently, Nihiwatu received the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards for helping the local population and undertaking conservation projects. Nihiwatu is powered by bio-fuel and built from sustainable resources. The resort has planted over 64,000 trees for their carbon offset program. Everything is recycled, making Nihiwatu is an eco-friendly destination, through and through.

Meanwhile, the Sumbanese carry on the traditions of their ancestors. Their main goal is to maintain a healthy relationship with the Marapu, or ancestral spirits. Providing ancestors with food and wealth in the afterlife means prosperity for the living. Up until recently, when a nobleman died, hundreds of water buffalo, horses, dogs and pigs were slaughtered. In the old days, many families would bankrupt themselves to put on a show. Today, though, the government limits the slaughtering to five animals (though the rule is not always obeyed). Even with the influx of education, healthcare, and tourists, tradition reigns in Sumba.

Image Courtesy of Nihiwatu