The Borneo Ecotourism Solutions and Technologies Society

The case study begins in 1995, when Borneo Eco Tours (BET) and the Sukau Rainforest Lodge (SRL) undertook removing Salvinia Molesta—an invasive Brazilian fern—from the Kelenanap Oxbow Lake that flows into Sabah’s Kinabatangan River. BET and SRL, respectively sit in western and eastern Sabah, a Malaysian state on the Island of Borneo. From this initial project, the two companies launched the non-profit Borneo Ecotourism Solutions and Technologies (BEST) Society.

Over the years BEST has garnered corporate support for additional community projects—water tanks, tree plantings and medical camps—and won numerous global ecotourism awards. BEST received the 2014 United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) Ulysses Award for innovation in the NGO Category for its ‘From Charity to Social Entrepreneurship’ submission. The UNWTO Awards seek to recognize and stimulate knowledge creation, dissemination and innovative applications in tourism. And in 2015, National Geographic selected the Sukau Rainforest Lodge as one of its 24 charter ‘Unique Lodges of the World’, for its commitment to authenticity, excellence and sustainability.

Today, BET and SRL contribute about half of BEST’s annual budget. From 2010 onward, BEST has received grants from corporate sponsors for social entrepreneurship initiatives that include capacity-building projects in Kimihang, Kudat (USD 50,000), organic farming in Sikuati, Kudat (USD 21,500), living water projects in five villages in Pitas (USD 22,500) and Camp Lemaing (USD 36,000).

BEST Society’s latest project, Camp Lemaing, is an eco-lodge that provides employment and raises community development funds for the local Dusun people in Kiau Nuluh, near Mt. Kinabalu. BET and BEST market and operate the eco camp, with plans to transition Camp Lemaing operations to the Dusun community in 2020. BEST’s Community Fund provided an interest-free loan for half the USD 81,000 Camp Lemaing project. Unfortunately, mudslides and floods subsequent to a 5.9 Richter scale Mt Kinabalu earthquake on 5 June, 2015 destroyed Camp Lemaing camp.

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