Tag Archives: ecotourism

The Game-Changers: oil, gas and geothermal

image from UNESCO

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has decided to degazette parts of two UNESCO World Heritage Sites to allow for oil drilling. Environmentalists have reacted sharply to the decision to open up Virunga and Salonga national parks – a move that is likely to jeopardise a regional treaty on the protection of Africa’s most biodiverse wildlife habitat and the endangered mountain gorilla…The two national parks are home to mountain gorillas, bonobos and other rare species. Salonga covers 33 350 km2 (3,350,000 ha)of the Congo Basin, the world’s second largest rainforest, and contains bonobos, forest elephants, dwarf chimpanzees and Congo peacocks….

On 7 April, 2018, a council of ministers from the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda agreed to ratify the Treaty on the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC) on Wildlife Conservation and Tourism Development. The inaugural ministerial meeting set the deadline for September 2018 to finalise the national processes needed to ratify the treaty.

The Virunga National Park (790,000 ha, 7 900 km2)is part of the 13 800 km2 (1 3800 00 ha) Greater Virunga Landscape, which straddles the eastern DRC, north-western Rwanda and south-western Uganda.  The area boasts three UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Virunga, Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It also boasts a Ramsar Site (Lake George and Lake Edward) and a Man and Biosphere Reserve (in Queen Elizabeth National Park). It is the most species-rich landscape in the Albertine Rift – home to more vertebrate species and more endemic and endangered species than any other region in Africa.

According to the Greater Virunga Landscape 2016 annual report, the number of elephant carcasses recorded in 2016 was half the yearly average for the preceding five years. The report also mentions a high rate of prosecution and seizures. It cites a case study on Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park where 282 suspects involved in poaching were prosecuted, with over 230 sentenced….The GVTC has also helped to ease tensions between the countries by providing a platform where their military forces can collaborate in a transparent way. ..

Armed groups have reportedly killed more than 130 rangers in the park since 1996. Militias often kill animals such as elephants, hippos and buffaloes in the park for both meat and ivory. Wildlife products are then trafficked from the DRC through Uganda or Rwanda. The profits fund the armed groups’ operations.

Over 80% of the Greater Virunga Landscape is covered by oil concessions and this makes it a target for state resource exploitation purely for economic gain.


2015: Until recently, in GVL, extraction of highly valued minerals such as gold and coltan, were largely artisanal. The recent discovery of oil, gas and geothermal potential, however, is a game-changer. Countries are now moving ahead in the exploration and production of oil and gas, which if not properly managed, is likely to result in major negative environmental (and social) changes. Extractive industries are managed under each GVL partner state policy guidelines and legislation. Concessions for these industries cover the whole of the GVL, including the World Heritage Sites as well as national protected areas . Since 2006, Uganda discovered commercial quantities of oil in the Albertine Graben and production in Murchison will begin within the next few years. The effect of the extractive industries, similar to and contributing to that of the increase in urbanization is the increased demand for bush meat, timber and fuel wood from the GVL.

Excertps from Duncan E Omondi Gumba, DRC prioritises oil over conservation, ISS Africa,  July 11, 2018//GREATER VIRUNGA LANDSCAPE
ANNUAL CONSERVATION STATUS REPORT 2015

 

At Least Preserve Something

Pendjari National Park

Benin is hiring scores of extra park rangers and bringing in conservation scientists to rehabilitate part of West Africa’s largest wildlife reserve, which contains big cats and thousands of elephants that have largely died out elsewhere in the region. The W-Arli-Pendjari (WAP) complex is the region’s biggest remaining expanse of savannah, covering more than 30,000 sq km of Benin, Niger and Burkina Faso.

The tiny nation has partnered with NGO African Parks for the 10-year project centred on the 4,800 sq km Pendjari National Park, part of WAP and seen as the most viable tourist hub for the area, officials involved told Reuters.

“Pendjari is an opportunity for Benin and the region,” Jose Pliya, director of Benin’s national tourism agency, told Reuters. “This partnership will help us make it a sustainable tourism destination and a lever for development and employment for Beninoise.”

Boosting ecotourism faces challenges, not least because jihadists are thought to have infiltrated parts of the wider reserve. France, former colonial master of the three nations straddling the park advised it citizens against all travel to the Burkina Faso side of the expanse.

To better police the park, the project will recruit 10 officers or specialists, train 90 guards, set up a satellite communications network and put a 190 km fence around it, a joint statement from African Parks and Benin said.

Excerpts from Moves to save part of west Africa’s last big wildlife refuge, Reuters, June 2, 2017

The Commercialization of Culture: Amazon Indigenous Peoples

desana on pinterest

[T]he Tupe reserve, home to 40 members of the Dessana tribe, and located 15 miles (24km) up the Rio Negro river from Manaus, the capital of Brazil’s vast Amazon region.The tribe originates from more than 600 miles further upstream, in remote north-western Brazil, but three decades ago nine members moved down river to Tupe, to be near Manaus, a modern city of two million people.  Eventually they chose to go into tourism, and commercialising their culture.

Yet while they continue to be successful in doing this, some commentators remain concerned that the Tupe villagers, and other such tribal groups which have gone into tourism, are at risk of being exploited.  Former farmersToday the residents of Tupe put on traditional music and dance performances for tourists and sell their homemade jewellery to visitors….

With most visitors paying a fixed fee of around £55 per person for a package tour, the problem for the tribal people – and authorities wishing to help project them – is that there is no industry-wide agreement on what share of the money the villagers should be paid.   Some of the 196 tourism agencies don’t pay the tribal groups at all, instead forcing them to rely on selling jewellery, with pieces typically retailing for between four reals ($1.50; £1) and 20 reals ($7.60; £5), or asking for donations….A Brazilian government agency, the National Indian Foundation, which aims to protect and further the needs of indigenous groups, is indeed now looking at whether such regulations should be enforced.In the meantime, to help tribal villages better handle business negotiations with tour firms, a non-government organisation called the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (ASF) runs entrepreneurial programmes for members of such communities.
Excerpt from  Donna Bowater, Helping Brazil’s tribal groups benefit more from tourism, BBC, Jan. 21, 2015

How Palau Fights the Big Fishing Countries

Palau

The traditional prescription for an ailing reef is a fishing ban called a bul. Local chiefs may declare a bul to rest a busy fishing spot or protect endangered sea turtles. Now Palau’s president has a more drastic plan. He proposes a complete ban on commercial fishing—a bul to turn the 600,000 square kilometres (232,000 square miles) of Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) into a marine reserve the size of Ukraine. Locals could still fish close to shore, but not for export. The ban would last until world leaders implement programmes “to reverse the devastation to our oceans and seas”, Palau’s president, Tommy Remengesau, recently told the United Nations. Environmentalists have rallied to his cause. Such reserves are usually declared by countries with fishing grounds and cash to spare. Palau has a population of 20,000 and a GDP of $246m. I

A total ban might hurt Palau, which is part of Micronesia, 800km (500 miles) east of the Philippines. Though small, its waters are full of bigeye and yellowfin tuna. Japanese and Taiwanese boats pay to fish there, helping Palau earn $5m in revenue from fishing taxes and licensing fees in 2013. That is a lot for a microstate with an annual government budget of only $70m. And fishing revenues have been growing thanks to a regional negotiating block. Together, eight remote Pacific states control 14m square km of tuna-rich waters. They have forced Asian and American ships into a cap-and-trade scheme that boosts access fees by limiting total fishing days. In an age of collapsing fish stocks, the relative health of fisheries in the western Pacific has given island states a rare measure of economic influence. Palau’s bet, however, is that its fish are worth more in the water than out. Mr Remengesau doubts that small islands will ever capture more than “a drop” of a tuna fishery worth billions but dominated by foreign fleets. Ecotourism, meanwhile, accounts for about half of Palau’s GDP. Palau’s leaders hope that a national marine reserve will lure enough tourists to offset lost fishing revenue….

Palau has only one boat capable of patrolling its EEZ. Many tuna bandits escape detection. Technology could help: last year the country tested surveillance drones. The problem is money. Japan and America have helped fund enforcement. Both have an interest because of their fishing deals with Palau. But they may not want to fund a system that locks them out of its waters altogether,

Marine protection in the Pacific: No bul, Economist, June 7,  2014, at 46

The Global Marketing of Indigenous Tourism, who is ready to profit?

As today’s conscientious travellers seek authentic experiences with the people of the lands they visit, tourism can be a vehicle for preserving ancient cultures, while socially and economically empowering marginalised or remote indigenous communities.  At the first Pacific Asia Indigenous Tourism Conference (PAITC) held on the traditional land of the Larrakia people in Darwin, Australia from Mar. 28-30, participants noted the rising demand for indigenous tourism and the need to ensure sustainable and equitable business partnerships that respect indigenous intellectual property rights, cultures, traditional practices and the environment while simultaneously enriching visitor experiences.

With one billion people expected to cross international borders in 2012, tourism will create 1 in 12 jobs worldwide and generate trillions of dollars in exchange and investment, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO)….

The conference, attended by 191 participants from 16 countries, issued the Larrakia Declaration on the Development of Indigenous Tourism, which recognises that whilst tourism provides the strongest driver to restore, protect and promote indigenous cultures, it has the potential to diminish and destroy those cultures when improperly developed.

“In some ethnic communities in China and in other countries, it is the non-indigenous parties that promote indigenous tourism and utilise the attractiveness of indigenous people to achieve their own interests, normally for economic profits. A balance of interests between stakeholders needs to be addressed as otherwise (there might be) tensions between indigenous people and the non-indigenous parties”, Jingjing Yang, an international doctoral student at New Zealand’s Waikato University, told IPS.

Her ethnographic research focuses on the impact of tourism on ethnic (indigenous) communities, specifically the Kanas’s Tuva and Kazakh peoples’ settlements in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.  New Zealand is perhaps a world leader in indigenous tourism, where the industry has acted as a catalyst for preserving Māori culture and engendering a sense of pride in the youth, who are learning history, legends, language, music and arts.  or example, the well-known Māori haka is a fierce dance-chant that has become internationally recognised among sports fans that follow New Zealand’s national rugby team, the All Blacks.  Many countries across the Pacific region are learning from New Zealand’s successful model in taking indigenous tourism from the margins to the mainstream.  “For the first time, the indigenous people have a traveller genuinely interested in hearing their story and willing to pay for it. People want to have an authentic local experience and the greatest challenge for indigenous tourism is how to gear itself for that kind of demand,” Mike Tamaki, director of Global Storytellers, told IPS.  Tamaki got involved in indigenous tourism 30 years ago. He claims that, though his people (Māori) have great ideas and extend exceptional hospitality, they have no money.  “This has been a disadvantage in terms of development of indigenous experiences worldwide, as indigenous people find it difficult to market their ideas into a product.”  Over a century ago, the tangata whenua or the indigenous Māoris, began guiding visitors to snow- capped peaks, across lush-green undulating terrain, to crystal clear waters of the rivers and geothermal hot spots.  Today, a new generation of Maori are leading overseas travellers through Aotearoa or Land of the Long White Cloud, the Māori name for New Zealand, as forest, rafting and fishing guides, entertainers and artists, transport operators and Marae (meeting place) hosts.

A leading academic in the field of traditional medicine, Gerry Bodeker, a professor at Oxford University, suggests expanding the scope of indigenous tourism. He says indigenous people have preserved thousands of years of generational knowledge about plants and natural ingredients, which can be a treasure trove for the global wellness industry.  “In 2011, the global wellness economy was valued at 1.9 trillion dollars. This money can go back into the development of indigenous communities and it is happening where corporate ethics are aligned with indigenous priorities and development. Asia is in the forefront of this kind of approach.”  “It is also happening in Africa, Latin America, the Pacific and Australia”, Bodeker, chair of the Global Initiative For Traditional Systems (GIFTS) of Health, Oxford, told IPS.  He elucidated his comment with examples of wellness resorts such as the Six Senses Spa in Hua Hin, Thailand, which is committed to investing back into local village communities that provide the herbs, local produce and workforce for the spa; The Farm in San Benito in the Philippines, where each doctor volunteers a day each week to provide healthcare services to rural low-income communities and train local healthcare workers; and the Sambunyi Spa in Malaysia, which buys its products from a local women’s cooperative supporting single mothers and commissions them to cultivate and supply spa products.

Excerpts, By Neena Bhandari, Tourism Goes Indigenous, IPS, Apr. 4, 2012

Indigenous Peoples as Human Zoo, the human safaris