Conference on the Central Highlands of Iceland

The Icelandic Natur Conservation Association Conference (INCA) and the Icelandic environmental organisation Landvernd performed a conference on the future protection perspectives of Iceland’s Highlands. The conference took place in Iceland’s national sports hall, Laugardshöll. The idea to enlarge the Vatnajökull national park to the entire highlands was for discussion and received major support from the participants. Peter Prokosch was speaking on behalf of LT&C on  Linking Tourism & Conservation (LT&C) for the Icelandic HighlandsLT&C Iceland 15.5.2015 M. See also clip of the News of RÚF, the main TV channel of Iceland. Continue reading “Conference on the Central Highlands of Iceland”

Napo Wildlife Center, Yasuni National Park, Ecuador – World-leading indigenous tourism maintaining a biosphere reserve

Napo Wildlife Center, Yasuni National Park, Ecuador – World-leading indigenous tourism maintaining a biosphere reserve

Napo Wildlife Center Ecolodge has been carefully built and designed by the Añangu indigenous community to offer tourists maximum privacy and comfort in Amazon Wildlife Tours. Luxury rooms and commodities, first class attention, beautiful views of the jungle and the lake, nature within your reach… it is a real paradise for nature lovers, eco-travellers, and adventure seekers. Located in Yasuni National Park in the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest, the Napo Wildlife Center is considered one of the best eco-hotels in the world and a beautiful example of Linking Tourism and Conservation, where tourism supports a protected area. The Añangu community has been recognized worldwide for its conservation of the flora and fauna found in this region. Yasuni National Park has been declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.

The Añangu community, within the Yasuni National Park and hosted by Napo Wildlife Center, has been nationally and internationally recognized for their conservation and environmentally friendly work. The commitment of the whole community has meant that hunting, fishing and timber collection are now prohibited in this area. All activities are now focused on the protection of the environment. As evidence of the rich biodiversity inside Yasuní National Park nearly 4,000 species of plants have been recorded, with the possibility that this number will increase. A scientific report prepared for Yasuní registered 173 species of mammals (80 species of bats), 567 species of birds, 105 species of amphibians, 83 species of reptiles, 382 species of fish and more than 100,000 species of insects. The Anangu Kichwa community built the Napo Wildlife Center Ecolodge which borders the Añangucocha lagoon. The hotel opened to tourists in 2004. During the consolidation of the ecotourism project in mid-2007, the people of the Anangu community achieved became the sole administrators and managers of the Napo Wildlife Center. This hotel is visited by 3,000 tourists a year, most of them from Europe and the United States. Each group has a community guide and a professional naturalist guide translator able to provide information in the language of the tourist group. Without doubt, the main attraction of NWC is the incredible diversity of plants, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles living in this important area. The decision of the Community to concentrate on tourism and conservation has had benefits for our community. Historically, the level of education in the population has been low: only 46% of the population had completed primary education, while 26% had not completed secondary education. The community assumed the project of encouraging continued education, thus preventing migration away from the community and increasing opportunities for the future. From here the community managed to increase high school attendance, and 2012 saw the first class graduate in sustainable technology baccalaureate with the main objective of sustainable community tourism. 50% of students belong to neighbour communities and the other 50% belong to Anangu community. The overall number of students is 136, including coast native pupils, Ssecoyas, Kichwa, etc. Education is free, covered mostly by the state, and supported also by the community.

Currently, the Kichwa Community Añangu has several projects, developing attractive activities for the visitors, enhancing their Amazon experience.

Currently, our General Manager, Jiovanny Rivadeneira, runs seminars for other indigenous associations sharing the Community’s experience on how the tourism project developed, in order to encourage replication of the success of the Napo Wildlife Center in other areas, and thereby highlighting the successful link between our conservation activities and sustainable tourism.

Chumbe Island Coral Park – Ecotourism supporting conservation, research and environmental education at the world’s first Private Marine Park

Chumbe Island Coral Park – Ecotourism supporting conservation, research and environmental education at the world’s first Private Marine Park

Chumbe Island Coral Park champions integrated eco-system based marine and forest conservation management sustainably financed through eco-tourism.

Chumbe Island Coral Park (CHICOP) in Zanzibar/Tanzania has created the first private Marine Park in the world, and the first managed Marine Protected Area in Tanzania. The objective of the investment was from the beginning to create a model of financially, ecologically and socially sustainable Marine Park management, where ecotourism supports conservation, research and environmental education for local people.

In 2008, CHICOP became a founding member of the flagship program of the Jochen Zeitz Foundation, the Long Run Initiative. This initiative promotes and certifies tourism enterprises, which directly manage, or significantly contribute to the management of a natural area of conservation value and demonstrate their commitment to sustainability through the 4Cs: Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce. Performance and processes across the 4Cs are assessed through a certification scheme that awards destinations with the Global Ecosphere Retreat (GER) distinction for the highest level of sustainability. CHICOP become the first GER certified Long Run Destination in 2011, in recognition of promoting marine conservation in Tanzania and setting an example for genuine eco-tourism and environmental education and awareness creation.

Chumbe Island Coral Park is a private investment in marine and forest conservation with a commercial component, the eco-lodge, which generates the income needed to run the park. Therefore, revenue generated from eco-tourism is reinvested in supporting park management and environmental education programs.

Benefits to local communities

Increased fish catches in the vicinity: The most direct benefits local people can have from a conservation project is the protection of their natural resources for sustainable livelihoods.

As a no-take zone, the Chumbe Reef Sanctuary has created a protected breeding ground for fish and other marine organisms that helps restock depleted fisheries and recovery of degraded fishing grounds, with the so-called “spill-over effect” of fish into adjacent fishing grounds, where fishermen have indeed reported increased catches.


 

Employment and career opportunities: The successful integration of environment and community is an important benchmark for eco-tourism. In order to realize this as a fully managed nature reserve, and also due to the particular eco-technologies installed, CHICOP’s operations are very labour-intensive. With only 7 rooms, CHICOP has probably the highest employee/room ratio of any tourism business in Tanzania, and three times the international average for eco-lodges. Wherever possible, CHICOP employs people from nearby village communities, though they have limited formal education and thus need much on-the-job-training. Of the 43 employees, 95% are Tanzanians, over two thirds from local communities, and 5% expatriates. In particular, former fishermen were recruited and trained as park rangers and stationed on the island. Gender considerations are also key, with women being given preference and currently forming 40% of the Chumbe workforce. It is important to note here that a third of the staff are directly involved in conservation management and education.

Market for local services, produce and handicraft: Since guests are offered typical Zanzibarian cuisine, which is a delicious blend of Asian, Arabic, African and European traditions, CHICOP creates a ready market for local produce, rather than imported foods. This not only reduces waste and pollution by minimizing packaging materials of industrially processed food but also raises awareness and pride for the local culture. Other income opportunities for local people include building materials for the eco-lodge, handicrafts sold in the boutique, the outsourcing of road and boat transport and craftsmen services during maintenance.

Sustainable financing for conservation: The sustainable management and promotion of key ecosystem services (sustainable fisheries and biodiversity conservation) for the Chumbe region has been widely recognized, including mention in the recent UN Secretary General’s report to the General Assembly on protection of coral reefs for sustainable livelihoods and development for Rio+20, which states: ‘‘A noted example for PES (Payment for Ecosystem Services) within the context of coral reefs habitat is the private, non-profit Chumbe Island Coral Park Ltd (CHICOP) in Tanzania…. Especially local fishermen benefit from the Reef Sanctuary, as research findings confirmed that fish inside the protected no-take zone travel out and increase their yields in the vicinity”.

Education Programs & Research

Public communication, education and awareness-raising on the vulnerability of the marine and forest ecosystems and the importance of sustainable eco-tourism are key pillars of CHICOP’s Environmental Education (EE) programs, which are regularly conducted on Chumbe Island and in Zanzibar. The programs offer free island excursions, training workshops and peer education sessions for students, teachers and community members. Based on the approach of ‘Education for Sustainable Development”, these programs help to close the gap between theoretical knowledge and practice, involve a different level of learners and seek solutions to environmental concerns that build on indigenous knowledge, culture and traditions. By the end of 2014, over 6300 school children and 1100 teachers had visited the island to experience the natural environment with its diverse ecosystems.

The experiential hands-on activities for schoolchildren and all visitors include guided snorkelling in the reef and walking along the forest trails using all senses such as sight, touch, hearing, taste and smell while ensuring that the teaching contents link up with the national school curricula. CHICOP also supports schools through environmental talks/seminars and helps organize environmental clubs, which are much encouraged by a popular competition for a sustainable future for schools, i.e. the Chumbe Challenge Environmental Award.

Political support & capacity building

CHICOP has also helped to raise conservation awareness and understanding of the legal and institutional requirements among government officials. The very innovative and unusual investment proposal of a privately established and managed Marine and Forest reserve required the involvement and approval of altogether seven Government departments. This took over four years to negotiate, followed by intense discussions on the Management Plans 1995-2016, which were developed by CHICOP consultants with wide stakeholder participation. This lengthy process has gained CHICOP political support and prepared the ground for improvements in the legal framework for marine conservation, environmental protection and management. Furthermore, an Advisory Committee that was established in the year 1995 includes village leaders, government officials, local academics and the CHICOP management, and meets at least twice per year for discussions about achievements and challenges.

Chumbe has been certified by The Long Run certification scheme and thus reached top standards of sustainability in the categories of the “4 C’s – Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce and there is not much left that we can do better than maintaining standards in all categories, and to work on reaching long-term inter-generational sustainability.

However, as a bottom line, private protected areas need to maintain the necessary occupancy rate that secures sufficient income to fund park management and non-commercial programs. This can be challenging sometimes when the destination as a whole goes through or is wrongly perceived to be geographically close to, social unrest, election turmoil, terrorism incidents or much-publicized diseases. For example, though not occurring in East Africa, Ebola has dealt a major blow to East African and Tanzanian tourism, and this has been aggravated by terrorist attacks in Kenya.

It can be done but needs a number of favourable conditions concerning the investment climate and the tourism sector in general and for private investment into conservation in particular.

 

From our work in Chumbe and through lessons learned accumulated over a period of 2 decades, we have established that private management of marine protected areas can be effective and economically viable, even in a challenging political environment. Investment in conservation and in environmentally sound technologies, as well as the employment of additional staff for park management and environmental education programs, raises costs considerably, making it difficult to compete with other tourism enterprises. Favourable conservation and investment policies and taxation would encourage such initiatives but are not available in Tanzania. Close cooperation with government agencies in establishing and protecting this reserve has enhanced the understanding of environmental issues among local and national authorities. In addition, the establishment of the Chumbe nature reserve has benefited local communities by generating income, employment, market for local produce, developing new work skills, and restocking commercial fish species in adjacent marine areas (spill-over). To avoid user conflicts, it is easier to preserve an area that is not used intensively for subsistence or other economic endeavours by local communities.

With the threats of climate change, marine conservation needs more political support from governments and the international conservation community, as well as recognition of the contributions that the private sector can make to both, effective conservation area management and livelihoods of local people on the ground. The long-term security of tenure and contracts, together with a favourable political, legal and institutional environment are needed to attract more private and community investment in marine conservation particularly in the developing world. The Chumbe Island Coral Park project looks forward to sustaining these and collaborates with LT&C in mainstreaming results, experiences and lessons for the achievement of sustainable coastal tourism around the world.

The International Wadden Sea (NL/D/DK)

The International Wadden Sea (NL/D/DK)

The Wadden Sea is located in the South Eastern part of the North Sea. It stretches from Den Helder in the southwestern part along the barrier islands of the Dutch coast, the German Bight and the Danish coast to Blåvandshuk in the northeastern part.

The Wadden Sea is the largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud flats in the world, with natural processes undisturbed throughout most of the area. It encompasses a multitude of transitional zones between the land, sea and freshwater environment, and is rich in species specially adapted to the demanding environmental conditions. It is considered one of the most important areas for migratory birds in the world and is connected to a network of other key sites for migratory birds. Its importance is not only in the context of the East Atlantic Flyway but also in the critical role it plays in the conservation of African-Eurasian migratory waterbirds. In the Wadden Sea, up to 6.1 million birds can be present at the same time, and an average of 10 to 12 million birds pass through it each year.

The international Wadden Sea, shared by the three countries, The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, is a good example of LT&C. Why, is explained by Dr Harald Marencic, Deputy Secretary of the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat.

The Wadden Sea extends over three countries, the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark. In 2009 it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is one of the largest tourist destinations in Europe. For more than 30 years the governments of the Wadden Sea countries work together on trans-boundary nature conservation to the benefits of present and future generation. Tourism actually benefits from these conservation policies as visitors expect intact nature and conservation measures. Thereby the political support for the protection of the transnational Wadden Sea World Heritage has significantly grown over the recent years. Also, the cooperation between tourism and conservation has been strengthened, e.g. through voluntary agreements and by participating in partnership programmes with national parks. With the establishment of a trilateral environmental education programme in cooperation with WWF, public support for the conservation of the World Heritage is envisioned to grow.

With the development of a Strategy for Sustainable Tourism in the Wadden Sea World Heritage Destination, all relevant governmental and non-governmental stakeholders agreed how sustainable tourism should be developed in order to meet ecological requirements of the World Heritage status. This is based on the assumption that tourism contributes to sustaining this World Heritage. In addition, tourism is profiting from the exceptional conservation status of the Wadden Sea. This innovative to a sustainable tourism strategy has been recognized and appreciated by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Paris. This strategy has been supported by the EU in the frame of the transnational project PROWAD (Protect & Prosper/Sustainable Tourism in the Wadden Sea) through the “INTERREG IV B Northsea Programme”

The tourism strategy for the Wadden Sea is recognized as a model for other World Heritage sites due to the way that the tourism sector plays an active role to implement the World Heritage Convention. In this context all three Wadden Sea states work together with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Paris, supporting the programme for sustainable tourism in marine World Heritage sites (cooperation between all 46 such sites). This includes the 2014 established partnership with the Banc d’ Arguin national park in Mauritania in order to improve the protection of migratory birds along the East-Atlantic Flyway. Close cooperation exists also with South Korea in order to exchange experience with protection and management of mudflats. This includes environmental education, information centers, and sustainable tourism. Participation in the LT&C programme is a further opportunity to share experiences with other areas and at the same time profit from their experiences.