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Outdoor Economy

Can Natural Resources Combat Poverty in Rural Areas?

The Fatu Hiva RainforestWhat will be the results of this unprecedented, recent decision by the the United Nations?

It is hard to care that much about the environment when you are hungry and struggling to survive.

Poverty continues to plague many parts of the world.

Indigenous populations face many challenges such as lack of food, clean water, education and opportunity.

They look for what ever means necessary to add to their circumstances and help feed themselves.

There may be solutions within the beautiful landscapes and among the flora and fauna that don’t include burning or poaching.

Efforts that are made to understand the natural and cultural stories and share them with the world could attract a growing demographic of travelers.

Many local populations do not realize the value of the stories that they have learned growing up in their area.  The time they have spent observing the wildlife and listening to the stories of their ancestors may hold more benefit than they are aware of.

Few people in rural communities that are surrounded by natural areas understand that their adventures off into the wilderness may have given them specialized knowledge that can be turned into revenue for themselves and their families.

Trends show that a growing number of travelers are more interested in learning about the history and culture of the places they visit and interacting with the local populations.

Places that have unique flora and fauna are of particular interest to certain travelers and nature enthusiasts.

Policy makers are beginning to realize the power of tourism to bring much needed economic development to impoverished areas.

In December 21, 2012, The United Nations General Assembly recently adopted a landmark resolution entitled “Promotion of ecotourism for poverty eradication and environment protection”, “positive impact on income generation, job creation and education, and thus on the fight against poverty and hunger”. It further recognizes that “ecotourism creates significant opportunities for the conservation, protection and sustainable use of biodiversity and of natural areas by encouraging local and indigenous communities in host countries and tourists alike to preserve and respect the natural and cultural heritage”.

There is genuine concern when developing a tourism industry that it may have negative implications.

Sometimes tourism can be destructive and developments can block access for local populations from enjoying their own land as well as threaten their culture, environment and heritage sites.

Several municipalities have created regulations that prevent the destruction of natural areas and promote an atmosphere that will attract conscientious visitors that are drawn to the flora and fauna rather than the high-rises and night clubs.

Studies have shown that these travelers tend to spend more money, stay longer, and have more positive impact on the places they visit.  More of their money tends to find it’s way into the local economy.

It takes time and investment to develop sustainable tourism. Building capacity needs to be done systematically with a well thought out plan and process.

Policy makers and stakeholders need to be sensitive when dealing with local populations that have a history of being marginalized.

The UN resolution draws on information in a report by The World Tourism Organization, UNWTO, which encourages a number of initiatives that include creating cooperation among stake holders and creating financial mechanisms such as microcredit for the poor and in local and indigenous communities, in rural areas that have ecotourism potential.

Examples of potential of constructive and destructive tourism development can be found all over the world and used as a reference when moving forward.

What has been your experience?


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