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Socio-economic Benefits of Community-Based Ecotourism in West Africa

Individuals’ expendable income is enhanced as a result of community-based ecotourism, which helps to raise livelihoods. Local people’s empowerment is an underlying principle in the development of community-based ecotourism. The concept of host community empowerment, in particular, can be
classified into four groups:
– Economic,
– Psychological,
– Social and
– Political.

Economically, ecotourism generates long-term benefits that are distributed equitably within host communities and can be used to continuously develop the community’s infrastructure. Ecotourism can also help local people gain psychological empowerment by boosting their self-esteem and instilling pride in their cultural and natural heritage. This occurs when ecotourism highlights the importance of a host community’s natural beauty or cultural uniqueness to the public. Furthermore, ecotourism has the potential to enhance social ties within a community by encouraging cooperation among its members. Finally, ecotourism promotes political empowerment by providing a place for citizens to express their opinions on local development issues.

Since it serves as a vehicle for both social empowerment and long-term economic growth of local communities, the notion of community-based ecotourism development appears to suit the majority of the targets specified in the definition of sustainable tourism. This is especially important for small, rural, and isolated areas, which frequently face a lack of government interest and support. For these communities, self-development via ecotourism is especially significant since it allows individuals to tap into their own inherent talents and resources to become more self-sufficient.

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Most obvious purpose for starting an ecotourism project

The most obvious purpose for starting an ecotourism project, it is believed, is to maximise the benefits of tourism, notably:

– Increased revenue to local companies and services, such as Medicare, banking, vehicle rental, cottage industries, souvenir shopping, and tourist attractions.
– Expanded market for locally grown produce, antiquities, and value-added goods, preserving traditional customs.
– Local labour and knowledge are used in jobs such as ecotour guides, shop sales assistance, and restaurant table waiting staff.
– Source of income for the preservation, enhancement, or upkeep of natural attractions and cultural heritage emblems
– Increased public awareness of the importance of indigenous culture and the natural environment in the area. The major motivation for adopting community-based ecotourism is to support local businesses and communities. It is also one of the goals that everyone involved in community-based ecotourism hopes for.

Many development and ecotourism experts agree that the ample sensitisation of governments and people in the sub-region, coupled with channelling of adequate resources to the cause, will interpret to economic gains, wildlife preservation and provision of better social structures among local communities. Ecotourism efforts in the sub-region are beginning to recover from civil unrest in some areas, while more awareness campaigns are needed in others to establish this type of tourism as an economic and social advantage. If the work involved in developing the sub-sector is taken to heart, West Africa can easily become the host of one of the major enviable global Ecotourism destinations in the next five years.

Community-Based Ecotourism and Poverty Alleviation

Poverty alleviation through tourism is described as tourism that provides obvious benefits to the poor, including not just economic but also sociocultural and environmental benefits. Several countries around the world have embraced community-based ecotourism as a tool for poverty alleviation. Many Asian governments have established paradigm-related poverty alleviation programs that suggest that community-based ecotourism should be a major source of biodiversity preservation in the sub-region and play a key role in addressing poverty. Part-time jobs as guides, drivers, and home-stay managers have been created, as well as service payment benefits that they utilise to fund development programs in the community such as agriculture, school projects, and water, among others.

Poverty in Africa is at the focal point of current development debates, since the situation is dire and worsening. In accordance with the Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations World Tourism Organization has placed tourism at the forefront of poverty alleviation in Africa. Due to the potential economic and social benefits that the industry can create while simultaneously safeguarding the natural resource base, scholarly literature has called for community-based ecotourism as an important community economic development strategy.

Community-based ecotourism has got a lot of attention in West Africa because of the opportunities it has provided for rural people to earn money while also creating tourism-related jobs by preserving local ecosystems and culture.

Conclusion

These achievements have been solidified as evidence of a significant impact on poverty reduction. For example, in Ghana, the PPP (Public Private Partnership) arrangements at Mole National Park sees, 70% of employees engaged by the private operator are from local communities living close to the Park; at the Kakum National Park, tour guides employed are from the local communities living close to the Park. In some other national parks, the communities have made “Home-stay” arrangements where sometime tourists will live in the communities and experience village life and learn
the culture of the communities.

The Kainji Lake National Park (KLNP) in Nigeria, which was formed by the merger of two non- contiguous communities, the Zugurma Sector and the Borgu Sector, had benefited from park employment and NGO intervention programmes like boreholes, agricultural extension services, health services, and some levels of formal employment.

In the Republic of Benin, the Pendjari National Park is home also to at least ten tourist camps and 60 micro-entrepreneurs being promoted in Tanongou village, where visitors come to see waterfalls, wildlife and local ethnic cultures. There are homestays here owned by women, eco-guides, caterers, etc. In this case of Pendjari park, the social dimensions of tourism experience thrive “through the promotion and the development of ecotourism and eco-development initiatives as a sustainable way of managing natural resources in Benin.”

In short, if you want to know more about the culture of any country, look at our Blog.

Author: Ola Wright (Chief Executive Officer WATO)

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