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Ecotourism – A solution for conservation

The synergy between environment education and ecotourism constitutes the best and most feasible way to preserve and restore the environment.

Whenever people envisage the possibility of making some extra income through nature conservation, there is a change in mindset. We were able to see this when we started working with the neighboring community .

Because it involves preservation, Ecotourism may become a fruitful business, not only on account of foreign resources being brought into the country, but also because it helps rescue the cultural heritage of needy populations. Even for the most skeptical, environment preservation becomes a measurable economic value. Tourists are willing to pay to visit shelters, sanctuaries or protected areas, to watch nature in its full splendor.

Ecotourism has become a valuable alternative for developing countries that are faced with the need to attract foreign exchange. Preservation of the country’s natural resources and beauty is key to promoting ecotourism. No tourism activity will ever benefit from manmade destruction or exploitation of natural beauty in the name of progress: forest and nature devastation tarnishes any country’s image. Preserved nature is a luxury that appeals to the seasoned traveler. Aggressions to the environment mean less tourism flow and this is turn reduces economic flow. And therefore, the involved communities start to care. Children reared with respect of nature become less violent adults. Needy municipalities that learn to preserve nature and to earn their income through preservation will have less adolescents turning to crime or becoming outlaws.

Ecotourism means jobs - because Ecotourism needs hotels, inns, restaurants, shops. The implementation of any ecotourism project will reduce the community’s fight for economic survival at all costs. In Western African parks, hunters are hired as guides and supervisors, because of their experience with animals.

Ecotourism also involves planning. Man-Nature integration does not happen overnight, but rather establishes a subtle and sensitive balance that bears no disorderly growth. Many Brazilian cities are now experiencing the adverse effects of fast growth with no respect for local character. A clear example of that is Porto Seguro – South of Salvador, Bahia – the “safe haven” where the Portuguese first disembarked in Brazil and built the first settlement in the new land. In the 60’s and 70’s, the locals were practically driven out of the city, full of historical landmarks, to give way to the tourism craze that installed hippies, hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops in their formerly sleepy but untouched colonial houses and unblemished beaches.

The change of mindset in a society may derive from disseminating good examples. One is Praia do Forte – North of Salvador, also in the State of Bahia, where the very first eco-resort was built in Brazil. The owner bought 120 km2 of protected and untouched land and slowly, but with good planning, started building a resort. Irreproachable from the ecological standpoint, it meant a unique job training and sustainable development opportunity for the local population.

But ecotourism should not be restricted to legally protected areas alone. It must also be promoted in areas where such protection is lacking.

That is precisely our goal. NEX intends to encourage ecotourism and promote rural tourism as alternative income generating activities, in small areas that have this kind of potential. We will do that through environment awareness raising, training and fund raising programs that will meet the needs and priorities established by the local communities themselves.

This project will focus on rural properties that have the natural potential, where forests, wild fauna, rivers and waterfalls are preserved but still require planning and management help from an organized entity that will facilitate the partnering required to achieve these goals.

This is what is already happening at Aparecida de Loyola and in some of the farms in the area. The project “Jaguars helping People” will turn our big felines into luck mascots and that will free communities and animals from the sad fate they have had to suffer for so long.

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance” -Derek Bok

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