$1 million to Support Ecotourism in Madagascar

4/30/2007

Funding to provide economic incentives for local communities

Arlington, VA � Conservation International (CI) is pleased to announce that more than $1 million over three years will be spent helping to devise and implement ecotourism projects in Madagascar � one of the world�s biodiversity hotspots. Ecotourism holds great promise as one of the principle drivers of economic development and is a major force for conservation in Madagascar.

The goal of the funding is to improve economic conditions for the Malagasy people while preserving Madagascar�s unique living heritage by providing local business incentives for conservation. Poverty and lack of opportunity force many locals to convert critical habitat through slash-and-burn agriculture and to deplete local fauna by hunting � all in an attempt to meet immediate survival needs. There are currently no opportunities for the local people that put a higher price on biodiversity conservation in the long-term, rather than exploiting local resources for short-term gain. This project aims to overcome these barriers by greatly increasing the value of existing resources and biodiversity � giving the local communities a long-term economic benefit for conserving Madagascar�s biodiversity.

�The objective of our ecotourism program is to ensure that tangible economic benefits reach local communities in areas of high biodiversity,� said Leon Rajaobelina, regional vice-president for CI. �By providing economic alternatives to the destruction of habitats, we are helping the Malagasy people financially while devising a system to protect Madagascar�s unique biodiversity for the long-term.�

Under a three-year cooperative agreement with USAID, CI�s Regional Programs Division for Sustainable Landscapes is working to promote and support tourism development and create value for poor households in Madagascar in two key biodiversity corridors. The tourism sector, which is based largely on Madagascar�s natural resources in remote areas, has experienced significant growth in recent years. This has opened up a unique opportunity to develop tourism strategies to address some of the social and environmental challenges in Madagascar�s rural villages located nearby these key tourist attractions and areas of high biodiversity.

However, conventional tourism investment provides few benefits to rural communities, whose residents have little knowledge of how the market works, and very limited access to the business and financial services required to develop local accommodations, transport services, guided tours, and food services that tourists buy. Large tour operators located in the capital city mostly provide these services, leaving little benefit to host communities. Working with the tourism industry in Madagascar and internationally, CI aims to reduce the barriers faced by local entrepreneurs to develop tourism businesses and connect them to existing tourism service providers in the tourism value chain to increase benefits at all socio-economic levels.

Working with partners at the local, national and international levels, CI aims to increase the competetiveness of micro and small enterprise (MSE) in the tourism industry in Madagascar, specifically in areas of outstanding natural attractions, generating revenues for poor communities through tourism, business growth, and community leasing arrangements. In the long-term, this initiative will play a key role in expanding the scope of CI�s investment in the development of a multi-sectoral value chain approach to development that can be applied to help protect valuable biodiversity in other hotspots around the world.

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