Tourism has become one of the world’s largest industries, with an estimated US $ 3 trillion in annual revenues and expanding at an average rate of 4-5 percent annually. In comparison, nature tourism has been increasing at an annual rate of between 10-30 percent, highlighting an important trend in tourism development.1 Increasingly national governments and civil society organizations are seeking to more carefully plan and implement tourism development as a sustainable economic initiative and as a successful conservation strategy. In this way, ecotourism can provide economic prosperity and preserve the environment.
Great examples of ecotourism projects exist all over the world. For example, the non-governmental organization, Conservation International, has many ecotourism projects that address economic livelihood needs and promote biodiversity of critical ecosystems throughout the world. Some examples of their projects include: Madidi National Park in Bolivia, the Upper Guinean Forest in Ghana, the Maya Biosphere Reserve in the Petén Region in Guatemala and many others (see:www.conservation.org/xp/CIWEB/publications/factsheets/ Ecotourism.pdf). Appendix 1 lists other successful ecotourism projects, promoted by Responsible Tourism in the UK, which supports economic growth as well as community development and conservation objectives.
Ecotourism’s ability to meet socio-economic and sustainability objectives makes it a viable option for forest communities, private businesses and the state government in Cross River State, Nigeria. Initiatives that are able to merge economic, social and ecological needs are particularly welcomed for this state in Nigeria.
The environmental non-governmental organization CERCOPAN (Centre for Education, Research and Conservation of Primates and Nature) offers a good example of the economic and ecological potentials of ecotourism in Cross River State (CRS). CERCOPAN is spearheading an ecotourism project that includes primate rehabilitation, education and research, working towards the larger objectives of forest conservation and community development. CERCOPAN works in close collaboration with the nearby community of Iko Esai and is further supported, in part, by the Cross River Environmental and Capacity Development Project (CRE Project) . A key feature of the CERCOPAN- Iko Esai ecotourism project is the requirement that the forest area be designated “Rhoko Special Reserve” and managed collaboratively by Iko Esai and CERCOPAN.
CERCOPAN’s ecotourism and conservation work with Iko Esai is an inspiring project in Nigeria. And it is also a unique one. Most of Nigeria is environmentally degraded, with less than 4% of the once-lush rainforest left; desertification is an increasing threat across Nigeria, leaving most of the country without the option of ecotourism. Ogbonnaya (2003) explains (2003):
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize that we cannot eat money.
“The consequences of deforestation in Nigeria are evident everywhere. The most devastating consequences include erosions and desertification. While desertification has become virtually irreversible in the North, gully erosion has made parts of the region look like lunar landscapes.”
Cross River State, on the other hand, is home to one of the last remaining contiguous forest stands in West Africa and is still a unique habitat for several primate species. The forest ecosystem stabilizes local weather patterns and provides water in this region of Nigeria. Ezeala (2003) argues:
“We should be able to harness the potential of our forests in the development of ecotourism and scientific research rather than revel in illegal logging and wildlife trafficking.”
Partners of the CRE Project have taken up this challenge, and are seeking to fashion a sustainable development strategy that ensures the prosperity of forest communities as well as the conservation of the forest ecosystem.
Table of Contents
ABOUT THE AUTHORS 2
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 4
1.0 INTRODUCTION 5
2.0 BACKGROUND TO THE CRE PROJECT 6
3.0 KEY ACTIVITIES 7
3.1 Economic, Social and Ecological Dimensions of Ecotourism 7
3.2 Community-Based Conservation 9
3.3 Capacity for Policy Influence – Ecotourism Write-Shop 10
4.0 KEY ACHIEVEMENTS 12
4.1 Policy Influence and Capacity Development 12
4.2 Community Support and Networking 12
4.3 Awareness Raising 13
5.0 CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS 14
6.0 RECOMMENDATIONS 16
7.0 CONCLUSION 16
APPENDIX 1: EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSFUL ECOTOURISM PROJECTS 17
APPENDIX 2: DRAFT POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS ON ECOTOURISM IN CROSS RIVER STATE 18
Theme – Natural Resource Management 18
Theme – Socio-Economic Impacts of Ecotourism 18
Theme – Finances 19
Theme – Governance and Implementation 19
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