Illegal pseudomedicinal poached animal parts sold at an open market - Credit Avlxyz, Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/2372510597Illegal pseudomedicinal poached animal parts sold at an open market - Credit Avlxyz, Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/2372510597By Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network

CAMBRIDGE, UK, Mar 23 (IPS) - On Feb. 13, 2014, heads of state and ministers from 41 countries met in London to inject a new level of political momentum into efforts to combat the growing global threat posed by illegal wildlife trade to species such as elephants, rhinos and tigers.

The UK government-hosted meeting adopted the 25-point London Declaration, with ambitious measures agreed to eradicate the market for illegal wildlife products; strengthen law enforcement efforts and ensure effective legal frameworks and deterrents are in place; and promote sustainable livelihoods through positive engagement with local communities.

More than a year on, representatives from these governments will gather again March 25 in Kasane, Botswana, to review progress on the implementation of that Declaration and, hopefully, commit to new and tangible actions to further strengthen their implementation.

The scale of the crisis governments in Kasane are facing is daunting: Africa-wide, almost 1,300 rhinos were lost to poaching in 2014, 1,215 of them in South Africa alone.

The situation with elephants remains dire—the most recent analysis of data from the TRAFFIC-managed Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) clearly indicates high levels of illegal ivory trade continuing.

Most worrying is the significant increase in the frequency of large-scale ivory seizures—those of over 500 kg—which are a strong indication of the involvement of organised criminal networks. The 18 seizures made in 2013 collectively constitute the greatest quantity of ivory derived from large-scale seizures since 1989, when records began.

The crisis is not confined to Africa: in Asia, TRAFFIC's tiger seizures database clearly indicates that illicit trafficking of tiger parts remains persistent. A minimum of 1,590 tigers were seized in tiger range countries between January 2000 and April 2014, an average of two per week and increasing numbers of seizures have been made by most range States.

With over 218,000 pangolins reported to have been seized by enforcement agencies between 2000 and 2012 world-wide, we must also remember that wildlife crime is an issue that goes well beyond elephants, rhinos and tigers.

While these figures paint a bleak picture of the illegal wildlife trade landscape, it would be wrong to conclude that countries will have little to report in terms of progress at Kasane. Although the ivory seizure figures do demonstrate high levels of trade, they also demonstrate higher levels of law enforcement action, especially in Africa, and we hope these countries remain vigilant.

High-level political attention to the issue continues to be significant, with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this month expressing concern over the environmental, economic and social consequences of wildlife crime and Premier Li Keqiang of China last May pledging financial support for African countries to combat poaching.

Some countries have made improvements to legislation, including Thailand, which probably had one of the largest unregulated ivory markets in the world but has recently taken steps to improve the legislation governing its domestic ivory market.

There is still a very long way to go for Thailand before its illegal ivory markets are shut down, but this was an important step in the right direction. China has recognised the importance of a more targeted approach to reducing demand for ivory and this January organised a workshop to discuss strategies for curbing illegal ivory trade—particularly targeted at the collection and art investment circles.

Countries in Africa are working together on a common African Strategy on combatting illegal wildlife trade that will be discussed at an African Union conference just a month after Kasane.

While these green shoots of progress are promising, there is little doubt that much more needs to be done and it is hoped that Kasane can be the turning point where the lofty declarations of London can be translated into tangible actions on the ground.

Wildlife criminals are responding to the actions of last year by changing their trade routes and methods, using new technologies and getting more organised. To keep up with these developments, new approaches need to be agreed at Kasane that make it significantly harder for criminals to operate, increasing the indirect and actual risks they face and reduce the rewards they reap.

New players will also need to be brought into the fray. For example, with traffickers typically using the same transportation means as legal importers, the transport sector is inadvertently becoming a critical link within illegal wildlife trade chains.

Much more outreach is needed to the private sector, to prevent criminals abusing other legitimate business services in the finance, insurance and retail sectors.

Meanwhile the power of local communities, who live with and adjacent to wildlife, needs to be harnessed for they are the eyes and ears, the very guardians of the wildlife within their realm.

Community-led approaches need to strengthen the role these communities can play in reducing illegal wildlife trade—while safeguarding their dependence on natural resources.

The world's governments in London last year declared they were up to the challenge and committed to end the scourge of illegal wildlife trade. A year later, Kasane provides the venue for those governments, and others, to show that they are able and willing to turn those words into action.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

All rights reserved, IPS – Inter Press Service (2015)

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By Roberto Savio

ROME, Mar 16 2015 (IPS) - It is now clear that we are not going to reach the goal of controlling climate change. It is worth recalling that the goal of not exceeding a 2 degree centigrade rise in global warming before 2020 was adopted at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009 as a formula for consensus. Many in the scientific community had been clamouring for immediate action – and at most for a 1 degree rise – but bowed to political realism, and accepted an easier target.

The agreement was to block the rise in global temperature before 2020, and start a process for gradually reverting the climate to safe levels, to be concluded before 2050.

Well, in the last four years, we have already witnessed an increase in temperature by 1 degree, and there is only another 1 degree left before 2020.

The European Environment Agency (EEA), which publishes a report every five years, states that Europe needs “much more ambitious goals” if it wants to reach its declared targets and for 2050, European Union leaders have endorsed the objective of reducing Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 percent compared with 1990 levels.

However, Germany increased its carbon emissions by 20 million tons in 2012-13, instead of reducing them. This means that, in order to reach its targets, Germany should now reduce emissions by 3.5 percent a year over the next six years, which is a difficult, if not impossible, target to achieve.

It will increase energy costs and probably lead to a reaction to block measures which can hurt the economy. By the way, this is the official position of the Republicans in the U.S. Congress, who will fight any climate proposal.

By now, the effects of climate change have become visible, and not just to the climatologists. Last year the total number of people displaced by climatic disasters (such as hurricanes, landslides, drought, floods and forest fires) reached the staggering figure of 11 million people.

Last month, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a think-tank based in New Delhi, issued a study report citing data compiled by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, which maintains a global database of natural disasters dating back over 100 years.

The study found a 10-fold increase to 525 natural disasters in 2002 from around 50 in 1975.

By 2011, the cost of natural disasters had ballooned to 350 billion dollars. In the 110 years between 1900 and 2009, hydro-meteorological disasters increased from 25 to 3,526. Together, extreme hydro-meteorological, geological and biological events increased from 72 to 11,571 during that same period.

There is no doubt that the activities of man are having a dramatic impact on the climate and the planet, affecting people’s lives, but – as usual – the world is moving on two levels, which are unrelated and opposed.

One of the main issues among countries at climate negotiations has been how much to invest in combating climate change but here the signs are very discouraging, to say the least. Take the Green Climate Fund, for example, which was intended to be the centrepiece of efforts to raise  100 billion dollars a year by 2020 but, as of December last year, only 10 billion dollars had been pledged to the fund.

This is the track for reducing fossil emissions. Let us now look to the other track: what the rich countries are spending to keep them.

According to a report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Oil Change International (OCI), G20 governments are actually subsidising fossil fuel exploration with 88 billion dollars every year.

The report notes that “with rising costs for hard-to-reach reserves, and falling coal and oil prices, generous public subsidies are propping up fossil fuel exploration which would otherwise be deemed uneconomic.” In fact, G20 governments spend more than twice what the top 20 private companies are spending on finding new reserves of oil, gas and coal, and are doing so with public money.

So, on one hand, the system makes the right declarations of principle and, on the other, does the very opposite.

Meanwhile, there are some signs that the campaign against the need for doing something about climate change is losing credibility.

It is known that some members of the Republican Party in the United States are financed by energy giants, and it goes without saying that they will do whatever they can to boycott any deal on climate change that U.S. President Barack Obama may try to agree to at the next climate conference in Paris in December.

It is also known that a number of scientists dissent from the thinking of the more than 2,000 scientists whose work has contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in presenting the link between human activity and deterioration of the climate. Of course, the dissenting voices have received a disproportionate echo in conservative media.

However, last month, the Washington Post reported that one of the leading dissenters and guru of climate change deniers, Dr. Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, had been receiving funds from the fossil fuel industry.

The report cited documents that Greenpeace obtained through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act showing that Soon had been receiving funding from Exxon Mobil, Southern Company and the American Petroleum Institute, among others.

Climate change dissenters are clearly unconcerned that the very future of our planet is at stake or, like the governmental system, have fallen prey to the ‘ostrich syndrome’.

Edited by Phil Harris

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS - Inter Press Service.

All rights reserved, IPS – Inter Press Service (2015)

 

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By Tonderayi Mukeredzi

HARARE, Mar 12 (IPS) - African wetlands are among the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the continent, covering more than 131 million hectares, according to the Senegalese-based Wetlands International Africa (WIA).

Yet, despite their importance and value, wetland areas are experiencing immense pressure across the continent. Commercial development ranks as the major threat for the draining of wetlands, including for tourism facilities and agriculture, where hundreds of thousands of hectares of wetlands have been drained.

Other threats to Africa's wetlands are commercial agriculture, settlements, excessive exploitation by local communities and improperly-planned development activities. The prospect of immense profits from recently discovered oil, coal and gas deposits has also led to an increase in on-and offshore exploration and mining in sensitive ecological areas.

In Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique, for example, wetlands and estuaries coincide with fossil fuel deposits and related infrastructure developments.

In northern Kenya, port developments in Lamu are set to take place in the West Indian Ocean Rim's most important mangrove area and fisheries breeding ground.

In KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape of South Africa, heavy mineral sands are located in important dune forest ecosystems, and gas is being prospected for in the water-scarce and ecologically unique Karoo.

In East Africa, oil discoveries have been made in the tropical Congo Basin rain forest and the Virunga National Park – a world heritage site and a wetland recognised under the Ramsar Convention.

The Okavango Delta in Botswana, one of Africa's most important wetlands and designated as the 1,000th world heritage site by UNESCO, has been home to many threatened species and the main water source of regional wildlife in Southern Africa. Yet it is shrinking due to drier climate, increased grazing and growing pressure from tourism.

"This delta is a true oasis in the middle of the bone-dry Kalahari Sand Basin, a rare untouched wilderness that's been preserved by decades of border and civil wars in the Angolan catchment," said National Geographic explorer Steve Boyes in an interview. "Many people along the Okavango River live like communities did some 400 years ago – and from them I think we can learn a lot about how to be better stewards of the natural world."

Boyes calculated the abundance of life in the delta: more than 530 bird species, thousands of plant species, 160 different mammals, 155 reptiles, scores of frogs and countless insects.

"Everywhere you look you find life. We surveyed bats and we found 17 species in three days. We started looking for praying mantises and found 90 different species," he said.

A recent survey by the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks and the environmentalist group BirdLife Botswana concluded that that the wetland's historical zones of dense reed beds and water fig islands were largely destroyed by hydrological changes and fire. Bush fires and a high grazing pressure further reduced the natural shores of the Okavango Delta.

Studies by BirdLife Botswana also showed that the slaty egret, a vulnerable water bird living only in Southern Africa, with its main breeding grounds in the wetlands of Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana's Okavango Delta, is now estimated to have a total population of only about 4,000 birds.

The egret, which is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as vulnerable, seems to be losing its main breeding sites in the Okavango.

Environmentalists hope that they can still save the wetland, and pin their hopes on a "Slaty Egret Action Plan" which will be used by the Botswana's Department of Wildlife and National Parks, BirdLife and other environment stakeholders to guarantee the survival of the Okavango Delta as a safe haven for the birds.

In a further step to save the wetlands, the Botswana government announced this month that from now on, seekers of mobile safari licences would be prohibited from operating in the Okavango Delta because the area in now congested.

The Botswana Guides Association, which represents many of the mobile safaris, is threatening to appeal.

Another example of the devastation of major wetlands occurred in Nigeria with pollution of farmlands linked to the Shell oil company. The Niger Delta Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Project, an independent team of scientists from Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the United States, has characterised the Niger Delta as "one of the world's most severely petroleum-impacted ecosystems."

In 2013, a Dutch court found the Nigerian subsidiary of Shell culpable for the pollution of farmlands at Ikot Ada Udo in Akwa Ibom state in the coastal south of the country.

The Niger Delta is Africa's largest delta, covering some 7,000 square kilometres – one-third of which is made up of wetlands. It contains the largest mangrove forest in the world.

Assisted by environmental organisation Friends of the Earth, the court ruling was a victory for the communities in the Niger Delta after years of struggle against the oil company dating back 40 years, although the clean-up still has far to go.

"Destruction of wetlands is prevalent in almost all countries in Africa because the driving factor is the same – population pressure – many mouths to feed, ignorance about the role wetlands in playing in the ecosystem, lack of policies, laws and institutional framework to protect wetlands and in cases where these exist, they are hardly enforced," John Owino, Programme Officer for Water and Wetlands with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) told IPS from his base in Nairobi, Kenya.

Owino said that the future of African wetlands lies in stronger political will to protect them, based on sound wetland policies and encouragement for community participation in their management, which is lacking in many African countries.

But very few African governments have specific national policies on wetlands and are influenced by policies from different sectors such as agriculture, national resources and energy.

Edited by Lisa Vives/Phil Harris

All rights reserved, IPS – Inter Press Service (2015)

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By Patrick Mills, ECOCLUB.com Correspondent

About the Author: 
Patrick Esteves Mills is based in north central Vietnam. He is a currently a sustainable tourism volunteer in the Phong Nha Tourism Centre, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam. Patrick has a BaHons in Tourism and Geography. He is keen to work with tourism's long-term benefits and its increasingly important role in community development and empowerment as well as in environmental conservation. His long-term goal is to set up his own sustainable tourism consultancy NGO working in bottom-up tourism development across the globe. He is particularly interested in working with coastal communities and marine conservation.

The promotion of pro-poor and community-based development programs can warrant guidance and support ensuring that tourism benefits are retained by local communities whilst, all-the-while aiding, in the protection of their local environment and native traditions. In the island of Flores, Indonesia, pristine environments and unique customs and cultures are under threat from a steady rise in tourist numbers. Fortunately there are a number of organisations who strive to support the sustainable development of tourism in Flores. Eco Flores Foundation (EFF), a volunteer organisation, is supporting Flores’ remote communities, offering free knowledge and guidance on community-based tourism development. This article looks into EFF’s recent tourism development program, the Flores Homestay Network (FHN), and how EFF is providing the Flores inhabitants with the information and support needed to face the challenges as well as reap the benefits brought through tourism.

 
Figure 1: Map of Flores Island, Indonesia.

Part of the East Nusa Tenggara region (see Figure 1), Flores resonates with ancient traditions preserved over the last 1,000 years despite Bimanese, Portuguese and Dutch colonialism as well as a brief Japanese invasion. Since Indonesia’s colonial revolution in 1946, some islands have experienced rapid development whilst others have seldom received any benefits over the decades. Until today, Flores is still one of the poorest islands in Indonesia’s archipelago, its inhabitants having minimal access to services such as electricity, water, transportation, health care, balanced diets, and education. Currently East Nusa Tenggara has the third lowest human development index in Indonesia (Ministry of Industry - Republic of Indonesia, 2012).

From the 1970’s onwards, the islands of Java and Bali became popular tourist destination famous for surf culture, ancient temple structures and vast high rising volcanoes. Yet most of Indonesia’s Island, including those lying in the east, like Flores, were very much kept in their shadow. Over the years the tourism market has spread and Flores has become an increasingly visited destination, growing popular at first, due to its close proximity to Komodo Islands, the famous World Heritage Site and home of the Komodo dragon. Tourism numbers are still relatively low compared to Java, Bali and even Lombok, but Flores seems to be on the up. As part of Indonesia’s 2017 tourism development targets, Flores has been chosen as one of 16 priority destinations for future tourism development (www.rnrmarketresearch.com). The Indonesian government is currently receiving funding from large organisations such as the Swiss government and even the United Nations, in an effort to market Flores as a popular cultural and nature orientated tourism destination (www.florestourism.com) and in September, 2014, International Ecotourism Business Forum (IEBF) participants visited Flores’ potential attractions under the promotional theme “Nature, Culture and People” (www.indonesia.travel.com).

Tourist visits to Flores doubled from 2005-2010 (www.eturbonews.com), and tourism facilities are quickly developing at key destinations to better cater for tourists. The development of the trans-Flores highway, an almost 700km long road traversing the island, has allowed for tourism to spread, creating a safe and comfortable route to what were once hardly accessible destinations such as Bajawa’s Gunung Inerie, the largest volcano on Flores, as well as Mount Kelimutu National Park, the famous three crater lakes.

It seems that tourism will only be increasing in the next few years and with it most likely will come adverse effects, already affecting other parts of Indonesia. Tourism’s adverse effects are indeed already apparent in the island’s western port town of Labuan Bajo. A popular gateway to the island, Labuan Bajo is also the closest town to Komodo National Park and has suffered greatly from tourism development - often in the hand of foreign investors - in the last ten years, falling victim to the uncontrolled sale of land, hotel overdevelopment, inflation, and ever growing waste volumes. Currently there are plans for the expansion of Labuan Bajo airport in 2015, allowing international flights directly to Flores, bypassing both Jakarta and Bali. Consequently, Flores may most likely experience a rise in tourist numbers in the following years. As a comparison, the Island of Lombok’s international airport opened in 2010 and has since experienced a growth of 374% in tourist arrivals (www.indonesia-investments.com). The social, environmental and economic effects of tourism currently upsetting Indonesia are now posing a risk to remote islands such as Flores and it is ever more important for local, national and international organisations to assist the people of Flores in preparing for the potential impacts of tourism. Tourism development is inevitable in Flores, however there is a chance for it to be developed and managed appropriately to best cater for the local communities’ needs without putting their cultures, traditions and surrounding environment at risk.

Negative tourism impacts currently affecting Indonesia

Often tourism development in LEDCs suffers from a lack of appropriate monitoring posing social, economic and environmental threats that primarily affect the poorest population. Below are some of the impacts that currently affect Indonesia as a whole and pose a threat to Flores.
Land Loss

The sale of property is a common problem in up and coming tourism destinations. Investors, both domestic and foreign, are often looking to purchase cheap land for hotel development. Although not legally possible for foreigner investors to purchase land for commercial use, this can be done in assembly with an Indonesian citizen (www.indonesiarealestatelaw.com). Local inhabitants have been known to be tempted into selling land when offered large sums of money. Upon realisation of the potential economic benefits of retaining land some may wish to re-purchase their land often with no luck.

Sex tourism

Over the last 10 years there has been a steady rise in sex tourism in Bali facing a high demand from primarily Australian tourists.
Up to 70,000 Indonesian children are victims of prostitution rings within Indonesia (www.humantrafficking.org). Sex tourism agents, known as “labour recruiters”, have been known to travel to remote islands and bring back young girls to Bali with the promise of employment in the tourism industry. They have also been known to offer large sums of money to poor families for the purchase of their children. Local individuals have heard stories of such things happening in Flores.

Drugs

Indonesia’s strict rules on drugs have had little impact on the rising crystal methamphetamine drug problem. Sold to tourists in party islands such as Gilli “T”, Lombok, it is not uncommon to find many locals under the effects of the drug by night and holding a full time job during the day. As Flores becomes a popular addition to tourist’s itinerary (currently there are a number of boat trips that take tourists from the Gilli Islands directly to Labuan Bajo) demand for the highly addictive drug may also spread to the eastern island.

Gender roles

Indonesia’s 2011 Gender Inequality Index score placed it in 90th place out of 135 countries (http://genderindex.org/country/indonesia). This score is based on a combination of lower income rates; high unemployment rates (both in labour and formal sector) as well as fewer years of education. Women in rural areas such as most of Flores often bear the weight of the triple burden, where they are expected to be in charge of domestic tasks (cooking and taking care of children), employment tasks (farming as well as crafts etc.) and lastly to perform tourism activities.

Waste volumes

Bali, once known for beautiful pristine environment is now reknown as one of the most littered islands in the world. Caused both by locals littering, as well as the massive waste volumes brought through mass tourism consumption southern Bali waste volumes equates to almost 240 tonnes a day (http://www.rolefoundation.org/wastecrisis/). Waste volumes are already massively affecting the busier parts of Flores; Labuan Bajo and Maumere.

Flores Homestay Network

A thirst for new experiences and traditional activities has expanded the tourism market to increasingly remote destinations and communities. Tourists travelling to Flores with a desire to see more than Komodo National Park are often interested in the more creative and cultural experiences that the island has to offer. These are visitors who wish to engage in authentic activities, gaining a better understanding of new places, the people, and their culture and heritage. As such tourists are now expecting a product that remote communities are in a position to provide them and in which they can reap most, if not all of the tourism benefits.

Flores Homestay Network Communities

The EFF Flores Homestay Network (FHN) strives to provide local communities with the knowledge and support on the benefits of community-based tourism (CBT) with the end goal of having these communities sustainably manage their own tourism products independently. CBT is used as a developmental tool that provides remote, often alienated, communities, with the opportunity of inclusion in tourism benefits as well as giving them tools and knowledge to curb tourism’s potential negative impacts. The FHN works with communities providing valuable guidance and support on how best to cater for guests ensuring that both them and the hosts get as much as possible out of the experience.


July, 2014, Flores Homestay Network Workshop

 A free three-day workshop organised by EFF runs each year, whereby 1-2 representatives of each community are asked to join. During these workshops, community representatives, along with the help of tourism experts and volunteers, discuss the project as a whole and how best to manage it. This includes learning how tourism can affect communities’ social and cultural lives with the ultimate goal of providing them with the ability to evaluate themselves against relevant principles and benchmarks. These benchmarks were created by Dr Stroma Cole and offer guidance on how tourism can be managed in a manner that promotes a healthy community through aspects such as social cohesion and equality, as well as offering direction in preventing potential negative socio-cultural impacts such as loss of cultural identity, exploitation and gender inequality. With this information, workshop members work together and establish what is expected of those involved in the FHN. Matters such as standardised prices, host and guest expectations and minimum standards are discussed and set for all members of the FHN to adhere to. This form of bottom-up participation and decision-making ensures that the standards of the project are fully in tune with the local communities’ sentiments.


Village of Gurusina, Bajawa. Flores. Indonesia.

After the main FHN workshop, representatives are expected to share what they have learnt with their fellow village members with the help and support of volunteers. EFF relies on Tourism Geography and Tourism Management graduates (University West of England, United Kingdom), such as your correspondent, to work as volunteers, helping deliver the program to remote communities. Eco-Flores volunteers are professionals, expected to learn the local language, cultures and traditions. During their time with a community, volunteers conduct workshops providing support on the development of homestays and local tourism products, as well as discussing important topics concerning tourism development. Throughout their stay, volunteers build a comprehensive report based on Dr Stroma’s benchmarks which are later used to monitor the communities’ progress.

The FHN appeals to communities by providing them with a free online marketing platform for homestays (see www.floreshomestaynetwork.com). In exchange for this promotional technique the FHN expects communities to meet a minimum criterion (e.g. mosquito net, septic tank, toilet paper, private room) decided and approved during the FHN workshop by the communities. It also expects that the communities use the indicators and benchmarks discussed during the workshops to develop tourism sustainably. Workshop benchmarks tackle issues such as social cohesion and inclusion and gender equality and focus on allowing all community members to have an equal participation in the tourism development decision making process. The FHN warrants communication between community members and ensures that tourism becomes an asset for the entire community allowing for tourism ideally to be shaped and managed according to the majority’s wants and needs.

The FHN has been running for a little more than a year and current volunteers are very much pioneering the project. There are presently 15 communities involved and at this stage of the project only a few have had follow up evaluations. As such it is hard to tell whether communities are following many of the topics discussed during the workshops, including meeting the minimum criterion. In the future guest reviews, in the form of feedback forms, will be a valuable way for communities to evaluate themselves against guest expectations. At this stage these are still scarce, however over the next peak-tourist season (beginning in May) the FHN is expected to receive a high number of visitors and with them more constructive reviews. Likewise forthcoming evaluations will display in detail to what extent the FHN communities are using the lessons learned through the workshops to develop and manage tourism responsibly.

It is expected that a majority of visitors who take an interest in the FHN are hoping to experience the authentic and to interact with and learn unfamiliar cultures and traditions. Therefore the homestay itself should be perceived not only as accommodation but as a place where guests are expected to engage in aspects of local life taking part in social activities alongside the host family such as cooking and feeding the farm animals. Other activities such as blacksmithing, pottery, thatching and weaving are usually available with other members of a community. Hosts are also expected to share economic benefits locally by purchasing local products such as food. This practice of tourism provides a healthy dialogue between hosts, guests and other members of the community allowing for reciprocal cultural interactions and shared economic benefits.

Pottery lessons, village of Pusut, Tado Territory. Flores, Indonesia.

All communities involved in the project adhere to a standardized price for accommodation whereby guests pay IDR 100,000 (roughly USD 10) per night, breakfast included. This prevents price competition between communities. Prices for activities and crafts, however, may change and the EFF asks communities that these prices be transparent and consistent. In an effort to monitor this, up-to date prices are publicised online for the guests’ attention.

The following EFF FHN workshop promotional video from July 2014 provides a sneak peak at the some of the communities currently involved in the project.

 

Conclusion

The CBT ideal as professed by the EFF through the Flores Homestay Network allows for a number of remote communities in Flores to gain a valuable understanding on tourism development. With this information communities are equipped with the tools to manage a tourism product responsibly as an additional economic resource. The Indonesian government has acknowledged the importance of this approach to tourism development. In December 9, 2014, a meeting at the Ministry of Tourism in Jakarta established a shared vision between various stakeholders in Flores whereby ecotourism and community based tourism development have been recognised as a fundamental approach to; preserving the social and cultural heritage of Flores, the control of assets by local communities, environmental protection and the promotion of gender equality. It was further agreed on the need to focus on the further development of the Flores Homestay Network through stakeholder collaboration. In a time where Flores tourism will no doubt be growing, it is vital that local communities understand where the control over this tourism lies, understanding first-hand the potential benefits as well as the risks that tourism may pose to the environment, culture and traditions.

The Eco Flores Foundation is looking for volunteers to help carry on the Flores Homestay Network Project in 2015. If interested, please contact Dr. Stroma Cole on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
If interested in gaining a deeper insight into tourism development, globalisation and cultural change in non-western marginal communities, Dr. Stroma Cole’s work is available for purchase.

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By Edgardo Ayala

EL PAISNAL, El Salvador, Feb 10 (IPS) - The memory of a priest killed shortly before civil war broke out in El Salvador is so alive in this small town that it is now the main attraction in a community tourist initiative aimed at providing employment and injecting money into the local economy.

The Historical Memory Tourist Route is the name of the project in Paisnal, 36 km north of San Salvador. The initiative revolves around Rutilio Grande, a locally born Jesuit priest who was killed by government forces in March 1977, before the start of the 1980-1992 civil war.

"Father Rutilio taught people about liberation and commitment to the needy, and that's why they killed him," said 62-year-old María Dolores Gómez who, before she joined the guerrillas in 1980, was a catechist and met the priest. Now she forms part of the El Paisnal Municipal Tourism Committee.

The tourism project, whose first stage begins in March, is part of a growing trend in this formerly war-torn Central American country to draw visitors interested in the political and historical context of the armed conflict and the prewar period. And in the case of this town in particular, in the life of the famous Jesuit priest.

Rutilio Grande was the first priest killed in El Salvador in the context of the 12-year civil war, which left over 70,000 people – mainly civilians – dead and 8,000 disappeared before the 1992 peace agreement put an end to it.

After decades of electoral fraud by the military and the local elites, opponents of the system took up arms and formed insurgent groups to push the military regimes out of power and usher in socialism.

Grande, accompanied by Manuel Solorzano, 72, and Nelson Rutilio Lemus, 16, was driving near the town of El Paisnal on Mar. 12, 1977 when the three of them came under machine gun fire and were killed. They are buried in the village churchyard, which is already a pilgrimage spot for visitors from within and outside the country and will be an obligatory stop on the new tourist route.

Historians and theologians say that after Grande's murder, the conservative views of the archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Arnulfo Romero, radically changed in favour of the poor.

Romero himself was assassinated three years later, in March 1980, while saying mass in a small chapel in San Salvador.

The Truth Commission set up by the United Nations after the end of the conflict to investigate the human rights violations blamed army Major Roberto D'Aubuisson for planning the assassination.

D'Aubuisson was the founder of the far-right Republican Nationalist Alliance (ARENA), which governed El Salvador from 1989 to 2009, when the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) came to power. The former guerrilla group won the national elections a second time in March 2014.

Before and during the war, a segment of the Catholic Church in El Salvador espoused liberation theology, which promoted the fight against poverty and broke with the church's traditional alliance with those in power.

The new tourist route starts at a place known as Las Tres Cruces (the three crosses), halfway between El Paisnal and the neighbouring village of Aguilares, where a small monument marks the spot where the priest and the other two men were killed.

"We have delegations of foreign and local visitors who come to commemorate the murder of Father Grande, and the tourist project aims to create the infrastructure needed to give them a better reception," town councilor Alexander Torres told IPS.

He explained that the El Paisnal local government is going to invest 350,000 dollars in establishing basic infrastructure catering to tourists, such as rural hostels and small restaurants, which will be run by local residents and people from nearby villages.

"The good thing is that the community is actively participating," 62-year-old former insurgent Florentino Menjívar, María Dolores Gómez's husband, told IPS.

"This was conceived of to generate possibilities of growth for our local communities," he added.

The couple lives in Comunidad Dimas Rodríguez, a settlement of former guerrillas founded in December 1992 near El Paisnal after the demobilisation of the armed groups.

The community, which forms part of the tourist route, was named Dimas Rodríguez in honour of one of the commanders who led the guerrillas in this area, members of the Popular Liberation Forces (FPL), one of the five armed groups that made up the FMLN.

Every Dec. 15, the date of the founding of the community, the local residents hold a guerrilla military parade to remember their commander, who was killed in combat in 1989, and to keep alive the history of the settlement. The event is attended by local and foreign tourists.

In the last few years, government officials who used to live in the settlement of former guerrillas have also attended the parade.

"The country's current vice president led the forces here, when we were demobilising," said Víctor Escalante, referring to Vice President Oscar Ortiz.

Since June 2014 the president of El Salvador is another former guerrilla, Salvador Sánchez Cerén.

There are plans to open a museum, where visitors will be able to see the original weapons used by the insurgents, which were surrendered and rendered useless after the peace deal was reached. And a rebel camp will be recreated in a forested area near the town.

"I still have my backpack, and other people have radios and other artifacts from the war, and all of us together can set up the museum," said Escalante, 45.

The local residents are organising to provide services to tourists, and there are groups working in the areas of food, crafts and other activities tied to the new initiative.

Employment is hard to come by in El Paisnal, a town of 4,500, where most of the locals are dedicated to agriculture and up to now there have been few opportunities for work in other areas.

The route also includes an ecotourism component, with visits to the El Chino hill, seven km from El Paisnal, and to Conacastera, a beach on the Lempa river.

The tour will also take the visitors to the San Carlos Cooperative, which is getting ready to host tourists who want an up-close look at the cooperative's agricultural production processes.

Similar initiatives have been developed in other parts of the country over the last few years.

The town of Perquín in the eastern department or province of Morazán is the best-known for its war-tourism projects. In the local museum, visitors can learn about the civil war and see war memorabilia like guns, artillery pieces and even helicopters shot down by the guerrillas.

And in some rural areas, tourists can visit mountain caves and other bunkers used by the guerrillas as hideouts or even field hospitals.

In this country of 6.7 million people, Central America's smallest, the Tourism Ministry reported that the tourism industry brought in 650 million dollars in the first half of 2014 – a 33 percent increase with respect to the same period in 2013.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

All rights reserved, IPS – Inter Press Service (2015)

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