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Gulf of Guinea | Kenya | Liberia | Madagascar | Mali | Mozambique | Namibia | Nigeria | Senegal |
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The landlocked West African country of Mali bears great potential for improved livelihoods (64% of the population lives below the poverty line) and positive strides in terms of natural resource conservation through endeavors related to ecotourism. Of note, tourism development currently heads the Malian government’s list of priorities in this country that boasts 3 World Heritage sites ( Timbuktu, Djenne, and Bandiagara). To these ends, and in collaboration with Malian government, USFS has recently been involved in ecotourism projects in both the Gourma Region and Pays Dogon.
The Gourma is a unique region of Mali, hosting the northern most population of elephants on the African continent. These animals which have coexisted with humans for generations are at a critical juncture, as competition for water and food resources increase with expanding human and livestock populations in the area. Mali ’s Direction Nationale de la Conservation de la Nature (DNCN) requested US Forest Service (USFS) technical assistance in assessing sustainable ecotourism opportunities in the Gourma. Priority goals for the Government of Mali in this region include protection of the natural resources (flora and fauna) in the Gourma and improved livelihoods of local populations.
A team comprised of technical experts from USFS, Kansas State University, and Association Malienne pour la Conservation de la Faune et de l’Environnement (AMCFE) worked in-country with counterparts from DNCN and important government, NGO, community, and private business, and international conservation stakeholders from May 19 – 30, 2008. During the mission, the team visited key sites along the elephants’ migratory path (including Boni, Inadiatafane, Bambara-Maounde, Banzena, and Gossi), examined the feasibility of tourism in the area, and gained insight from local populations and government.
The team found sustainable ecotourism in the Gourma Region to be a viable vector for conservation as well as improved livelihoods of local populations. The successful implementation of ecotourism in the Gourma Region will be dependent upon inner-ministerial collaboration (Ministries of Environment and Sanitation, Tourism, and Culture) and transparent partnerships with other actors in the region.
USFS looks forward to further engaging with DNCN as well as other government, private, and NGO partners in order to advance the goals of natural resource preservation and livelihood improvement in the Gourma. Immediate next steps will likely be taken in concert with partners from the Mali Elephant Project (MEP).
USFS has been contributing technical assistance in Pays Dogon to USAID’s Global Sustainable Tourism Alliance (GSTA) in order to build capacity in natural resource conservation, sustainable productivity, and improved rural livelihoods in Pays Dogon.
In April – May 2008, USFS experts worked with counterparts from USAID and AED to reinforce the local private sector in Pays Dogon by providing training in visitor center development and management, visitor education, and customer service in the Bandiagara cercle. During this period, USFS experts conducted 2 trainings, the first of which focused on developing relationships and collaboration among stakeholders with an interest in the creation of a visitor center in Bandiagara. The second training session targeted local guides and focused primarily on four topics: resource protection, professionalism and customer service, health and safety, and natural and cultural resource interpretation. The purpose of the second session was to support the private tourism sector by providing formal training on a variety of immediately important topics, as well as topics that would assist in organization and long term business growth and development.
The next USFS technical assistance mission in support of this GSTA activity is planned for autumn 2008, and will likely focus on biodiversity conservation, natural history interpretation, and possibly birding trail planning in the cercles of Bankass/Koro/Douentza.
Please see our trip reports on the FRAME webpage for additional details: http://www.frameweb.org/ev_en.php?ID=12266_201&ID2=DO_TOPIC
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