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Reducing poaching in the mountains of Altai and Tuva through development of eco-tourism

25 september 2012
WWF and Citi Foundation are training local residents in the basics of running a business and providing microloans to implement projects

WWF and Citi Foundation have summed up the results of their joint program “Development of Eco-Tourism in the Altai Mountains and Western Tuva,” the aim of which is to provide the local population training on the basics of entrepreneurship and also to provide microloans for the development of businesses with a strong nature preservation component (ecotourism in the habitat of the argali mountain sheep and snow leopard, production of souvenirs and products made of felt, improvement of livestock quality, etc.).

Within the framework of a joint project on the development of entrepreneurship and ecotourism in the first half of 2012 in the Altai Republic more than 30 seminars and master classes were held on the basics of business development, environmental and rural tourism, with more than 700 local residents taking part. More than 200 people received individual consultations from experts in ecotourism and financial management in the tourism business. In total 92 applications were received for the microloan competition, and 40 of the projects were supported. The total amount of all interest-free loans issued has exceeded €37000. The process of gathering applications for the interest-free loan competition in Tuva was wrapped up in early September.

This September foreign journalists from European, American, Russian and Asian media visited the districts and villages that are home to the new entrepreneurs and now practically professionals in ecotourism who participated in the program this year. At an exhibit of projects in the village of Inya, the villagers presented their achievements in the organization of “green” homes, the production of souvenirs based on local handicrafts, the creation of village hotels, organization of food services and excursions. The journalists had the opportunity to try their hand as artisans engaged in various handicrafts. They also appreciated the diversity of souvenir products based on the traditional arts and crafts of Altai and enjoyed a presentation of a unique collection of clothing made of felt created by Altai masters. They also were treated to a performance of the renowned throat singing of the Altai peoples.

The program was initiated in 2011. During the first stage, 580 people completed the training course and 150 of them subsequently participated in a business plan contest. Thirty business plans were then chosen for financing in the form of micro-grants totaling €35000.

The development of green tourism was chosen as a priority focus for the program for rural residents of the Altai Mountains as this is perhaps the most promising area for economic development. Taking into account the high level of unemployment in the Altai Republic, the development of rural (green) tourism in the Altai Mountains is often the only source of income for local people. Residents are counting on making a living from their services in the organization of green guest houses, excursions, arts and craft studios, transportation and horse rentals, ethno-shops and museums – what they can do by putting their hands and minds to work. Such efforts do not require major investments, but they must be done well and be underpinned by good ideas.