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6) WWF and Citi Fundation joint project in Altai: small business obviously helps to biodiversity conservation!

30 october 2012
In October WWF experts visited Ongudai and Kosh-Agach districts of the Altai Republic where they had meetings with the beginning entrepreneurs who organized their own business in the framework of “Land of Snow Leopard” Homestay Program

First meetings were held in the villages of Inya rural district. The unemployment rate is very high there: for example, there are 219 residents in the Malyi Yaloman village, and only about a dozen of official jobs. To survive people rely on livestock and poaching, including snaring dangerous for snow leopard. From the other hand this area has beautiful landscapes and nice climate, attractive for visitors. Such situation leads one to think about the tourism development as alternative to poaching because this field has great opportunities here.

Olesya Torlomoeva from the Inya village is going to develop vegetable farm to supply the tourists and locals with fresh vegetables: she has already spent granted by WWF and City Foundation money to buy a greenhouse.

Next meetings were held in the Novyi Beltyr village – this place was the epicenter of the earthquake in 2003. Today many tourist groups come here, and the local entrepreneurs can organize interesting excursions for them and sell local handicrafts. For example, Alena Surunova, teacher, is going to open a visitors-center in the Staryi Beltyr (village partly destroyed by the earthquake) – there the tourists will be able to see videos and to rent needed equipment.

During the held meetings the entrepreneurs made some sensible suggestions, for example, they opened a question about the creation of a felt-making community for local women. They also would like to learn how to work with the Internet – for many villagers the world wide web remains over their heads.

- We should say that the changes concerning the small business development in the Ongudai and Kosh-Agach districts are obvious, - says Elena Repetunova, project coordinator of the Altai-Sayan ecoregional office, WWF Russia. – We saw “green” houses, visitors-centers and other small enterprises. Further it’s necessary to create optimal conditions for the tourists including the right cost - quality ratio and the organization and of the appropriate infrastructure.

According to the WWF experts, the number of poaching cases on the territory of the Program implementation decreased by 20% in comparison with the 2010 data.

The entrepreneurs’ stories:

Lubov’ Beletova from Malyi Yaloman village is building a guest home with steam bath and an “ail” (traditional Altai wooden house) with swimming-pool. 

- The number of tourists grows constantly in our region. I just wanted to do something to offer people a civil rest – comfortable overnight stops, for example. If the tourists stay at our guest house, we can take away the garbage after them, and the river shores and our mountains will remain clean, - says Lubov’ Beletova.

Today she is also ready to offer tourists the horse-riding and interesting excursions dedicated to the Altai unique places. Further she plans to develop the rural tourism – to invite tourists for milking the cows and for making hay.

Oksana Baidanova, Marina and Michail Bokchukov from Iodro-village breed horses – they also offer tourists horse-riding and excursions. This summer they have already had tourists from Moscow and Saint-Peterburg.

Nina Konstantinova from Kokorya-village has been working with felt for 3 years already (before she was unemployed). She spent granted money to buy a special sewing machine – now she sells yurts made of felt to the tourist camping’s owners. She also gives work to 2 fellow villagers.

Andrey Sapo from Kurai-village is building not just a “green” house but the whole complex with the accommodations, children’s playground and visitors-center. 

All these stories demonstrate that people in the Altai are becoming less dependent on poaching and nature resources exploitation as a source of income and are turning to the alternative sources of income.

The Beletovs guest house
© Galina Mironova
Ail of Maina Ananova
© Galina Mironova
Kosh-Agach lunar landscape
© Galina Mironova