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Equator Prize Winners Demonstrate Maximum Impact

2017EquatorPrizeStage

2017 Equator Prize winners celebrate together on the stage at New York’s Town Hall Theatre to the music of American singer-songwriter Morley, September 17, 2017 (Photo by Arnaldo Vargas courtesy UNDP) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, September 19, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Outstanding local and indigenous community initiatives that resolve climate, environment and poverty issues are honored with the Equator Prize, just as the United Nations General Assembly opens at UN headquarters in New York.

This year, on the 15th anniversary of the biennial Equator Prize, 15 community groups from 12 countries each was awarded a $10,000 prize at a gala celebration Sunday at The Town Hall theater, hosted by the Equator Initiative, a part of the UN Development Programme (UNDP). All the winners were supported to attend the award ceremony.

The Equator Initiative brings together the United Nations, governments, civil society, businesses and grassroots organizations to recognize and advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities.

This year’s winners are protecting, restoring and sustainably managing marine, forest, grassland, dryland and wetland ecosystems, while creating jobs, protecting endangered wildlife, and decreasing risks from natural disasters.

Achim Steiner, UNDP administrator, presented the awards to the 15 winners, who hail from: Belize, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mali, Pakistan and Thailand.

Steiner, a former head of the UN Environment Programme, said, “The 15 communities we honor tonight, together with the more than 200 previous prize winners, and more than 5,000 nominations we have received to date, are weaving together a global tapestry of local solutions to tackle some of the biggest global challenges we face.”

“These solutions show us that when we invest in nature, we can achieve our global goals of obtaining food, water, peace, gender parity, and security in a truly sustainable manne,” Steiner said. “By thinking globally and acting locally, the 2017 Equator Prize Winners helped not only their communities but also communities worldwide facing sustainable development challenges.”

The winners called on governments, civil society, donors and all stakeholders to “join hands in protecting Mother Earth, our shared heritage.”

“By safeguarding nature we are investing in sustainable development,” they said.

The winners also expressed the belief that without empowering women there can be no social change; they emphasized the need of land rights for women farmers and entrepreneurs.

Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s minister of climate and environment, reminded the audience of the fearful price paid every day by defenders and protectors of the Earth.

“The remarkable communities here tonight demonstrate that indigenous and local communities, working together, can safeguard their lands and forests, and realize their own sustainable development goals,” said Helgesen. “However, we must recognize that protecting forests and traditional lands comes at a steep price. Nearly four people were killed every week last year defending their land rights against destructive industries and illegal activities. This must end.”

Equator Prize winners are selected based on the impact they have, and also the partnerships they build with other community groups, the private sector, governments, research and academic institutions, as well as public or private foundations

To qualify for the prize, the groups must demonstrate that their practical, innovative solutions result in at least three years of successful changes in local socio-economic conditions and have positive impacts on biodiversity.

Their initiatives must demonstrate new and adaptable approaches that overcome prevailing constraints, incorporate social and cultural diversity, promote gender equality, and empower local people, especially marginalized groups.

They must demonstrate leadership that inspires action and change consistent with the vision of the Equator Initiative – of “sustainably managing nature to achieve local sustainable development, such as food security, water security, sustainable jobs and livelihoods, and disaster risk reduction.”

Crosscutting issues include advocacy for land and water rights, social and environmental justice, and gender equality.

Naoko Ishii, CEO and chairperson, Global Environment Facility, said at the awards gala, “Communities have shown that they can be an engine of innovation and learning, and for that reason, the GEF has invested $450 million to support over 14,500 community-based projects in over 125 countries. It gives me great pleasure to see that six of the Equator Prize winners tonight are recipients of SGP [Small Grants Programme] awards, demonstrating that by investing in communities, we can achieve lasting results that help provide a pathway toward a just, resilient and sustainable future.”

Following a global call for nominations, the Equator Initiative received a 806 nominations from 120 countries.

The winners were selected during an extensive months-long review process guided by a Technical Advisory Committee of international experts.

And the Winners Are:

Sub-Saharan Africa

1. Mikoko Pamoja, Kenya

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Forests, oceans, coasts, wetlands, wildlife

Started in 2013, Mikoko Pamoja brings together two communities in southern Kenya’s Gazi Bay to sell carbon credits from mangrove conservation, trading 3,000 tons CO2-equivalent per year in the voluntary carbon market.

Mikoko Pamoja is the first community-based project of this kind in the world to successfully trade mangrove carbon credits.

Benefits are reinvested in the community to improve clean water access for 3,500 community members, provide educational materials to 700 school children, and to ensure the 117 hectare mangrove forest remains protected.

Ecotourism provides a further source of income for this initiative, which is in the process of being replicated in other regions in Kenya and other countries.

2. The Kuruwitu Conservation & Welfare Association, Kenya

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: ocean restoration, coasts

The Kuruwitu Conservation & Welfare Association (KCWA) was set up in 2003 by community members concerned about the degradation of their seas by overfishing, climate change and uncontrolled fish and coral collection by the aquarium trade.

In Vipingo, Kilifi County, Kenya, elders who could recall how healthy and productive the sea had been decades ago felt it necessary to take restorative action before it was too late.

In 2005 they set aside a 30 hectare Marine Protected Area (MPA), the first coral-based Locally Managed Marine Area in Kenya. Twelve years later, the area has recovered.

With fishing prohibited within the MPA, fish have grown in abundance, size and diversity. The area has become a breeding ground, leading to an increase in fish outside the MPA. Local fishermen see greater catches and at the same time, biodiversity has blossomed.

Kuruwitu has become an eco-tourism destination, creating jobs for guides, boat captains and rangers.

KCWA is working with the local Beach Management Unit, the Kenyan State Department of Fisheries, and the Wildlife Conservation Society to develop a co-management plan that will cover a 800 hectare area of ocean off the Kenyan coast. With this co-management plan, KCWA will collaborate with local fishermen to promote the sustainable use of marine resources, to reduce post-harvest losses and improve fish marketing.

3. The Mali Elephant Project, Mali

Area of Focus: Wildlife

In a drought-prone zone rife with resource conflicts and violent extremism, the Mali Elephant Project brings together various ethnic groups to manage local resources and protect an internationally important population of 350 endangered African elephants.

Through the formation of community-based natural resource management committees, the provision of additional income through support for women’s groups engaged in sustainable harvest of non-timber forest products, and anti-poaching measures involving ‘eco-guardian’ youth community members, the initiative has reduced poaching of elephants in the 32,000 km² area.

The Elephant Project has improved social cohesion between different local communities, and contributed to peace-building efforts by providing alternatives to joining extremist groups.

Communities have created rules for local use of natural resources, set aside forests for elephant use, formed pasture reserves, and designated seasonal water sources to be shared by people, livestock, and elephants.

Latin America and the Caribbean

4. Alianza Internacional de Reforestación (AIRES), Guatemala

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Forests, mountains

For 24 years, AIRES has utilized the expertise of indigenous Maya forestry professionals to support more than 130 low-income communities in Guatemala’s Chimaltenango province to fight erosion and prevent deadly mudslides, improve food crops and nutrition, and prevent lung disease.

Working with community members, AIRES promotes sustainable farming methods and environmental education programs, builds efficient stoves, and has planted almost five million trees.

Almost 3,000 farmers, 70 percent of them women, have been trained by indigenous peers, 200 nurseries established, and 860 cook stoves built.

5. Associação Ashaninka do Rio Amônia Apiwtxa, Brazil

Area of Focus: Sustainable Forestry

To protect their 87,205-hectare territory Terra Kampa do Rio Amônia from deforestation and to defend Ashaninka rights and culture, Apiwtxa has used participatory 3D mapping to demarcate and support community-based management of indigenous lands.

With this innovative technology and broad community engagement, Apiwtxa has created a management plan for the Ashaninka territory.

The group has also set up an educational center that promotes sustainable agroforestry practices with Ashaninka communities in Brazil and Peru as well as other indigenous and non-indigenous groups and educational centers.

The schools place cultural exchange and social inclusion at the heart of environmental education, while leading restoration activities, and selling handicrafts and non-timber forest products through a cooperative in a cohesive strategy to defend indigenous lands and enhance community livelihoods.

6. Associação Terra Indígena Xingu (ATIX), Brazil

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Forests

Founded 22 years ago by 16 indigenous communities in the 27,000 km² Terra Indígena Xingu to manage their land and defend their rights, Associação Terra Indígena Xingu is the first community-based organization in Brazil to obtain permits from the Ministry of Agriculture as a certifying entity for community-based organic products.

Two tons of honey are sold every year, and the organization has developed a new certification called ‘Selo dos Origens Brasil,’ highlighting the preservation of traditional knowledge and customs.

ATIX advocates for the recognition of indigenous land rights in the face of powerful pressures on the forest.

7. Community Baboon Sanctuary Women’s Conservation Group (CBSWCG), Belize

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Forests, Wetlands, Rivers, Wildlife

Led by women from seven communities in the northern coastal plain of Belize, the Community Baboon Sactuary Women’s Conservation Group (CBSWCG) supports the conservation of the black howler monkey, or baboon, in the 6,000-hectare Community Baboon Sanctuary.

CBSWCG brings together 240 landowners, each of whom voluntarily participates in conservation efforts through a pledge system.

The sanctuary has produced a sustainable land management plan with environmental, economic and social benefits.

Maintaining interconnected wildlife corridor integrity and a comprehensive sustainable natural resource management strategy are among CBSWCG’s achievements.

A micro-credit fund has backed projects in sustainable oil harvesting, tilapia farming, organic agriculture, and livestock rearing while the Bel-riv Commerce and Eco-Tourism Expo, created by the group in 2013, offers improved market access for farmers, small-scale entrepreneurs, and artisans.

The successful protection of the sanctuary has led not only to an increase in the baboon population from 800 in 1985 to 6,000 in 2011, but also to the recovery of vulnerable populations of jaguar, ocelot, margay, puma and over 200 species of birds.

8. Federacion Tribus Pech de Honduras (FETRIPH), Honduras

Area of Focus: Sustainable Forestry

Federación Tribus Pech de Honduras unites 12 Pech communities in northeastern Honduras to fight for the protection of their forests against illegal occupation by settlers and to promote alternative livelihoods in a unique Access and Benefit Sharing scheme.

The group has founded a cooperative to sell liquidambar, an ingredient important in the fragrance and flavor industry, and has set production standards that ensure sustainability while addressing scarcity concerns in the international market, as well as guaranteeing a fair income for producers and the protection of Pech traditional knowledge.

Sixty percent of revenues directly benefit producers, providing a stable income for 60 families; the remaining 40 percent of revenues are directed to a community social fund that promotes education and public health.

FETRIPH successfully opposed the creation of a ‘people free’ national park, which would have stripped the Pech from the right to sustainably use liquidambar trees.

The government has instead signed an agreement with FETRIPH for co-management of the 34,000-hectare Anthropological and Forest Reserve ‘Montaña del Carbón,’ which provides the community with stewardship over their forest.

9. Organización para la Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag (DECOIN), Ecuador

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Forests, Mountains, Rivers, Wildlife

Founded in 1995 to confront a big mining project threatening communities and environment in the Intag Valley, DECOIN promotes alternative livelihoods and measures to advance conservation of the area’s Andean biodiversity.

Over the past 22 years, the organization has created community-based forest reserves to protect watersheds in 38 communities, totaling 12,000 hectares.

Sustainable agricultural activities such as small holder organic coffee production, aquaculture, poultry farming, and egg production, as well as eco-tourism ventures, provide additional income and viable alternatives to mining, which remains a strong pressure in the area.

Eastern Europe & Central Asia

10. Public Foundation “Zhassyl Azyk,” Kazakhstan

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Drylands, ecosystem restoration

Concerned with extensive soil degradation, five farming communities near Almaty, Kazakhstan created the Community Fund ‘Zhasil Azik’ to restore the productivity of low-fertility lands by sustainably cultivating alfalfa.

Alfalfa cultivation serves as an entry point to restore soil fertility, counter the effects of monoculture, make more efficient use of scarce water supplies, and improve smallholder income.

New opportunities for livestock breeding through the availability of alfalfa have further enhanced food security.

The innovative approaches utilized by the group accelerate recovery of soil fertility, do not require large financial investments, are technologically accessible for smallholder agricultural producers, and have increased income by 20 percent.

More than 200 jobs have been created through the initiative’s work, and the national government has integrated these techniques into the National Program for the Development of Agro-industrial Complex, effectively providing the support to scale up these practices to the national level.

Community Fund ‘Zhasil Azik’ mobilizes local communities to deliver on solutions that address global challengess of food security, land degradation, water scarcity, and adaptation to climate change.

Asia & the Pacific

11. Asosiasi Usaha Homestay Lokal Kabupaten Raja Ampat (AUHLKRA), Indonesia

AUHLKRA is a growing network of 84 community-owned businesses in Papua and West Papua, offering ecotourism services that connect tourists directly with family-run homestays through a user-friendly web portal, Stay Raja Ampat, and an SMS booking system.

More than 600 new jobs have been created in homestays, fishing, and agriculture, including for youth and women, providing viable alternatives to the resort industry. The association sets hospitality and environmental standards for all member community-owned businesses.

Pressures on ecosystems have been reduced through community forest patrols, peer-pressure enforcement of no-take fishery zones, and a participatory system to report illegal activities.

12. Baltistan Wildlife Conservation and Development Organization (BWCDO), Pakistan

The Baltistan Wildlife Conservation and Development Organization protects Baltistan’s snow leopards by providing economic incentives to local farmers in 17 villages through insurance schemes and financial compensation against livestock losses following snow leopard attacks.

Damages are paid after verification through joint decisions between BWCDO and Village Insurance Committees established for this purpose.

Communities have also set up predator-proof fencing, and received training to improve herding techniques. Vaccination campaigns protect both livestock and wildlife.

BWCDO’s achievements have reduced economic losses to farmers. An educational program raises awareness and provides opportunities for girls, proactively engaging youth in conservation and development.

13. Community Mangrove Forest Conservation of Baan Bang La, Thailand

Area of Focus: Forests, oceans, coasts, wetlands, wildlife

In 2004, Bang La was protected from the worst of a catastrophic tsunami by a 192-hectare mangrove forest. Recognizing the importance of this natural habitat for disaster risk reduction, Bang La community residents formed an association to advance the protection of mangroves through co-management, community dialogues, and education programs. This enabled them to resist the expansion of urban housing developments into the publically-owned land.

The community has secured a Memorandum of Understanding from the provincial government, which provides them with the rights to establish a community-managed mangrove forest conservation area.

The community’s sustainable management of this area has triggered the return of the protected Phuket Sea Otter, and places this endangered species at the center of awareness campaigns that engage women and youth in natural resource management.

The group has established a savings and microcredit scheme to support small-business opportunities and retain the traditional character of the community.

14. Swayam Shikshan Prayog, India

Area of Focus: Grasslands, drylands

Swayam Shikshan Prayog empowers 72,000 women in the drought-prone state of Maharashtra to act as decision-makers, improving their health and economic well-being.

At the nexus of nutrition, sustainable agriculture, and gender, SSP has created 5,500 self-help and saving groups that support women to engage as farmers, entrepreneurs, and leaders.

SSP trains women to negotiate with their families to obtain their own plot of land for cultivation, usually about 0.4 hectares each. Low-input sustainable farming techniques, including efficient water use, organic farming, mixed cropping, and increased crop cycles, enable the women to improve food security, increase climate resilience, enhance agrobiodiversity, and reduce stress on water resources.

Through these projects, women develop capacity to influence household decision-making, improve nutrition, and increase water availablity in the region. The initiative provides a space for local women to co-create their own development solutions and to connect with likeminded women and organizations to spread their knowledge and experise in a broader network, creating a mechaism for widespread sustainable change.

15. Yayasan Planet Indonesia

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Forests, coasts

Fighting economic activities detrimental to the environment, Planet Indonesia identifies, led by the benefiting Dayak communities, sustainable livelihood opportunities through the development of conservation compacts and community businesses.

Activities range from forest protection to anti-wildlife trafficking to securing land rights.

Business groups have been set up in more than 50 villages, comprising 2,100 members, more than two-thirds of whom are women and/or indigenous.

Community members are trained to run small-scale businesses, savings and loans programs build community capital, a revolving fund covers damages and operational costs, and coaching and mentoring ensures long-term sustainability of each community business.

An annual fellowship program provides 50 high school students with funds to conduct adaptation and mitigation projects. To date, 30,000 hectares of forest have been protected and over 40,000 seedlings planted.

Since its inception in 2002, the Equator Prize has recognized the innovative work of 223 community initiatives that are helping to protect the environment and tackle climate change while advancing their sustainable development priorities.

This year’s Equator Prize was made possible by the generous support of the Governments of Germany, Norway, and Sweden, National Geographic, Pvblic Foundation, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, Rainforest Norway, The Nature Conservancy, and the individuals who contributed to the Equator Initiative crowdfunding campaign.


Featured image: Equator Prize 2017, Equator Initiative www.equatorinitiative.org
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Ethical Travelers Shape World’s Largest Industry

CaboVerdeTree

Giant trees are just one of the many unique sights on the Atlantic island chain of Cabo Verde. (Photo by Frans Neve) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BERKELEY, California, January 31, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Each year, Berkeley-based nonprofit Ethical Traveler searches the world to find the 10 most ethical destinations that beckon visitors with forward-thinking policies, excellent tourism infrastructure, outstanding natural beauty, and welcoming cultures.

A project of the nonprofit Earth Island Institute, Ethical Traveler hosted responsible travelers Sunday evening at a reception to honor the winners of the 2017 Ethical Destinations Awards.

The 2017 Ethical Destinations Award winners, in alphabetical order, not ranked, are:

•             Belize

•             Cabo Verde

•             Chile

•             Costa Rica

•             Dominica

•             Mongolia

•             Palau

•             Tonga

•             Uruguay

•             Vanuatu

By no means evenly distributed around the world, five of the destinations are in Latin America, and four of them are islands. There is only one located in Asia. None are in Europe or North America and none are on the African or Australian continents.

An article authored by Ethical Traveler’s Molly Blakemore, Karen Blansfield, Morgan Lance and Natalie Lefevre with Jeff Greenwald explaining the reasons behind the selection of this year’s 10 most ethical destinations also sketches the financial underpinnings of the travel industry.

Travel is more than an opening for good will,” the authors say. “It is one of the world’s most powerful economic engines, and can drive the way countries treat their citizens, indigenous peoples, wildlife and the environment.

They point out that travel is the world’s largest industry, with a trillion-dollar annual footprint.

This means that travelers have enormous power. Where we put our footprints has reverberations reaching far beyond our personal experience. By voting with our wings, choosing our destinations well and cultivating our roles as citizen diplomats, we can help to change the world for the better,” the Ethical Traveler authors say hopefully.

Every year, Ethical Traveler volunteers review the policies and practices of over 100 developing countries. The group then chooses the 10 that they believe are doing the best at promoting human rights, preserving the environment and supporting social welfare, while creating a lively, community-based tourism industry.

Ethical Traveler is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization. No money or donations of any kind are solicited or accepted from any nations, governments, travel bureaus or individuals in the creation of its annual list.

Now – let’s travel!

Costa Rica scored highest in environmental protection among the 2017 Ethical Destinations, a big improvement from last year, followed by Chile and Dominica.

The Central American country plans to go carbon neutral by 2021, and officials claim it has reached 81 percent of its goal. According to a report by its National Centre for Energy Control, Costa Rica ran on 100 percent renewable energy for 76 straight days between July and August of 2016.

The global refugee crisis continued in full force of need this year. In response, Costa Rica, along with eight other North and Central American countries, made a formal commitment to shelter and improve protections for refugees.

Costa Rica is also one of the few countries that are “actively and sincerely trying to combat the human trafficking epidemic by arresting and breaking up the criminal groups responsible,” write the Ethical Traveler volunteers.

Costa Rica did not make it to the Top 10 last year because no progress was made on preventing turtle egg poaching, and Costa Rica’s president had expressed his intent to weaken endangered shark protections.

While there are still indications of ongoing sales of sea turtle eggs in some markets and the nation is under scrutiny for inconsistent support of international conventions on shark protection, there has been some progress, the Ethical Traveler volunteers report.

Costa Rican delegates led international shark conservation measures at a crucial February 2016 shark meeting, and Costa Rica has reached an agreement with Ecuador and Colombia to increase the protection of the migratory routes used by sharks and sea turtles.

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis has committed to nearly quadrupling Cocos Island National Park, where fishing is restricted to protect sharks.

The island countries of Barbados and Palau attained perfect ratings in air quality, as did Chile and Uruguay, which also scored 100 percent in forests.

Palau’s President Thomas Remengesau, Jr., a known environmental champion, established the first no-take zone, setting aside 80 percent of Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone as a national marine sanctuary. He created the Marine Sanctuary Act to protect the oceans and marine life, and he is encouraging other countries to follow that path.

Praising Palau, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition said, “If all nations that purport to support urgent action to protect the biodiversity of the international waters of the world’s oceans from bottom trawl fishing were as consistent and persistent as the Republic of Palau, the deep sea habitats of the high seas would undoubtedly already be safe from high seas bottom trawling.

The island chain that is Cabo Verde juts up from the Atlantic, some 500 km west of Senegal, marked by mountains, beaches and peaceful seaside villages. Cabo Verde has committed to being free from oil-based energy by 2020, and is striving to be at the forefront of developing renewable energy technologies.

Cabo Verde continues progressing towards gender equality. Women now hold nine out of 17 national cabinet positions, and three out of seven seats on the Supreme Court.

Of all the countries on the initial list, Chile scored highest in social welfare, ranking 42nd out of the 187 countries, the Ethical Traveler reports.

Chile also enjoys modern medical care on par with that of the United States, is 28th in world rankings for life expectancy and has a literacy rate of 98 percent.

Uruguay ranks third of 146 countries for environmental sustainability.

So far, Dominica is the leader in renewable energy usage in the Caribbean Community, CARICOM, with its current renewable usage at 28 percent. Its goal is to become fully energy self-sufficient by 2020.

Although the Caribbean island nation of Dominica suffered damage from tropical storm Erika in 2015, the government’s response to the event has been to rebuild schools, shelter displaced citizens and create jobs through road and infrastructure repair.

Dominica has a very high number of people living to over 100 years, and consistently self-reports as one of the happiest nations in the world.

Mongolia, the sole Asian country on the Ethical Traveler’s Top 10 List, has established goals to reduce its carbon footprint by having 30 percent of all energy output be from renewables by 2030, a big increase from its current seven percent.

Mongolia’s Minister of Environment and Tourism has made it clear that the government intends to have reviews and oversight of mining explorations to increase the transparency of those operations.

Belize’s top tourist destination is the country’s barrier reef, popular for scuba diving and snorkeling and attracting almost half of its 260,000 visitors. Vital to the country’s fishing industry, the reef is a 300-kilometer (190 mile) long section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the world’s second longest reef, after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Belize’s government recently endorsed the National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan 2012–2030, a strategic framework for sustainable tourism development.

Belize has several world-leading examples of sustainable tourism, and the Ethical Traveler’s volunteers praised the country’s efforts, saying they were “put forth as a true example of environmentally conscientious and sustainable tourism.

Belize has also committed to the 10-Island Challenge, which challenges nations in the Caribbean to become 100 percent reliant on renewable energy rather than utilizing fossil fuels.

Education is also a priority in Tonga and Dominica, with impressive literacy rates of 99 per cent and 94 per cent, respectively—well above the global average of 84 per cent—and

The Pacific island country of Vanuatu is extending free education through to the age of ten.

In the Freedom House yearly report on civil and political rights, Belize, Cabo Verde, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominica, Palau, Uruguay, and Mongolia earned the highest possible score while Tonga, and Vanuatu follow with the second highest scores.

These countries are beacons that we hope other developing countries will follow,” writes the Ethical Traveler selection group.

Freedom House is a U.S. based and government funded nonpartisan and nonprofit organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights.

We’re especially hopeful to see Mongolia move up in the Freedom House rankings, as they made human rights and political freedom a cornerstone of 2016’s parliamentary elections,” the group writes.

Ecuador was included in the top rankings as a Destination of Interest, although it did not make it into the top 10.

While Ecuador does not qualify as a top ethical destination because of serious environmental and human rights issues, we are including it as a Destination of Interest because of the important role of tourism in the recovery of the country after a destructive earthquake in April 2016,” writes the Ethical Travelers volunteer selection group.

Before the earthquake, Ecuador attracted 1.5 million visitors and tourism brought in $1 billion in 2015, making it the fourth biggest source of income for the nation. Because of the high costs of rebuilding the affected areas, Ecuador might otherwise turn to other short-term income generating projects, such as the oil drilling under Yasuní National Park, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, which was begun in September 2016.

Ecuador has much to offer responsible travelers: the majestic Andean mountains, the Amazon rainforest, indigenous and colonial towns, beautiful beaches and the fascinating wildlife of the Galapagos Islands.

Ecuador won the World Travel Award for South America’s leading green destination and Tren Ecuador’s travel by rail won Best Responsible Tourism Project in the World and Best for Poverty Reduction and Inclusion at the 2016 World Responsible Tourism Awards.

So many wonderful places for responsible travelers to visit – so little time!


Featured image: Glorious golden sunrise on a beach in Cahuita, Costa Rica (Photo by Armando Maynez) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Maximpact’s consultant network has a wide range of eco tourism and environmental experts that can assist your organization. Create responsible tourism projects through Maximpact’s Advisory and discover project services for all types of business and organizations. Contact us at info(@)maximpact.com and tell us what you need.

Footsteps of a Responsible Traveller

TableMountainMan1

Visitor stands at the top of Table Mountain overlooking Cape Town, South Africa, January 2015 (Photo by Meraj Chhaya) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, July 5, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – A luxurious hotel in Dubai rescues, rehabilitates and releases sea turtles and educates guests about turtle conservation… a hotel and restaurant association in India’s Kerala state works to ensure no food is wasted… accessible only by boat, a rainforest lodge and chocolate farm in Panama borders a spectacular National Marine Park…

These are just three of the 75 organizations in 30 countries longlisted for the 2016 World Responsible Tourism Awards at World Travel Market London, sponsored by the Belize Tourism Board.

In fact, Belize’s Reef Conservation International (ReefCI) is also on the longlist for protection of its section of the world’s second longest reef, where whale sharks play.

The 2016 list of finalists will be released in August, with the winners announced in a ceremony at World Travel Market London during World Responsible Tourism Day on November 8.

Justin Francis, managing director of Responsible Travel and founder of the awards, said, “This is an exciting time of year. It’s when we first get our real glimpse into diversity of the stellar work being done in responsible tourism worldwide.”

“There are a few things which have really got me excited this year and one is seeing representatives from destinations such as Dubai, places we don’t usually associate with responsible tourism, included in the longlist for the first time. For me this is a clear indication that the wider tourism industry is really recognizing the importance and benefits of operating in a responsible way.”

Tourism is one of the world’s fastest growing industries. International tourists numbered 982 million in the year 2000 and the World Tourism Organization projects up to 1.6 billion tourists annually by 2020.

International tourism is a trillion-dollar business, accounting for up to nine percent of global GDP. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimates that tourism is expected to continue to grow by 3.3 percent annually through 2030, generating one in 12 jobs globally.

While providing jobs, tourism can cause problems – environmental degradation, social dislocation, loss of cultural heritage, and economic dependence.

Learning about the negative impacts of tourism has led many people to seek more responsible holidays. In fact, sustainable tourism is becoming so popular that what is now viewed as alternative will soon be considered mainstream.

Sustainable, or responsible, tourism “respects both local people and the traveller, cultural heritage and the environment,” according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO.

SloveniaCapital

Ljubljana, Slovenia will host the Global Green Destinations conference in September. (Photo by Lorenzo Magnis) Creative Commons license via Flickr

On World Tourism Day, September 27, a two-day conference, Global Green Destinations Day will begin in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, which earned the title of European Green Capital 2016. Experts in sustainable development and green tourism, opinion leaders, and representatives of destinations, associations, hoteliers and tour operators will gather.

The main partner and co-organizer of the event is Ljubljana Tourism, in cooperation with the Slovenian Tourist Board.

At Global Green Destinations Day the Top 100 Sustainable Destinations 2016 will be named, featuring the world’s most successful sustainable tourism destinations, as well as the best providers of green solutions in the tourism sector.

Increasing the number of visitors to protected areas can be an effective tool for conservation and community development, if well-functioning management systems are in place, according to a 2014 report released at the World Parks Congress hosted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Sydney, Australia.

Highlighting a global collection of case studies from Machu Picchu in Peru to the Damaraland Camp in Namibia, the IUCN report, “Tourism and Visitor Management in Protected Areas: Guidelines for Sustainability,” includes contributions from more than 50 experts from 23 countries and territories, and examples from over 45 countries around the world.

“Unlike other industries and human-driven activities, tourism in protected areas can be a strong positive force – increasing a sense of stewardship and revenues that are vital for the long-term protection of these important conservation areas,” said Dr. Yu-Fai Leung, the chief editor of the report and member of the IUCN WCPA Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group. “By contrast, reduced visitor numbers to protected areas can signal a lack of political interest or public support.

There is money to be made in sustainable tourism, which is why “green” hotels are getting an increasing amount of investment.

The Tanzanian based Bakhresa Group, for instance, has appointed Verde Hotels  of South Africa to overhaul and upgrade the old Mtoni Marine Hotel in Zanzibar. The brand new five star property will be known as Hotel Verde, Zanzibar’s greenest hotel.

“We are serious about being the leaders of the Green Economy sector and therefore we approached the developers of Africa’s greenest hotel, Verde Hotels, to ensure that Hotel Verde Zanzibar will be the greenest hotel in East Africa,” explained Said Salim Awadh Bakhresa, chairman of the Bakhresa Group.

Hotel Verde Zanzibar will showcase the integration of Five Star luxury and environmental best practice. Sustainability strategies for the redevelopment phase include: renewable energy generation, regenerative drive elevators, a grey water recycling system, responsible procurement, waste minimization and management, and indoor environmental quality optimization.

The original Hotel Verde in Cape Town is green from its energy-efficient LED lights, to its rooftop solar panels, to its zero waste to landfill policy. The hotel’s cooling/heating system achieves exceptional efficiencies by using heat pumps coupled to 100 boreholes and 11km of geothermal ground loops that use the earth as a thermal battery.

As a hotel management group, Verde Hotels constructs new hotels and renovates existing buildings that are then operated and managed by Verde Hotels , with sustainability at their core. The company’s stated aim is “to transcend conventional hotel and business standards whilst entering into a new era of environmental consciousness and responsible tourism.”

Verde Hotels aims to demonstrate that “luxury and sustainability are not mutually exclusive.”

It often comes down to small practical steps. In Houston, Texas, the Green Hotels Association offers a catalog of environmentally-friendly energy and water-saving products for the lodging industry with such water-saving devices as a toilet-tank fill diverter, which saves about 3/4 gallon of water per flush, is invisible to the guest, does not affect the flush, and costs about $1. Hair and skin care product dispensers save money and offer guests shampoo and soap at the push of a button. The association’s towel rack hangers and sheet changing cards ask guests to consider using their linens more than once.

And at other times, the big picture is the important focus. On June 10, the UN World Tourism Organization welcomed more than 70 experts from 21 countries at its headquarters in Madrid, to share experiences related to the measurement and monitoring of the impact that tourism has on destinations.

Special focus was put on the relevance and the opportunities available from non-traditional data sources, including social media analysis, geospatial data mapping, big and live data collection and usage, as well as the analysis of credit card spending patterns and the flow of visitors based on mobile device information.

This consultation took place in a climate that strengthens the role and responsibilities of sustainable tourism as a positive instrument for development, such as the upcoming International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development in 2017.

UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said, “The declaration by the UN of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development is a unique opportunity to advance the contribution of the tourism sector to the three pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental, while raising awareness of the true dimensions of a sector which is often undervalued” said

This Earth Day, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and the UK charity Reef-World Foundation (Reef-World) announced a new partnership for marine conservation and the sustainable development of marine initiatives and opportunities.

PATA officially endorsed Reef-World and Green Fins, a management approach to promote and measure compliance to an environmental code of conduct for sustainable diving and snorkelling activities for destinations and dive operators.

The top Green Fins member organization this year is Puerto Galera Dive Resort ABWonderdive B&B in the Philippines. In one of the world’s most beautiful bays, underwater photographers focus on seahorses and pygmy seahorses, ghostpipe fishes, frogfishes, flying gurnards and nudibranches of all kinds. Of course, the travel season there is over for this year as monsoon and typhoon season approaches, but there’s always next year!

Top Five Tips for Being a Responsible Traveller

  1. Don’t litter. Carry your own shopping bag. Avoid plastic bottles.
  2. Reduce energy consumption.
  3. Conserve water.
  4. Do not buy or eat endangered species.
  5. Inquire about the sustainability practices and environmental policies of hotels, lodges and guest houses at your destinations and patronize only those whose policies protect the planet.

Featured image : Chocolate workers at La Loma Jungle Lodge and Chocolate Farm, Panama, rated “excellent” by 297 travelers. (Photo courtesy La Loma)