People living near coral reefs rely on the fish and other animals that live on or near the reef for food; in fact, hundreds of millions of people get their primary protein from reefs. They also often make a living by catching and selling those fish to earn additional income.
It is easy to understand how—in the short term—that seems like a viable way to support one’s family; with the sharp decline of fish populations on reefs around the world, however, it is important for both the reefs and the people that there are other ways to make a living.
As an alternative and incentive to decrease extractive practices, CORAL works with local communities to develop ways that conservation—through tourism and other sustainable activities—can create jobs and build local economies.
The Kubulau District, whose people own the Namena Marine Reserve, has an abundance of natural beauty and resources on land, as well as under water. Creating land-based ecotourism businesses there has the potential to leverage the area’s attraction as a marine tourism destination, and bring further revenue and community benefits to the district’s villages.
CORAL, in partnership with the Fiji Ministry of Tourism and with support from the Wildlife Conservation Society, requested and sponsored a training in community-based ecotourism business design for residents of the Kubulau District. The training was conducted by the University of the South Pacific’s Regional Centre for Continuing & Community Education (USP-RCCCE), and was hosted by the Kilaka Village community.
Three representatives from each of the ten villages in the Kubulau District were chosen to participate in the training, so now each village has a core team that can promote and support the development of ecotourism businesses. Participants in the training learned the foundations of tour guiding, the hospitality business, and business design, and they now have the skills to conduct feasibility studies, write business proposals, and develop budgets. Mock tours during the training allowed participants to practice itinerary planning, safety protocols, and public speaking, as well as develop their confidence as leaders.
Each village group developed a specific business concept to complement the marine and terrestrial conservation efforts in the area and highlight the unique qualities that set each village apart. The concepts were designed to suit the particular natural resources, culture, and infrastructure of each village, and the range of ideas included a bird watching excursion, the establishment of a forest eco-lodge, and the creation of a village tour with Fijian folklore dances and stories. Groups from live-aboard dive vessels can now visit some of the villages to learn more about Fiji—and the villages earn additional revenue.
In the Garifuna village on the east end of Roatan, fishing has been a way of life for generations. Through a collaboration led by the Roatan Marine Park, however, CORAL is helping to grow fishermen into tourism leaders by certifying them as divemasters and getting them hired by dive shops. The dive shop managers welcome the opportunity to hire members of the local community, and so far, the one individual who has completed the program—it can be a slow process—is a shining example to his village; he is making more money and is extremely happy with his career choice.