EU-funded FLEG II Program has completed in February 2017. Learn more about the Program and its results, read the final reports, or contact us.
ADA-funded FLEG II Program has completed in December 2017. Learn more about the Program and its results, read the final reports, or contact us.
FLEG-sponsored Master classes in Russia on traditional crafts identify a new, unforeseen and commercially attractive ecotourism product
Following the prior success of master classes in traditional crafts in helping residents near the Polistovsky Reserve benefit from natural, non-timber forest products, FLEG II organized another series of classes this July. As expected, the students learned the traditional weaving and soap-making skills that will help grow their ecotourism economy, but the organizers also identified an unexpected ecotourism opportunity – the classes themselves.
The two master classes conducted on July 16 and July 17 in the village of Tsevlo in Polistovsky Reserve were part of the ongoing FLEG II initiative to engage local citizens in Southern Pskov Region into ecotourism development as the alternative way of forest resources use for the sake of local economic growth.
The unexpected, and potentially lucrative, opportunity was revealed at one of the coffee breaks. During an informal discussion of the future of developing alternative forest resource use in North-Western Russia, invited experts from Moscow and St. Petersburg mentioned that, in addition to purchasing the locally-produced handicrafts, classes in traditional crafts like these would also have a commercial appeal.
“We were stunned by the information that many people from St. Petersburg and Moscow are willing to pay cash to join such trainings on wool spinning and coloring, making soap and particularly using wild herbs for these purposes,” said Natalia Milovidova, IUCN expert. “We immediately identified it as a win-win situation. Polistovsky Nature Reserve and especially local citizens may additionally benefit from hosting master class external trainees using existing touristic infrastructure, and at the same time master classes turn from a single event, supported by occasional funding into their own commercially attractive microbusiness.”
This potential resulted in an immediate synergistic action. With support from the Polistovsky Reserve and local administration and using experience gained from FLEG II, an alliance of local active citizens from Tsevlo settlement developed a work plan. They successfully applied and received a grant within the framework of the All-Russian contest “Healthy Generation” operated by the Union for the Youth Mental Health Protection and funded through the Russia’s President NGO-support Initiative. This will enable the engagement of youth from Pskov and other larger Russian cities in similar follow-up master classes for free, during summer holidays already in 2015.
Thus, by helping the community embrace ecotourism, recognize new opportunities and build the capacity to seize them, FLEG II made a real contribution towards institutionalizing business activities associated with non-timber forest resource use and teaching communities how to diversify funding and revenue sources for their well-being.
“This is a very important aspect of our program. Not only achieving financial sustainability for local economic growth models, but also securing the legacy of such initiatives,” said Andrey Zaytsev, IUCN’s ENPI FLEG II coordinator in Russia. “Engagement of school students ensures that all these ancient practices of non-timber forest resource use will not go extinct in the near future. There is also hope that some of the younger community members will have reason to stay in these remote forest-dependent villages to help ensure their survival.”
Another, potentially even more positive, outcome is that local authorities and the Polistovsky Nature Reserve administration provide full support for the ongoing master classes and are directly engaged in the fundraising processes. This engagement proves the formation of a fully-functional local development alliance on the Pskov land.
While the unanticipated idea inspired many in attendance, so did the originally-planned events which took place in a welcoming and lively atmosphere. Local residents learned how to make soap under the guidance of Elena Shirinova and Yulia Orlova, the recognized natural products use experts and Program partners. Local senior citizens shared their experience in a rare and almost extinct practice of yarn-making from natural fibers, spinning with old hand spindles and spinning wheels, one of which was even borrowed from the local lore museum.
“The process of the transformation of initial raw materials coming from the woods is incredible,” said Orlova, a master class instructor. “It is surprising to see how a set of ingredients, such as natural alkali, oils and herb infusions, turn into soap. And while concocting the mixture one can feel almost as an alchemist”.
Many participants in the master class have become interested in soap production, and both the new soap makers and some of the local veteran spinners are planning to offer these forest-derived products to the visitors of Polistovsky Reserve and nearby towns.
Based on the story by Nadezhda Nikolenko (http://polistovsky.ru/administration/zapovednye-novosti/281-master-klassy-po-mylovareniyu-i-pryadeniyu) and report of Natalya Milovidova.