Residents of Tsevlo, a village of Bezhanitsky District situated near the Polistovsky Nature Reserve, found the perfect recipe to kick off the new year with the right mindset. The ingredients? Enthusiasm, fresh ideas, and good partners.
During the first week of 2016, Natalia Milovidova, FLEG II consultant for IUCN in Russia, and some local citizens organized a roundtable to plan the next initiatives to promote ecotourism in the Reserve. Together with Yulia Orlova, organizer of FLEG-supported Master Classes in traditional crafts, and Valentina Ipatova, Head of the Educational Tourism Development Department of the Kostomukshsky National Nature Reserve, they analyzed the fruitful work done over the past months and came up with new ideas for the year that has just begun.
“Between 2014-15, several activities were carried out to demonstrate to forest-dependent communities that ecotourism represents a precious resource to revamp their economy” said Ms. Milovidova, “For instance, we taught villagers new (or traditional and long-forgotten) ways of using non-timber forest products to produce souvenirs for tourists”.
Beautiful gloves dyed with fungal pigments, delicious cinnamon-honey cakes, and natural homemade soaps are only few of the many artisanal crafts that visitors can pursue or… learn how to make themselves. The Master Classes turned out to be a real lucrative opportunity for the villages around the Reserve, as many people are willing to pay cash to join a hobby-tour in the nature.
The significant economic value of commercial Master Classes should not overshadow their social and cultural role. FLEG activities stimulated a long-term cooperation between the Reserve’s staff and the residents towards a green and sustainable development of the region. The ultimate goal is to form a group of local activists that would take the initiative and continue these activities based on the needs of their communities.
The good news is that this is not far from being achieved. On December 21-22, the inhabitants of Tsevlo organized the first Master Class on soap making with the Reserve’s support, but without any assistance of the FLEG team. The workshop was conducted by Marina Svetlova, expert in soap making from Pskov, and attended by nine participants.
“We can say that, at the end of 2015, we met one of our major targets: local citizens in collaboration with the Polistovsky Reserve, both trained by FLEG experts, were able to successfully hold a commercially profitable Master Class” said Andrey Zaytsev, FLEG II Program Coordinator for IUCN Russia, “The model of alternative forest use in Bezhanitsy District made its first real steps on its own, and of course our entire crew is very proud of it!”
The enthusiasm did not fade away along with the old year. Already on January 6, new plans and ideas were put on the table, ready to be discussed and realized.
15 new jobs were created in Tsevlo and Bezhanitsky thanks to ecotourism
5 fresh business ideas on the use of non-timber forest resources to diversify the range of tourist products and services were successfully developed in Tsevlo between 2013 and 2015
The number of tourists visiting the Polistovsky Nature Reserve skyrocketed: the number of overseas tourists grew from 8 in 2010 to over 50 in 2014-15, while total number of tourists experienced a 10-fold increase over the same time frame
“Everybody was eager for new trainings on a whole variety of traditional knowledge and techniques like spinning, baking typical gingerbread, or learning the properties of medicinal herbs” said Ms. Milovidova, “There were also several proposals to improve the quality of services for tourists and organize seminars for sharing best practices on ecotourism. It was refreshing to feel all this positive energy, and we will be happy to help them implement these initiatives”.
If a good start is half the work, this attitude is certainly encouraging. The involvement of indigenous communities in the decision-making process is a key element to make them feel responsible for the management of forest resources.
“Within the ENPI-FLEG Program, we have been working towards the promotion of regional, inter-regional, and transboundary collaborations between citizens, local authorities, artisans, and experts in tourism to build a dense network of public and private partnerships” said Mr. Zaytsev, “We hope that our work will raise the interest of other forest-dependent communities and institutions, so to foster the environmentally-responsible rural development of the entire region and, therefore, accomplish one of the primary goals of the Saint Petersburg Declaration”.
For more information, please contact Mr. Zaytsev at email@example.com