Expert promotes ecotourism

| September 3, 2015

An expert in community based natural resources management, Professor Stuart Marks says ecotourism is the way to go in order to sustain and diversify the economic. He said governments have to consider ecotourism as it has proven to be ideal with benefits which the community could develop.

He said this during a media briefing organised by the American Embassy to introduce him and share his experiences on environment related issues.

Prof. Marks has been working with Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries advancing environmental issues and facilitating the foundations of Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) programmes. He visited Botswana in 1992 and had the opportunity to meet some trusts in the Chobe Enclave and the Ngamiland region to appreciate and learn how they do things.

He said ecotourism could sustain and diversify the economy if well implemented, adding that the CBNRM programme was good, but that ecotourism was the best as it could provide a viable economic development alternative for local communities with few income generating options.

He said there were many benefits that could be derived from ecotourism if it was used as a tool by local communities.

Prof. Marks said making ecotourism a positive economic and environmental tool requires policies that foster responsible nature tourism development and active local participation. He noted that tourism has become the largest industry with nature tourism the fastest growing segment, adding that minerals which other countries depended on would end, but that natural resources would always be there if managed wisely.

Prof. Marks noted that ecotourism was distinguished by its emphasis on conservation, education, traveller responsibility and community participation.

He said ecotourism could increase the level of education and activism among travellers, making them enthusiastic and effective agents of conservation. He said for the success of ecotourism projects, all stakeholders had to be taken on board including local communities.

He said ecotourism requires responsible tourism as it promotes conservation and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local people.

Prof. Marks said if ecotourism was to be viewed as a tool for rural development, it must also shift economic control to the local community. He added that there was need for communities to adapt to change, noting that people who understand themselves would see opportunities in ecotourism projects.

Meanwhile, some officials from the embassy who accompanied Prof. Marks said his mission was not to intrude on domestic policies, but to share his experiences in different environments. The expert has been in Zambia for some years working with the community in relation to issues of environment and conservation.

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