FINALIST – 2015 Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards, Best in Community Engagement & Development
Creating unforgettable learning experiences in the Cambodian provinces of Kratie and Stung Treng, CRDTours works closely with their partner NGO, CRDT (Cambodian Rural Development Team) to create sustainable changes through community-based tourism initiatives, such as rural development and environmental conservation.
Not only does CRDTours give tourists hands-on cultural experiences, such as whipping up local dishes with their host families, attending traditional religious blessings, and participating in on-going development projects identified by the local communities. But they also make sure the local communities don’t become overly dependent on tourism as a livelihood source by limiting the carrying capacity of visitors to Koh P’dao, an island nestled in the mighty Mekong river and home to a number of their tourist programs.
By expanding their community development tours’ projects to include chicken and pig raising and building toilets and rainwater collection systems, CRDTours is able to reach more beneficiaries and maximize long term benefits while also developing non-tourist centric methods of livelihood such as livestock raising, maintaining home gardens, and environmental education.
Mobilizing local communities key to CRDTours’ success. They are trusted by the local community, provide trainings and improve community awareness about issues such as environmental conservation. During village demonstrations, events, and livelihood trainings focused on deforestation and environmental awareness, 60% of beneficiaries were able to raise at least 3 environmental issues, such as illegal fishing and climate change present in their community and offer solutions.
CRDTours actively involves the local community members, encouraging them to play a role in development and environmental conservation initiatives, which include:
- Finding alternative livelihoods to slow/stop the depletion of natural resources
- Raising awareness about the impact of unsustainable natural resources and gradually change the community’s behavior towards the environment
- Promoting ecotourism as an incentive for community members to stop harming wildlife and take action to protect it
Since the community implementation of the above conservation initiatives reliance on natural resources has reduced. New agriculture techniques enable community beneficiaries to produce goods for their own consumption, reducing their dependency on natural resources.
Ecotourism has been an incentive for communities to protect their rare, Irrawaddy dolphin neighbors and make them proud of their community. Over a quarter of the Community Based Ecotourism (CBET) annual development fund was given to the community fishery for river patrolling. By 2013 community beneficiaries stopped using gillnets (which dolphins are known to get caught in) close to the known dolphin pool and reduced their time spent fishing by 45%. Thanks to the complete removal of gillnets in the area, two baby dolphins were born in the Koh P’dao pool earlier this year.
For more information about CRDTours, visit their website: http://www.crdtours.org/