Thursday, 14 February 2013


The month of romance, apparently.

Now I know that the Great British weather doesn’t exactly lend itself to romance, but instead of the ‘classic’ Paris, or Venice, much as they are wonderful, why not try something a bit different? Glamping!

Looking out the window at the rain, sleet, ice and wind that some of us have been experiencing recently might not inspire your thoughts to the Great Outdoors, but there’s a new style of camping to be had, glamorous-camping.
Camping seemingly no longer requires the mud, sleeping bags, and perseverance that are potentially the lasting memories for many.  Another page that is regularly is my browsing history is Canopy and Stars, whose choice of accommodation is a far cry from some of my personal camping experiences (another story, another day) with images so charming they make you drool a little. Not only is the choice of accommodation delicious, but yes, they’re as sustainable as possible too. People too often assume that glamour and sustainability don’t, or can’t, go hand-in-hand.

“We believe that you can live in a sustainable and responsible way without having to compromise on fun, excitement, or comfort” Alistair Sawday (founder)

You can take your pick on accommodation, from yurts to treehouses, and gypsy caravans to eco-pods. Most of the accommodation listed includes various “eco-friendly” components, such as composting toilets, wood-burning showers, a lack of electricity, and are often located on farms or land where you can access local produce. But my favourite might have to be the wood-fired hot tub available at several locations; it’s not eco-luxury without one surely?!

They’ve even partnered up with the wonderful Sustrans to offer a free weekend away (plus a bike and other cycling goodies) to a lucky visitor from 2012 who managed to make their holiday carbon-neutral and travelled by means other than a car. Definitely pressing all the responsible travel “buttons”!
“Holidays with a dash of eco-panache” –

In 2012, one lucky winner went on a whistle-stop tour of some of the offerings, which gives you a snapshot of the places to visit and activities on offer, definitely one to whet the appetite for some UK travel. And if this still leaves you stuck for ideas, their staff have even compiled a list of choices for Valentines itself.   

(This is not an endorsement, but pure unadultered lusting) 

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Tourism, Conservation and Communities

The village conserves its sacred grove, national conservation authorities plan within their own state boundaries, while international bodies concern themselves with world heritage sites
Kingdon 1989

The vocabulary, perceptions and interest of the three have very little overlap even if they share a common interest in conserving wildlife. Much of conventional conservation, although it may seek to involve local interests, is centralized and imposed  and conservation, like tourism, can only be successful in settings where the affected local communities obtain tangible economic returns and cultural incentives for its implementation.

During the colonial era in the first half of the twentieth century, management of protected areas in West Africa shifted from traditional to state-run systems. This followed an internationally established system of national parks and reserves sanctioned by international conventions such as the Society for the Protection of Fauna of the Empire which emphasised the need for national parks and drew heavily on a scientific approach to the environment and its management. This is a trend which has continued into the post-colonial period, with large areas gazetted as national parks and other such protected areas. 

This model was heavily influenced by western science and conservation organisations, and often local communities find themselves marginalised, facing restrictions from an outside authority that denies them the right to use the resources they have depended upon, in a coercive form of protectionism that ignores the needs of the people and often excluded them from protected areas. This is a symptom of programmes not only in West Africa, but across the continent.  

Community-based conservation (CBC) came as a response to both alienating protectionist policies of the past and to the economic concerns that many rural people face. Advocates of CBC argue that the approach can be effective because it relates back to pre-colonial African conservation practices that used community-based constraints to regulate resource use, and it is a means by which rural Africans can benefit materially from protecting wildlife. CBC programmes follow a ‘bottom-up’ rather than ‘top-down’ approach, and have three major aims: (1) allowing people living near protected lands to participate in land-use policy and management decisions; (2) giving people proprietorship or ownership over wildlife resources; and (3) giving local people economic benefit from wildlife conservation.

A common problem in community-based conservation programmes is that often the needs of local people are considered primarily as a strategy to gain their acceptance of the conservation aspect. This kind of situation can create difficulties in long-term sustainability as enough money must be generated for local people to receive significant financial gain indefinitely. It is questionable whether sufficient employment and revenue can be generated to prevent exploitation of natural resources. There is also often doubt as to whether the economic return to rural people from CBC programmes can be high enough that people will not eventually look for economic alternatives. Simultaneous achievement of social, economic and conservation goals is a challenge. 

By their nature, protected areas are attractive to tourists, through whom significant contributions to conservation costs can be obtained. However, if communities are excluded, they see no benefit from conservation or tourism, and are often even be forced off their farming land by the expanding boundaries of ‘successful’ conservation initiatives, forcing many into poverty or to turn to other less sustainable livelihood options such as poaching.  

For CBC and tourism to succeed they must be flexible enough to cope with a growing number of extremely poor people who depend on a subsistence existence and whose greatest goal is to gain economic security. Policies that restrict responses to changing circumstances, “forced primitivism” and can lead to poverty traps, may be a problem when the needs of wildlife and wildlife watchers are emphasized over the needs of people.