By Marcelo Kawanami
Hello everyone! I’m bringing today a great interview that I had the opportunity to make with the Manager for the Ecotourism Development Project in the Mata Atlantica region in Brazil, Erika Koga.
1) Could you briefly explain the project and how Ecotourism can work as aconservation strategy?
The Ecotourism Development Project in the Mata Atlantica region of Brazil is an initiative from the State Secretary of the Environment, through a leasing contract with the Inter-American Development Bank which invested a total of US$ 15 million for the period of 2006 to 2013. This investment is geared towards six State Parks (within the Sao Paulo state): Intervales, Carlos Botelho, PETAR, Caverna do Diabo, Ilha do Cardoso e Ilhabela. The main goal of the Project is to organize the Conservation Units as touristic “products” in order to leverage, improve, retain and satisfy the diverse profile of visitors. The main goal is to set a sustainable tourism within the project area by achieving a conservation strategy of the Mata Atlantica and a social-economic development in the region.
2) What were some of the biggest challenges along the path to implementing the project?
There were many challenges once a project like this has many stakeholders involved such as groups of interest, people from areas of weak environmental regions and from conflict zones. In this sense, I would like to point out an important challenge that also served as a lesson to be learned. The strengthening relationship with local communities, municipal governments, private companies and NGOs was crucial for the development and implementation of the project. We conducted many participative workshops in order to better understand the best interest, goals, participation and commitment of all stakeholders together with the conservation of parks and the social-economic development of the surrounding communities.
3) This is a governmental initiative. Do you count with the support of non-government organizations? How they can collaborate and improve strategic actions like this?
Yes, with counted with the participation and support from many NGOs throughout the Ecotourism Project. They are key in order to compose the project stakeholder’s network. An example of a successful partnership was with WWF-Brasil which developed a program for planning and trail management within the State Parks of Sao Paulo. This program included trainings with environmental leaders regarding the opening and management of trails, and printing and release of manuals in order to instruct ecotourism professionals regarding the theme.
If you want to learn more about this amazing project, please visit http://ecoturismo.sp.gov.br/