Community Based Ecotourism Development as a Viable Strategy for Sustainable Natural Resource Management: Opportunities and Challenges. The Case of Borena-Saynt Park: South Wollo, Ethiopia.
Amogne, Asfaw Eshetu
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Ethiopia has faced rapid deforestation and land degradation that is a cumulative outcome of extensive forest clearing for agricultural use, overgrazing, exploitation of forests for fuel wood, fodder and construction materials, setting of fire to create pasture land, expansion of settlements etc. Ecotourism development is, nowadays, increasingly used for its multipurpose. By promoting ecotourism through the protection of the environment, biodiversity is preserved, jobs are created, market for local products is created, environmental education within the communities is promoted, and understanding of local peoples and cultures are fostered among the tourists who visit these communities. The prime objective of this research was to assess the potential (opportunities) of Borena-Saynt Park for the development of community-based ecotourism that enables to sustainable natural resource management and to identify the main problems (challenges) related to the management of the resource as well as development of ecotourism using descriptive survey type of research. To that end, information was collected and analyzed from 160 household heads living around the park using structured questionnaire; interview was undertaken with 5 volunteer elders; focus group discussions were conducted with key informants; and direct field observation was undertaken. The findings of this research revealed that, a combination of wonderful scenery, diversified wildlife and plant species, amazing caves and culture of the local community makes Borena-Saynt Park potentially rich for the development of ecotourism. Land degradation, shortage of animal forage and grazing land, low fertility of the soil, scarcity of cultivable land and absences of off-farm activities are among the critical socio-economic problems of the local community that pose pressure on the park. Development of ecotourism program, diversifying the livelihood of the local community, introducing alternative sources of energy, launching afforestation on the buffer zone, animal forage development will help for sustainable natural resource management of the park by improving the well-being of the local community. Key terms: eco/tourism, community based ecotourism, ecotourism resources, sustainable natural resource management, land degradation, deforestation, afforestation, local community participation