The Unexpected Champion of Sustainable Ecotourism
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You have probably all heard that Costa Rica and Kenya are the go-to ecotourism destinations. However, next summer you might consider traveling to Jordan. This country, whose land is about 90% arid desert, has become known for their “soft adventure” tourism: low-impact, sensitively developed, and sustainable. Leading this development is the country’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN). Their six nature reserves protect over 1200 square kilometers of land, while simultaneously providing new forms of livelihood to communities whose main source of income has been decimated.

Located at the north of Jordan’s capital city, Orjan is home to: a local tourism cooperative that runs a 12km trail for tourists; a Biscuit House, where two women produce all-natural biscuits under the RSCN’s Tasali brand for national distribution; and a female-run production of organic olive oil and herb soap for sale at the RSCN’s shops across the country. Azraq, an oasis town located to the southeast of Orjan, suffers from a high level of socio-economic deprivation, due largely to the over-extraction of water and decline of the local salt industry. Here, the RSCN turned a 1940s British field hospital into a tourist lodge. Thanks to this conversion, a team of women can receive a monthly salary to produce painted ostrich eggs, children’s toys, clothing and other handicrafts for sale at this lodge.

The RSCN’s most recent project has been the “Regional Nature Academy”— the first institution in the Middle East to offer courses in socio-economic development and biodiversity conservation. The project was done in collaboration with the German-based Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung (HSS) and Alfred Toepfer Academy for Nature Conservation (NNA). The project aims to meet existing gaps in the growing ecotourism job market and help environmental organizations develop career structures and pathways for their employees.

Sources:

Ammon News. (2015, June 27). Jordan homestays embrace sustainable tourism. Ammon News. Retrieved from http://en.ammonnews.net/article.aspx?articleno=29319#.VbCxrBOqqko

Teller, M. (2011, March 11). Jordan’s Eco Tourism. Easy Jet Traveller. Retrieved from http://traveller.easyjet.com/features/2011/03/jordan-eco-tourism

NNA. Upskilling for Nature-based Development and Biodiversity. Retrieved from http://www.nna-en.niedersachsen.de/startseite/environmental_education_projects/upskilling_for_naturebased_development_and_biodiversity/Nature-Academy-Jordan-112237.html

Hanns Seidel Foundation. First First training activity ever in the new ‘Regional Nature Academy’ in Ajloun. Retrieved from http://www.hss.de/jordan/en/news-and-events/news-2014/first-training-activity-ever-in-the-new-regional-nature-academy-in-ajloun-advanced-training-of-trainer-tot-for-future-trainer-of-the-academy-august-31-until-september-10-2014-jordan.html

“Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature”. In Wikipedia. Retrieved July 23, 2015 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Society_for_the_Conservation_of_Nature

Picture from http://byk999.blogspot.de/2011/03/tourist-spots.html