Funding has been approved for the first six tourism projects aimed specifically at helping to reduce poverty to be supported by the ST-EP Foundation. ST-EP, “Sustainable Tourism - Eliminating Poverty”, is an initiative of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) launched in 2002 at the Johannesburg Summit. The Board of Directors of the Foundation agreed to provide a total of US$500,000 towards developing the following projects:
” a network of cross-border national parks and protected areas in nine countries of West Africa - Benin, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone;
” the use of new technology to enhance the competitiveness of tourism microbusinesses in the Cajamarca and Cuzco areas of Peru and of Cuenca in Ecuador;
” a sustainable tourism project for visiting the Konso tribal village area of Ethiopia;
” a river footbridge to link the lands of the Kitengela herding community with the Nairobi National Park in Kenya, encouraging tourists to visit the village and spend money there;
” a handicrafts village that offers tourists an insight into rural life and culture at Ha Tay in Vietnam; and
” an ecotourism training programme for people living in the Sangaréah Bay area of Guinea.
The ST-EP Foundation, initially financed by the Republic of Korea, was officially constituted at the last UNWTO General Assembly in Dakar, Senegal, in December 2005.
“These projects, together with other ST-EP projects currently underway with funding provided by SNV Netherlands and the Italian government cooperation agency, will benefit several thousand poor people in the developing world” said Mr. Eugenio Yunis, Head of the Sustainable Development of Tourism Department at UNWTO, responsible for developing the ST-EP Programme. “We are hopeful that other developed countries will soon join Korea, Italy and the Netherlands in providing additional funds to expand UNWTO’s ST-EP programme” he added.
All ST-EP projects are being carried out under the guidance of the Technical Cooperation Service of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
“The ST-EP projects are aimed at developing community-based tourism that offers support at grass roots level, bringing social and economic benefits to the local people,” said the department’s chief, Dr Harsh Varma. “The objective is for these people to participate in the entire development process, and for them to benefit from the jobs created by tourism, especially in the case of women and young people”, he added.
Funding for a new group of projects is due to be approved at the next meeting of the ST-EP Foundation in January 2007.