Friday, March 27, 2009

Sunderbans Local Community

A team of 10 ecotourism researchers has arrived in the Sunderbans to do a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis of tourism in the Sunderbans. A group with varying skills and levels has been quickly trained into an outstanding team. Each day data is collected in field locations with different objectives via a survey instrument I devised using World Tourism Organization indicators.

We visited Chadpai yesterday, where we saw hundreds of men and women collecting shrimp larvae for middlemen who purchase the fry for shrimp farmers. The collection is an illegal activity in the Sunderbans Reserve.

All the community members in this region are dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, either shrimp fry collection or illegal wood harvest. The team interviewed community members who derive some extra income from tourism: a banana retailer, van driver, pharmacist, and others. The team agrees based on our data that ecotourism is an activity that increases local income and provides a real option for these people who rely totally on illegal resource harvest for their livelihoods. Some had not eaten recently. There has been no training as yet and no effort to bring more formal tourism approaches to this area.

While tourism cannot be the only answer for these disenfranchised people, our team agreed the potential to assist with more tourism income generation was high.

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