Archive for the ‘Wild Jordan’ Category

Wild Jordan – Eco Tourism for Conservation

April 1, 2010

Wild Jordan is responsible for developing eco-tourism in RSCN’s protected areas and sees it as major tool for supporting the conservation of these areas. It works to the principles enshrined in the following definition of eco-tourism:

“Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of the local people.” – The International Ecotourism Society (TIES)

More specifically, Wild Jordan’s eco-tourism operations are bringing the following benefits for nature conservation:

  • Substantial income for biodiversity protection
  • Jobs and revenue for local communities, which create more support from local people for conservation and provide alternatives to ‘harmful’ land uses like grazing and hunting.
  • More support from decision makers, and the Jordanian population in general, who are able to see the tangible social and economic value of nature conservation

What eco-tourism projects have we done so far?

Eco-tourism facilities and activities have been created in four protected areas so far: Dana, Mujib, Ajloun and Azraq. These areas have widely different habitats and landscapes, from rugged mountains to Mediterranean forest and desert wetlands.

The Dana Biosphere Reserve is the most developed for tourism, having a guest house, campsite and eco-lodge and a range of trails and tour programs. Hiking is the main activity in Dana, although many visitors just come to enjoy the amazing mountain scenery and experience the local culture.

In the Mujib Reserve, which lies on the shores of the Dead Sea, we have developed the most exciting river trails in Jordan. These take you through deep gorges of red sandstone lined with palm trees and down high waterfalls, assisted by ropes. A ‘chalet village’ has recently been opened (2008) at the edge of the Dead Sea offering overnight accommodation with spectacular sea views.

In complete contrast, the Ajloun Forest Reserve offers tranquil wooded hills in the north of Jordan, which you can enjoy by staying in a tented lodge or more individual cabins. A range of trails and tours have been developed from the Reserve to enable visitors to see important archaeological sites and experience local village culture.

The Azraq Wetland Reserve lies in the Eastern Desert and its oasis is famous for migrating birds. A unique lodge has been created nearby in a renovated 1940’s British Field Hospital that offers a comfortable and very unusual base from which to explore the wetland and the Eastern Desert.

Helping Jordan’s tourism industry

The eco-tourism sites and operations being developed by Wild Jordan are making a significant contribution to the development of Jordan’s tourism industry. In 2007, the number of tourists to RSCN sites exceeded 40,000 and the revenue generated contributed over 45% of annual conservation costs and supported hundreds of local community jobs. While the number of visitors for these eco-tourism experiences is modest at present, the impact on Jordan’s tourism industry is significant and growing. Some 30 Jordanian tour operators are involved in promoting RSCN products, usually as ‘mixed’ tour programs involving eco-tourism sites and traditional historical sites, thus extending the average stay of visitors to Jordan (which currently stands at a low 4.2 days). Having observed the success of RSCN’s enterprises, the private sector is now developing new eco-tourism facilities and operations in other areas of Jordan, including Wadi Rum, and these will undoubtedly expand the sector further. At a wider, planning level, the principles that RSCN has applied to the development of eco-tourism in sensitive ecosystems and landscapes are becoming mainstreamed into government land use policies and development strategies, such that two major regions of the country now have embryo master plans that place equal emphasis on tourism development and resource protection.

Planning and design for eco-tourism

One of the main tools we use for planning eco-tourism operations is the zoning plan. Each protected area has a zoning plan that identifies which areas can be opened for visitors and available for the construction of facilities. The boundaries of these areas are decided from detailed ecological surveys that indicate the relative ecological value and sensitivity of different parts of the protected area. Usually, three types of zones are delineated: ‘wilderness’ or ‘core’ zones, where no public access or construction is allowed; ‘semi-intensive use’ zones, where limited access and small scale facilities are allowed; and ‘intensive-use zones’, where more access and construction is allowed (but still tightly controlled). Daily access limits are defined for each of the last two zones and general impact monitored. In the popular Dana Biosphere Reserve, for example, the daily limit for the Rummana campsite area is 60 people per day. So far this has not caused unacceptable damage to the integral habitats and landforms. In reality the area open to visitors in any given protected area is only a tiny fraction of its total size and, while visitors themselves do not usually notice the restrictions, this ensures that the most of the protected area remains undisturbed and wildlife can flourish.

In terms of building design, all the lodges, campsites and other facilities in RSCN’s protected areas are highly individual and reflect local vernacular architecture and cultural history or the adjoining landscape. The intention is to give each facility a unique character and atmosphere that adds to the visitors’ experience. The campsite buildings in Dana, for example, reflect the domed shapes of nearby rock structures, while Feynan Eco-Lodge has the essence of a desert caravanserai; and, in complete contrast, the Azraq Lodge incorporates military elements into its design to acknowledge its pas use as a military field hospital.

Wherever possible, environment-friendly features have been introduced into the design of our tourism facilities, although some were constructed before ‘green architecture’ was fully understood or appropriate technology available. Common features are high levels of insulation for cooling, solar hot water systems and the use or re-use of local building materials. The Feynan Eco-Lodge is more advanced and has solar electricity for use in bathrooms and kitchens. We recognize, however, that we still have a long way to go in some important areas, including waste management and energy conservation, and we are in the process of developing tougher criteria and standards.

This piece is taken from the website of Wild Jordan.

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Wild Jordan – Nature & People First

April 1, 2010


Getting the balance right between the interests of conservation and the interests of local people is not easy. After years of experience, RSCN and Wild Jordan have developed a well thought-out approach to resolving potential conflicts, but it is clear that there is no magic formula for any given situation. We are always trying to apply the lessons learned from our experience and improve our ability to put both nature and people first.

When a new protected area is planned, we go through a number of clear steps:

First, we carry out a thorough socio-economic survey of the communities living in and around the proposed protected area to identify and understand how the communities function, their livelihood base and their relationship with the site. The extent to which they depend on the natural resources of the site for their living is a critical issue and enables us to identify our target groups; i.e. those that are highly dependent are priorities for any new socio-economic initiatives. The surveys also help to identify resident skills in the communities and the potential for new livelihoods.

Second, we relate the knowledge we have gained of community livelihoods to the ecological information we have about the protected area (also gathered from extensive surveys) to see if these livelihoods pose a significant threat to the area’s ecological value. Usually, the relationship is clear and the common issues we face in most protected areas are excessive goat grazing, hunting, fuel collection, and expansion of agriculture.

Third, we bring together all the key stakeholders and discuss the setting up of the protected area and explore all the main concerns and issues. Usually, from these meetings local activists and decision makers become well-known and act as the focal points for ongoing discussions and participation. Steering groups are often formed to guide and support the protected area establishment and to help resolve resource management issues.

Fourth, we start working with the target groups identified under step one to develop ideas for ‘fast track projects’. These are most often handicraft or tourism ventures that can be instigated relatively quickly to bring some immediate financial benefits. Sources of funding are then pursued and craft workshops or tourism facilities developed with the support of the Wild Jordan team and external experts.

Once the protected area is established, all the information and experience gathered from the above process is used to support the development of a management plan, which sets out the longer term strategy for conserving biodiversity and for socio-economic development. A critical tool in the plan for reaching compromises between ecological and human interests is the zoning scheme, since this identifies the areas that can be used for appropriate economic activities without causing significant damage to sensitive habitats or species.

This piece is taken from the website of Wild Jordan.

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Wild Jordan – About Wild Jordan

April 1, 2010


What are we?

Wild Jordan is a branded division of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) and is responsible for socio-economic development, including all eco-tourism operations. Our name and logo are different for marketing purposes, but all of our work and the revenue we generate contribute to RSCN’s mission to conserve biodiversity throughout Jordan.

Our main purpose in life is to develop viable nature-based businesses within and around RSCN’s protected areas in order to bring tangible economic and social benefits to local communities and generate financial, political, and popular support for nature conservation throughout the Kingdom.

Helping Nature… Helping People

Through Wild Jordan, RSCN has been able to adopt a people-centered approach to protecting nature. Business ventures are being developed using the natural assets of protected areas to create economic and social benefits for local communities. Thriving eco-tourism and handicraft enterprises have been established, bringing jobs to hundreds of people. Such ventures are making nature conservation important to the lives of local communities, while providing alternatives to hunting and overgrazing, which continue to pose threats to wildlife habitats.

As protected areas are costly to run, RSCN charges entrance fees at all its sites. The income from these fees and from tourism and crafts goes directly to support conservation programs and local people. Therefore, as a visitor, or a purchaser, you will be contributing directly to the protection of Jordan’s natural heritage. We appreciate your support.

How it all began

RSCN introduced its revolutionary people-centered approach to protected area management in 1994 in the Dana Biosphere Reserve near Petra. Working directly with local village and Bedouin communities, income generating projects were created that use the Reserve’s natural beauty and wildlife to generate employment opportunities and alterative livelihoods. These included small handicraft enterprises, like the famous ‘Dana Jewelry’, and a range of tourism facilities, including a campsite, guesthouse and eco-lodge. Such ventures continue to make nature conservation important to the lives of Dana residents and create a constituency of local support for the Reserve, which, in the past, was often a source of conflict with local people. Dana today is firmly on the ‘tourism map of Jordan’, attracting over 30,000 visitors a year; and it has won four international awards for sustainable development. Read the full Dana Story.

Inspired by the success of the Dana initiative, RSCN has been replicating the Dana approach in all its protected areas and in 2003 it created Wild Jordan as the ‘business arm’ to supervise and manage these socio-economic programs. Mixing the tools of business with a strong conservation philosophy, Wild Jordan develops innovative income generating programs that build on locally available skills and on the tourism potential of each protected area. As a result, visitors can now find unique nature crafts to purchase in Wild Jordan nature shops and enjoy a range of visitor facilities and tour programs that are constantly being developed; and all of them are proudly managed by local people. Wild Jordan has also opened an exciting Center in downtown Amman that sells and promotes all its crafts and tourism programs, including city walks. The Center is perched high above old Amman and has a well-known whole food café / restaurant with stunning views over the old city.

This piece is taken from the website of Wild Jordan.

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