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3. Prize Hands-on Project on Sustainability: Sustainable Tourism in Argentina

Read the future scenarios from the group "e-merging ideas" on the topic of sustainable tourism in Argentina.

from Regina Ruete (Argentina), Pradeep Singh (India), Federico Biesing (Argentina)

Trend scenario for Argentina in 2033: No exchange scenario

The protected area of Teyú Cuaré is surrounded by Osununu, a private natural reserve managed by a national conservationist NGO. Together they form the same ‘conservation unit’ which occupies 250 ha. Both institutions signed a cooperation agreement for the conservation of the area in 2012.

The ‘conservation unit’ is conserving similar biodiversity as 20 years before. However, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the national NGO had to invest a significant amount of resources to maintain the current level of biodiversity.

The Ministry’s program of promotion of tourism resulted in an increase in tourist traffic to Teyú Cuaré which is just 11 km far from the Jesuit ruins in the urban centre. Now almost 75% of tourists go to Teyú Cuaré from earlier situation of just 5% of 300.000 tourists per year. The small tourist shops and operators from Unesco World Heritage Site, the Jesuit ruins, have opened new shops near Teyú Cuaré. The tourism business has boomed.

The tourist entrepreneurs have seen an opportunity in the touristic boom, established adventure sports facilities and have become the main attraction for tourists apart from the visit to Teyú Cuaré. The non-asphalt road is now two lane RCC road. Many motor cars and trucks drive daily generating impacts in the flora on the road´s borders due to the CO2 emissions, in the fauna due to car accidents and truck runovers, and to the communities living nearby, mainly because of the loud noises.

The Ministry of Natural Resources was successful in converting the buffer zone into a Multiple Use Reserve but with many compromises. The local landowners were allowed to keep on doing what they were doing 20 years before. This created discontent among other locals and they illegally started new sawmills and furniture factories. The Ministry found it difficult to control due to vague differentiation between old and new factories.

The Mbya-Guaranies legitimate rights were never recognized. Their population from 300 dwellers declined to few households who are working at Osununu and Teyú Cuaré. The new tourism business attracted wealthy people from urban centers who invested in real estate. The new settlements came up but infrastructure did not follow this development, so there collapses in the sewage and water systems are usual. The women Mbya-Guaranies were informally employed as maids in wealthy households, while men took menial jobs in hotels and tour operators. Some tour operators trained a few Mbya-Guaranies as guides, some others just guide tourists to the small Mbya communities that are left, to show them what remains of the Guarani culture and the Guaranies, as if they were part of a living museum or attraction. The original and modified indigenous dances are regularly presented as a cultural extravaganza to tourists. But today these are mainly performed by non-indigenous people.

The school and hospital came due to new settlements and business.

The Teyú Cuaré Park management, as well as Osununu’s, have been finding it hard to carry out improvement operations in forests and biodiversity in general as neither Mbya-Guaranies nor anyone else was interested in hard forestry work.

Many times conflict between indigenous communities, private landowners, and provincial park management, arises due to illegal timber extraction.

The southern side of the park also has had problems with fruit growers as they had encroached some part of land belonging to the park and now it was disputed in court.

The wildlife conflict has kept park officials quite busy as the new settlements regularly complained of stray animals. The new locals were intolerant and normally killed any animals entering their lands to prevent damages in their fields. The park officials found it hard to compensate them as they did not have any income, but the entry fees of the Provincial Park Teyú Cuaré.

Target scenario for Argentina 2033: Exchange of sensible ideas prevails

The managers of Provincial Park Teyú Cuaré and the national NGO owning Osununu have a strong cooperation. Several studies and biodiversity monitoring is being carried out in the ¨conservation unit¨ which is formed by the conjunction of both protected areas. Results are good. A strong education, conservation and research strategy has been jointly developed and is now being executed.

The small population of Mbya Guaranies continues to exist and have now enough territory to develop and enjoy their cultural activities. The Mbya Guaranies´s rights to their lands have finally been recognized by the government and their plots have been regularized. They have also been given the right for subsistence activities by Ministryof Natural Resources which only includes the permission to make home and subsistence agriculture of maximum 1 ha per family. However, Mbya Guaranies are not allowed to sell their land that can only be transferred through inheritance.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and the national NGO undertook the extensive task of educating the private owners in the buffer-zone along with tourism agencies and entrepreneurs. Visits to sustainably managed areas in the neighboring countries and film-debates were organized to open the discussion with local landholders and indigenous communities to agree on a common vision.

An internet based portal was started by a group of enthusiastic landowners which was supported by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the national NGO. This portal is a social network in which the day to day experiences on protected areas management and ideas are shared and discussed. The funky nature of the portal made it an instant hit among the young landowners.

With indigenous communities the story was different. The Ministry of Natural Resources and the national NGO enabled the communities to access internet and taught them how to use it. This was done to democratize information in the Teyu Cuare area. The portal has been regularly featuring global successful experiences in Protected Areas’ management and on sustainable and community tourism. This helped private landowners get convinced more and more of the need of a regulated tourism in the area. The portal was linked to academic review through researchers of Ministry of Natural Resources and the national NGO.

An interpretation center was designed in a participatory way for the protected area and an orientation program was organised as compulsory for each tourist that visited the park. This center helped tourists understand the value of the flora and fauna of the area and the importance of the local culture. The sensitivities and traditions of Mbya Guaranies were discussed and do’s and don'ts were clearly explained.

The number of tourists was and keeps on being limited by Ministry of Natural Resources. The Environmental Impact Assessment that was done several years ago defined the carrying capacity of the Provincial Park and its buffer zone. Each year the number was auctioned and the tourist operators were allowed to bid for only a certain number. As the Ministry was consistent with the number every year, only limited tourist capacities were created by entrepreneurs. As the competition was tough the prices were very high. This limited the tourism to high class individuals and groups only. The Ministry had to face a lot of criticism for this but they were rigid with their stand.

The money generated by auction was mainly used for fostering Mbya Guaranies health and education. Some part of the money was given to the national NGO and the Ministry to carry out research and improvement in biodiversity of the area. The Ministry started two programs. One program consisted on the documentation of Mbya Guarani traditional knowledge. Another one was a self esteem building program which was based on the appreciation of rich knowledge and culture of Mbya guaranies. This helped Mbya Guaranies conserve their culture and customs and not quickly shift to mainstream culture. Many tourists also learnt sustainable lifestyle techniques of Mbya Guaranies which they could take back home. Although some Mbya Guaranies have left the traditional lifestyle and have moved to urban center, this was mainly their choice. The highly nature-based lifestyle was portrayed in a documentary and exchanged through the portal above mentioned. This helped the communities in Brazil and Paraguay feel supported and ask for such arrangement in their areas as well.

The tourism industry also grew in a limited way with private landowners in buffer zone, taking the initiative to develop tourism designing a gastronomic route taking advantage of the local products. The Ministry’s education outreach program and tough stand not to allow any land use change in the buffer area left the landowners no choice but to cooperate with the Ministry as the tourism was the main choice left. The Ministry also gave minimum tourist quotas to each local landowner preferentially. During the touristic season the landowners were busy with the tourist logistics and activities. In lean period they used to retreat to urban centers. The tourism business was only seasonal activity for them.

The tourist agencies used to bid for numbers left after allotment of quota to local landowners. The prices used to go very high. It slowly became status symbol to experience Teyú Cuaré area. Therefore, only big tourism agencies were bidding each year. The small tourism agencies found it difficult to bid for such less seats and high seasonality.

The producers of citrus and other fruits in the southern limit of the park were still affected by trespassing animals specially for major herbivores. The controlled tourism and the conservation strategy increased the number of wild animals. Hence, the Ministry is now discussing the options of establishing a compensation scheme for the owners or allowing a limited and seasonal hunting.

Video Sustainable Tourism in Argentina in 2033

More about the hands-on project on sustainability

November 2013

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