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Dominican Republic

Montecristi Province

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Conservation benefit: Community engagement in mangrove protection

Community benefit: Training and employment of youth in kayak mangrove tourism

Date Approved: 06.2017

Ecotourism

This project supports a local conservation-based tourism initiative.

Mangroves

This project protects mangroves, which trap more CO2 than any other kind of forest and as a result, slow global warming.

Montecristi Province, in the northwest Dominican Republic, is home to 15,000 acres of beautiful mangrove forests. Few tourists see them, however, because tourism is not nearly as developed as elsewhere in the country. Much of the area is devoted to farms that grow rice and fruit.

Local NGO AgroFrontera wants to help conserve the area’s mangrove forests by developing sustainable mangrove ecotourism. With Seacology’s support, AgroFrontera will teach 45 fishers, between the ages of 16 and 25, to conduct mangrove kayak tours. Over 95% of the mangroves are in government-protected areas, including Estero Balsa, El Morro and Montecristi Marine National Parks, and the Estero Hondo Marine Mammal Sanctuary.

The youth come from coastal communities (Manzanillo, Buen Hombre, and Punta Rucia) where there are few opportunities beyond fishing. Local tour operators will train the young fishers in sustainable ecotourism. They will also learn basic accounting and customer service.

The project will bring several benefits: raised awareness of the importance of conserving mangrove forests; a means for young fishers to diversify their income, thus reducing fishing pressure on fragile ecosystems, including mangroves; and a much-needed alternative to current less sustainable tourism practices.

AgroFrontera, with the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources and ANAMAR (a government marine research agency), has been teaching marine ecology and conservation in Montecristi schools. However, very few of the children get to actually visit mangroves. These tours will give school groups hands-on field experience in the mangroves.

Project Updates

February 2021

The kayak tour groups in Montecristi and Manzanillo are still very active. Montecristi hotels frequently rely on the youth trained in the Seacology project to organize tours for their guests. The youth guides are members of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) governance councils, which implement the management plans of the MPAs in Montecristi and Manzanillo. In this way, Seacology is helping to facilitate the active participation of youth in MPA governance.

AgroFrontera continues to support the 43 young people participating in the kayak tour groups. Local tourism has rebounded a bit, but hotels, restaurants, and related businesses are still operating under capacity.

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June 2020

Tourism in the area has dried up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the tour program is on hold. With funds from Seacology’s Earth Day 2019 crowdfunding campaign, our project partners bought kayaks. They will be delivered, along with paddles, seats, life jackets, and snorkeling equipment, once restrictions have eased.

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May 2019

All planned activities of this project have been concluded; 26 young men and women were trained as guides, mangrove ecotour routes were established, and 26 fiberglass kayaks with touring equipment were acquired. The guides are keen to continue learning and become professional naturalist guides. The DR’s governmental Coastal Biodiversity and Tourism Project has started to work in the Montecristi protected area. It is interested in continuing to develop these activities, as well as other ecotourism projects that promote community-based mangrove conservation.

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February 2019

This project is in its final stages, now that the kayaks are in the hands of the communities. Local hotels have been boosting awareness of the tours, and the young people who are being trained as guides are enthusiastic about protecting their resource. A Seacology group visited and took a kayak tour in January 2019.

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June 2018

Project partner AgroFrontera reports that the fisher association leaders in the three communities have enthusiastically taken on the mangrove tour project. The kayaks, made from fiberglass so they are durable and easy to maintain and repair, are ready. Seacology staff members Karen Peterson and Duane Silverstein, and DR Field Representative Leida Buglass, took part in the inaugural outing of the new kayaks in March. Thirty-two tour guides, who are also members of the fisher associations, have received training in kayak operation. A total of 23 guides got training in bird watching and basic mangrove ecology. The education and outreach training will be repeated periodically throughout the year.
Mangrove kayak tours in Montecristi began in April.

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