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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

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 next to the Haitian border, is home to 15,000 acres of beautiful mangrove forests. Over 95% of these mangroves are found in government-sanctioned protected areas, including Estero Balsa, El Morro and Montecristi Marine National Parks, and the Estero Hondo Marine Mammal Sanctuary. Much of the area is devoted to agriculture, particularly rice and fruit farms. Tourism is not nearly as developed as elsewhere in the country.

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 in three coastal communities (Manzanillo, Buen Hombre, and Punta Rucia) to conduct mangrove kayak tours. Tour operators in the region will train the young fishers about sustainable ecotourism. The youth will also learn business practices such as 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.

The tours will also give school groups hands-on field experience in the mangroves. AgroFrontera, in collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources and ANAMAR (a government agency charged with marine research and outreach), has been offering modules on marine ecology and conservation in the Montecristi public schools. However, very few of the children have an opportunity to visit mangroves, so these tours will add a vital resource.

Project Updates

June 2020

Tourism in the area has dried up due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tour program is on hold until the crisis passes. Kayaks purchased with funds from the Earth Day 2019 crowdfunding campaign have been manufactured and will be delivered, along with accessories (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 and 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 local young people who are being trained as guides are enthusiastic about protecting “their” resource. A Seacology group visited and participated in 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 where kayak tours will take place have enthusiastically accepted the responsibility and supervision of the mangrove tour project. The kayaks are ready; they were constructed of fiberglass for durability, as well as ease of repair and maintenance. Seacology staff members Karen Peterson and Duane Silverstein, as well as DR Field Representative Leida Buglass, took part in the inaugural outing in the new kayaks during their visit in early March. Thirty two tour guides, who are also members of the fisher associations, have received training in kayak operation. A total of 23 tour guides participated in training programs for bird watching as well as basic mangrove ecology. The education and outreach training will be repeated periodically throughout the year.
The roll-out of the mangrove kayak tours in Montecristi began in April.

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