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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.

Tour operators in the region will train the young fishers about sustainable ecotourism. The youth come from coastal communities (Manzanillo, Buen Hombre, and Punta Rucia) where there are few opportunities beyond fishing. They 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.

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

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 bought with funds from Seacology’s Earth Day 2019 crowdfunding campaign have been manufactured. 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 where kayak tours will take place have enthusiastically taken on supervision of the mangrove tour project. The kayaks, constructed of fiberglass for durability, as well as ease of repair and maintenance, are ready. Seacology staff members Karen Peterson and Duane Silverstein, and DR Field Representative Leida Buglass, took part in the inaugural outing in the new kayaks during a 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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