Using tourism as a conservation tool to protect people and nature

Competition Finalist

This entry has been selected as a finalist in the
The Geotourism Challenge: Celebrating Places - Changing Lives competition.

Blue Ventures is an award-winning not-for-profit that partners with local communities to conserve threatened marine habitats and resources for the betterment of people and nature. Funded almost entirely through ecotourism revenue, Blue Ventures brings paying volunteers to project sites and trains them in scientific research, community outreach and on-the-ground conservation.

Blue Ventures believes that environmental protection and economic development can – and must – go hand-in-hand. Since 2003, we have partnered with the remote fishing villages along Madagascar’s southwest coast in an effort to protect the marine resources locals rely upon for survival.

In 2004, Blue Ventures and the village of Andavadoaka established the world’s first community-run marine protected area for octopus. The project not only ensures the long-term survival of octopus, but results in greater yields for local fishermen. The project proved so successful the government of Madagascar in 2005 used the project as a model to create similar strategies across the country to promote octopus populations and fisheries.

Blue Ventures is now working with 25 villages across the region to create a vast network of marine and coastal protected areas spanning 800 square-kilometres, benefiting more than 10,000 people and protecting coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves and other threatened habitats.

Your idea

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This will be the address used to plot your entry on the map.

Street Address

Andavadoaka

City

Andavadoaka (Tulear)

State/Province

southwest coast

Postal/Zip Code

Country

Madagascar

Year innovation began

2003

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Geotourism Challenge Addressed by Entrant

Quality of benefit to the people of the desitination

Indicate sector in which you principally work

Conservation/Preservation organization

Plot your innovation within the Mosaic of Solutions

Main barrier addressed

Cross-cultural myopia

Main insight addressed

Establish community incentives

Geographic location

Coast.

Name Your Project

Using tourism as a conservation tool to protect people and nature

Describe Your Idea

Blue Ventures is an award-winning not-for-profit that partners with local communities to conserve threatened marine habitats and resources for the betterment of people and nature. Funded almost entirely through ecotourism revenue, Blue Ventures brings paying volunteers to project sites and trains them in scientific research, community outreach and on-the-ground conservation.
Blue Ventures believes that environmental protection and economic development can – and must – go hand-in-hand. Since 2003, we have partnered with the remote fishing villages along Madagascar’s southwest coast in an effort to protect the marine resources locals rely upon for survival.
In 2004, Blue Ventures and the village of Andavadoaka established the world’s first community-run marine protected area for octopus. The project not only ensures the long-term survival of octopus, but results in greater yields for local fishermen. The project proved so successful the government of Madagascar in 2005 used the project as a model to create similar strategies across the country to promote octopus populations and fisheries.
Blue Ventures is now working with 25 villages across the region to create a vast network of marine and coastal protected areas spanning 800 square-kilometres, benefiting more than 10,000 people and protecting coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves and other threatened habitats.

Innovation

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What is the goal of your innovation?

Using tourism as a tool to protect threatened marine resources for the betterment of both people and nature

How does your approach support or embody geotourism?

The sole motivation for launching our marine expedition business was to conserve the natural resources local villages in Madagascar rely upon for survival. Blue Ventures brings groups of paying volunteers to marine expeditions in Madagascar every six weeks, teaching them SCUBA diving, marine research and conservation science. During daily dives through threatened coral reefs, expedition members monitor marine habitats and species. They also work along side trained scientists to implement conservation strategies. Volunteers on our expeditions not only supply the man power needed to protect threatened natural resources, but all profits generated by the expeditions go back into on-the-ground conservation. All conservation planning is done in coordination with local villages to ensure communities in the region benefit from the conservation projects. Additionally, expedition volunteers learn about the important role oceans play in the global environment, helping to create a conservation ethic that they will hopefully carry with them in their daily lives.

Describe your approach in detail. How is it innovative?

Blue Ventures uses eco-tourism to generate funding and manpower for conservation. We lead expeditions to threatened marine systems along Madagascar’s southwest coast. This region harbours some of the world's highest levels of marine biodiversity, but also faces threats from climate change, pollution and overfishing. Only a small percentage of these reefs have ever been explored and even fewer have been scientifically studied to determine their health and conservation needs.

With the assistance of paying volunteers and the funding generated by the expeditions, Blue Ventures has catalogued hundreds of marine species over the last five years, including many that are endangered and several that are believed to be new to science. Before Blue Ventures began hosting volunteer expeditions, no data on these reefs existed. The information is used to implement conservation plans across the region and is shared with government agencies to assist national conservation and fisheries policy.

Blue Ventures’ partners with local villagers, raising awareness about the benefits of conservation and strengthening their capacity to protect natural resources. We incorporate traditional knowledge, customs and socio-economic needs to ensure locals support and benefit from conservation and tourism activities. Villagers participate in planning, researching, implementing and monitoring.

What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?

Blue Ventures is constantly reaching out to additional villages in the region to encourage increased conservation of local natural resources. We regularly hold educational workshops aimed at increasing the skills and knowledge locals need to protect their own natural resources. We would ideally like to partner with other developing nations, communities and agencies and provide them with expanded educational programmes that target their specific conservation needs.

Impact

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In one sentence describe what kind of impact, change, or reform your approach is intended to achieve.

We work to conserve threatened habitats, improve livelihoods and empower communities to sustainably manage their own natural resources

Describe the degree of success of your approach to date. Clearly define how you measure quantitative and qualitative impact in terms of how your approach contributes to the sustainability or enhancement of local culture, environment, heritage, or aesthetics? How does your approach minimize negative impacts? 200 words or less

In 2004, Blue Ventures and its volunteers worked with the village of Andavadoaka to develop the world’s first community-run marine protected area for octopus – the village’s primary source of income. Seasonal closures were implemented to allow octopus to grow in size and number. The strategy not only ensures the long-term survival of octopus, but results in greater yields for fishermen when closed areas are reopened. Studies show that octopus catch increased 13 times following the implentation of the project than before.

The project proved so successful that the Malagasy government it as a model in 2005 to implement similar closures across the country in order to improve octopus populations and fisheries.

In addition to ecological monitoring and research, Blue Ventures conducts socio-economic studies across the region to measure the impact of conservation projects on community incomes, attitudes and lifestyles. We have internationally trained staff in the field of socio-economic monitoring. In addition, we coordinate all activities with local villages to ensure communities benefit and support our activities.

How does your program promote traveler enthusiasm, satisfaction, and engagement with the locale?

Our volunteers participate in daily lessons on local habitats and species, and are taught the customs and language of the local community. In the first week of each expedition, volunteers are given tours of the local village, and are introduced to the elders who govern the community. Volunteers interact daily with locals, teaching English to school children, participating in traditional festivals and taking cooking lessons from village women. Such emersion in the local culture and ecology promotes enthusiasm for the conservation mission and activities.

Describe how your innovation helps travelers and local residents better understand the value of the area’s cultural and natural heritage, and educates them on local environmental issues. How do you motivate them to act responsibly in their future travel decisions?

Blue Venture volunteerss receive daily lessons in conservation science and marine research. By living and working alongside local villagers, volunteers see first hand the critical role healthy marine habitats play in the survival of human communities. Once volunteers return from expeditions, we regularly send them updates on marine issues and conservation activities.

For local communities, Blue Ventures holds monthly workshops on environmental issues. We train locals in conservation science and monitoring, and hire them to survey habitats and species. The data they collect not only is vital for conservation scientists, but also raises awareness among villagers of environmental issues.

In what ways are local residents actively involved in your innovation, including participation and community input? How has the community responded to or benefited from your approach?

All conservation activities are planned and implemented in coordination with local villages. Monthly meetings and workshops are held with villagers to update them on conservation projects and to receive their input. More than a dozen local villagers are employed by Blue Ventures, working as tour leaders, boat drivers and dive masters. We incorporate traditional knowledge and socio-economic needs into all conservation planning to ensure locals receive tangible benefits. Conservation projects have proven so successful that neighbouring villages have asked Blue Ventures to implement similar strategies in their communities so they can reap similar benefits.

This Entry is about (Issues)

Sustainability

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Is your initiative financially and organizationally sustainable? If not, what is required to make it so? What is the potential demand for your innovation?

Funding for our conservation work is generated by our tourism business. Studies have shown that more and more people are looking for holidays that are not only fun, but also leave them with a sense of personal fulfillment. Younger travelers – those in their 20s and 30s who are becoming today’s business leaders with disposable incomes – are particularly interested in travel adventures that have a positive impact on the world around them. The number of people attending our expeditions continues to grow, providing us with a sustainable source of income.

How is your initiative currently financed? If available, provide information on your finances and organization that could help others. Please list: Annual budget, annual revenue generated, size of part-time, full-time and volunteer staff.

Funding for our conservation activities is generated from our tourism revenue. While we are a non-profit conservation organisation, we use a business model to finance our conservation work. We employ five full-time staff in our London headquarters and 30 full and part-time staff in the field in Madagascar. Our expeditions generate approximately £200,000 each year.

What is your plan to expand your approach? Please indicate where/how you would like to grow or enhance your innovation, or have others do so.

We are currently working to expand our conservation work beyond our current field headquarters in the village of Andavadoaka. We are about to launch a massive network of marine and coastal protected areas that will span 800 square-kilometres along the southwest coast of Madagascar. The project will benefit more than 10,000 local people and be one of the largest community-run protected areas in the Western Indian Ocean. We are also looking to expand our tourism expeditions to other areas in Madagascar.

What are the main barriers you encounter in managing, implementing, or replicating your innovation? What barriers keep your program from having greater impact?

Financial resources is the main barrier to expanding our work. Because we are dependent on revenue generated by our eco-tourism expeditions, we must work within a set budget. As the popularity of our expeditions grows each year, however, we have been able to expand our conservation success and outreach.

The Story

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Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers' marketing material.

Alasdair Harris, founder and Director of Scientific Research: Since studying for a Masters degree in coastal management and ecological economics, Alasdair has endeavoured to combine environmental protection with community development.

While in school, Alasdair established a society to promote marine conservation in the developing world. Partnering with governments of Indian Ocean countries, he organised a series of underwater research expeditions, providing critical data to local institutions that did not have the resources to undertake such work themselves.
Upon earning his Maters in 2003, Al founded Blue Ventures.

What is the origin of your innovation? Tell your story.

Blue Ventures is an award-winning not-for-profit that partners with local communities to conserve threatened marine habitats and resources for the betterment of people and nature. Funded almost entirely through ecotourism revenue, Blue Ventures brings paying volunteers to project sites and trains them in scientific research, community outreach and on-the-ground conservation.

Blue Ventures believes that environmental protection and economic development can – and must – go hand-in-hand. Since 2003, we have partnered with the remote fishing villages along Madagascar’s southwest coast in an effort to protect the marine resources locals rely upon for survival.

In 2004, Blue Ventures and the village of Andavadoaka established the world’s first community-run marine protected area for octopus. The project not only ensures the long-term survival of octopus, but results in greater yields for local fishermen. The project proved so successful the government of Madagascar in 2005 used the project as a model to create similar strategies across the country to promote octopus populations and fisheries.

Blue Ventures is now working with 25 villages across the region to create a vast network of marine and coastal protected areas spanning 800 square-kilometres, benefiting more than 10,000 people and protecting coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves and other threatened habitats.

Along with traditional conservation strategies, Blue Ventures is developing sustainable alternative livelihoods for people living in the region. We are building an ecotourism lodge in Andavadoaka that will be fully owned and managed by local villagers and will be powered by clean solar and wind energy. The ecolodge will serve as an economic incentive to conserve the region’s natural beauty and resources while providing villagers with a sustainable alternative to destructive fishing practices.

Blue Ventures is also developing mariculture businesses in Andavadoaka, including algae, seagrass and sea cucumber farming, which will provide local communities with additional sustainable incomes.

Blue Ventures has won national and international recognition for its work. In 2005 Blue Ventures became the first European organisation to receive the SEED Award sponsored by the United Nations and the World Conservation Union to find the most innovative and entrepreneurial partnerships for sustainable development. In 2004, 2006 and 2007, Blue Ventures received “Highly Commended” honours from the Responsible Tourism Awards. In 2006, Skal, the world’s largest organisation of travel and tourism professionals, named Blue Ventures winner of its International Ecotourism Award. In 2007, Blue Ventures was named by National Geographic Traveler Magazine as one of the world’s “Top 50 Tours of a Lifetime.”

Andavadoaka village, Blue Ventures’ primary partner in Madagascar, won the UN’s prestigious Equator Prize in 2007 for its work with Blue Ventures and others to create community-based conservation and sustainable development projects.

Please write an overview of your project. This text will appear when people scroll over the icon for your entry on the Google map located on the competition homepage.

Blue Ventures is an award-winning not-for-profit that partners with local communities to conserve threatened marine habitats and resources for the betterment of people and nature. Funded almost entirely through ecotourism revenue, Blue Ventures brings paying volunteers to project sites and trains them in scientific research, community outreach and on-the-ground conservation.

Blue Ventures believes that environmental protection and economic development can – and must – go hand-in-hand. Since 2003, we have partnered with the remote fishing villages along Madagascar’s southwest coast in an effort to protect the marine resources locals rely upon for survival.

In 2004, Blue Ventures and the village of Andavadoaka established the world’s first community-run marine protected area for octopus. The project not only ensures the long-term survival of octopus, but results in greater yields for local fishermen. The project proved so successful the government of Madagascar in 2005 used the project as a model to create similar strategies across the country to promote octopus populations and fisheries.

Blue Ventures is now working with 25 villages across the region to create a vast network of marine and coastal protected areas spanning 800 square-kilometres, benefiting more than 10,000 people and protecting coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves and other threatened habitats.

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332 weeks ago Amelia Forrest Kaye said: On May 28, 2008, the judges reviewed the entries for the Changemakers “Geotourism Challenge” and would like to pass on this feedback for ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
332 weeks ago Amelia Forrest Kaye said: On May 28, 2008, the judges reviewed the entries for the Changemakers “Geotourism Challenge” and would like to pass on this feedback for ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
332 weeks ago Blue Ventures Foerstel said: Our standard expeditions last 6 weeks to ensure continuity of research and community relations, but we also receive volunteers for ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
333 weeks ago Courtney Timm said: This program sounds fantastic! I love how much emphasis is put on connecting the volunteers with the local community and introducing ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
334 weeks ago Maurice Wiener said: This project will benefit to Madagascar about this Competition Entry. - read more >
334 weeks ago said: The program starts with volunteer interest in diving and reefs, but links these enthusiasms to a variety of concerns in the local ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
334 weeks ago Peter Nimmo said: I believe this is the secret of all successful projects with this objective and by "successful" I mean a sustainable,long term benefit, ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
335 weeks ago Using tourism as a conservation tool to protect people and nature has been chosen as a finalist in The Geotourism Challenge: Celebrating Places - Changing Lives.