Sustaining biodiversity through trail building.

Sustaining biodiversity through trail building.

Russia
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The Great Baikal Trail (GBT) works to develop, maintain and promote a network of trails around Lake Baikal in order to create the sustainable development of the area. GBT has an environmental education programme, to reach more communities located in the economically depressed southern region of Lake Baikal. Our aim is to raise environmental awareness in an informal and fun way using the trails while continuing the development of a regional training programme for ecotourism professionals. Ecotourism will play a prominent part in the future development of Baikal. These programmes and the network of trails will be a fine way for locals to realize that it is in THEIR interest to protect Baikal, since a clean lake will attract the very eco-tourists who can make environmentalism profitable!

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Biodiversity is under threat, especially with the increasing exploitation of the region’s rich natural resources. Life has been patently hard for many residents here. Even today there are a number of local folks who feel impelled to turn to poaching and other illegal activities to survive. They often go deeper and deeper into the local parks and wilderness areas, to fell groves of trees (for illicit sale to merchants, mostly coming from Moscow or China);they also are over hunting many of the animal species in the region, to the point that it is a rare event to see any of the bears, sables, fresh-water seals, or the other unique Siberian animals that once cavorted along Baikal’s shores.GBT gives another option, with ecotourism the locals realize that it is in THEIR interest to protect Baikal.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Great Baikal Trail (GBT) community-outreach/ environmental education programme is based around trails around Baikal. The trail itself is constructed to provide new economic incentives (i.e., ecotourism profits) to the local populations who want to preserve their environment, and find a viable alternative to industrial development around Lake Baikal. The trail is also the centre point to environmental education. Every year summer projects are carried out, with international and Russians participates. Helping to build the trail and learn about this unique environment. Eco-educational trips for local school children are carried out on the trail, bringing the learning experience to life. Many children in Irkutsk and other surrounding towns have never been to the lake. Past eco-educational workshops have proven that many children and adults have no knowledge of the unique and precious place they live. By reconnecting urban residents with nature, it is hoped that they will understand the importance of protecting Lake Baikal. Already, in just the last seven years, some 724 km of this trail have been built. Many tourists and local residents have found they now have better access to some of the more scenic or culturally significant sites that abound at Lake Baikal. They realize that it will not be necessary to lay down more roads for cars, or build up lavish resort complexes. Instead, the decision has been made to preserve the environment in its more natural state. It has been the people behind the GBT who have seen the opportunity for creating a complex of trails, camp-sites, and other low-impact structures, all to serve a new influx of tourists from around the globe. But there is more work to be done with the local populace, for which this project has been prepared.
About You
Organization:
The Great Baikal Trail
Visit website
Section 1: About You
First Name

Tanya

Last Name

Yurchenko

Organization

The Great Baikal Trail

Country

, IRK

Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

The Great Baikal Trail

Organization Phone

+89246107177

Organization Address

140 Lermontova, Irkutsk

Organization Country

, IRK

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, IRK

Would you like to participate in the MIF Opportunity 2010?

Innovation
Do you have a patent for this idea?

Impact
What impact have you had on your clients and the tourism sector?

In GBTs short time-span, we have recruited over 4,000 volunteers from around the world. These generous souls have helped build a hundred different sections of the Great Baikal Trail, whilst learning about the need to conserve this vulnerable landscape. For two weeks at a time, these international participants have worked side-by-side with local Russians, making new friends, and opening up new vistas to their once-isolated Siberian colleagues. This has increased eco-tourism in the area and also made the area more accessible for future tourists. GBT also conducts a regional eco-tourism training programme, which is currently small in scale, but ultimately will allow rural populations to profit from an environmentally benign profession. It will provide the skills for locals to guide the predicted increase in tourism (that the World Bank and others forecast for the Baikal region), so that it will have minimal impact on the diverse and productive biological system at the lake. At the same time it will show locals how to profit financially from tourists, while offering them a world-class experience in exploring our beautiful countryside.

The GBTA has reached out to many local communities, as well as to many under-served sectors of society (such as at-risk kids, orphans and other, oft-forgotten youngsters). The GBTA has also provided educational opportunities for many local residents, mostly teaching them how advantageous it is to protect their environment.

Actions

First action is to provide volunteers with the necessary skills, this helps to create sustainable growth. Therefore, we have a programme, where share everything we know about the effective leadership of volunteers.
The second important action is to concentrate on the eco-education in Irkutsk and rural communities. The object will be to show how building a low-impact trail might attract more tourists, making it possible simultaneously to protect the environment and create jobs at the same time.
The third action is eco-tourism education. Awareness workshops and meetings are held at the rural communities. We want to illustrate the full gamut of professional opportunities, whether our clients might want to become a home-stay host, a nature guide, or someone that makes souvenirs or other tourist “treasures”, or, for that matter, anyone that might want to provide some kind of service to visiting tourists.

Results

The results of this program will increase local people’s professional involvement in the eco-tourism business by teaching them the art of opening and running local bed & breakfast inns, while also providing them extensive training so that they can work as tour guides, nature interpreters, etc., Thereby create a more comprehensive and effective infrastructure for eco-tourism development around Baikal, while continuing to reconnect people with nature, and preparing new leaders for our still-emerging environmental movement in Siberia.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

To keep our project going, and our movement growing, we need to constantly prepare new leaders and involve more volunteers in our project implementation. The idea is to first educate local folk about the environment and then, if appropriate, invite them to have more of an active role in our organisation. This is a grass roots movement that continues to enrol new leaders from the community. This way the local communities will have a better sense that they actually “own” the GBT. We have invested much time and effort to ensure that all volunteers have the chance to gain and develop new skills. By attaining these skills, they will help us improve the efficiency of our organisation, with all volunteers being in a better position to negotiate problems that arise and to communicate efficiently as a team. Even those who move on from the GBTA will find themselves better suited to work in a way that enhances their (and our) environment.
Our organisation has the potential to be self-funding. But to date, most of our success in this sphere is due to the international volunteers who contribute a small amount of money (@200 British pounds) for their attendance during the summer eco-projects. Over the next three years we plan to increase awareness of Lake Baikal and the projects that GBTA runs. In this way we might also increase the number of paying volunteers who come to us, making our work all the more sustainable.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

The GBTA has commenced on various eco-education and eco-tourism programmes around Lake Baikal. But due to the lack of funds our work has been on a very small scale, and not intense enough to have the far-reaching impact that we are looking for. Russian NGOs have little support and few opportunities for local funding, since charitable giving is a rather novel concept here—even to the newly rich entrepreneurs in Russia. This lack of a local funding base often prevents the GBTA from expanding to reach the communities that live on Lake Baikal’s shorelines, except in our specific trail-building projects. Thus, it has been difficult for us to help these local people lead a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, or act as experienced hosts to visiting tourists.

How many people will your project serve annually?

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$1000 - 4000

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy or introduce models and tools that benefit the tourism sector in general?

Yes

Sustainability
What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

In what country?

, IRK

Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Yes

If yes, provide organization name.

The Great Baikal Trail

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?

Yes

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?

No

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?

Yes

Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

The GBTA has good partnership connections with all the governmentally protected areas around Lake Baikal. In fact, the 7 national parks and nature reserves here are all constituent members of the GBTA, having helped found the GBTA in 2002. So far the GBTA has built extensive lengths of trails for (and within) the Baikalsky Biosphere Nature Reserve, and the Pribaikalsky, Zabaikalski, and Tunkinski National Parks. The Baikalsky reserve and GBTA jointly have conducted numerous environmental education projects for local kids.

Internationally our partners at Earth Island Institute, the Baikal Plan of Germany, the United States Forest Service, Earth Corps, and Rotary International have all provided our staff with specific training programmes, have helped us raise funds, and have recruited and sent over hundreds of foreign volunteers and tourists to the Great Baikal Trail.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

Firstly, it is important for GBT to maintain a strong structure, where each staff member and volunteer shares their thoughts openly, and provides guidance to each other when necessary. This open exchange of information will create a more efficient and productive organization. Therefore the first action is to provide volunteers with the necessary skills, this helps to create sustainable growth not only in our own organization, but of the Siberian environmental movement as a whole. Hence, we have a three month programme, where (for one full day a week) we will share everything we know about the effective leadership of volunteers.
The second important action is to concentrate on the eco-education in Irkutsk and rural communities. With all our participants from Irkutsk and the surrounding rural areas, the object will be to show how building a low-impact trail might attract more tourists, making it possible simultaneously to protect the environment and create jobs at the same time. The third action is eco-tourism education Awareness workshops and meetings are held at the rural communities. Talks are given by those who used to be involved in hunting and poaching, but who now have successfully tapped into eco-tourism as a source of income. We want to illustrate the full gamut of professional opportunities, whether our clients might want to become a home-stay host, a nature guide, or someone that makes souvenirs or other tourist “treasures”, or, for that matter, anyone that might want to provide some kind of service to visiting tourists.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

The concept of the Great Baikal Trail(GBT) began with a simple yet daunting idea - to build a trail circumventing one of the oldest and most beautiful lakes on Earth, our "pearl of Siberia". This idea existed some three decades before the first stretches of the trail were built. In a Soviet country, with few environmental organizations, and without any history of large-scale volunteer projects—not to mention little government or private sponsorship—it took us until 2003 to break ground on the first trail around Lake Baikal. It was a dream shared by many local residents to make the area more accessible by building a network of trails around the lake. These trails would help to increase the number of eco-tourists and used as an educational tool.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

The Great Baikal Trail is a grassroots movement, started by the people of the Baikal region. The organisation continues to enrol new leaders from the community and we believe that leadership and volunteer diversity helps to ensure that the future direction of our movement is neither dependent on nor guided by one person or one small group. The people of Baikal understand that the future of this beautiful landscape is dependent on our actions today.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Friend or family member

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

50 words or fewer