TRY Women's Ecotourism Project

TRY Women's Ecotourism Project

Gambia
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Budget: 
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

TRY is an organization in The Gambia that empowers women by training them and giving them the tools to harvest oysters. The women sell their oysters alongside the roads in Gambia’s capital city Banjul, offering them for $.55 US dollars for 75 pieces of oyster meat. While entering the oyster harvesting industry has been a tremendous boon for the 500 women involved in TRY operations, their income is still scant, especially during the dry season in which oysters cannot be harvested.
The idea for an ecotourism venture evolved from the director of TRY, a Gambian woman named Fatou Janha, who observed groups of tourists being bussed to the TRY mangroves from neighboring hotels to observe the ecosystem (which has been designated as a Ramsar site) and watch the process of harvesting. TRY receives no income from these tours. However, the hotel-directed tours conducted into the mangroves made Fatou realize that there was a market for ecotourism. TRY seeks to partner with hotels and add value to their current ecotourism ventures by offering a tour led by English-speaking TRY members, involving tourists in some kind of cultural dialogue with the women, selling crafts or souvenirs made by the women, and offering an oyster cooking class. TRY seeks to assume revenue from these partnerships to fuel its expansion as an organization and provide needed income for the women harvesters and their families.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The dearth of unemployment opportunities during the oyster harvesting off season place the women and their families in a difficult financial situation. The oysters, which are not being exported yet, fetch a low price on the domestic market, leaving the women with insufficient savings for the off-season. A tourism venture that increases foreign capital inlay would be a tremendous boon, as $5 US dollars feeds a family of 3 for a week in The Gambia. Surrounding hotels in The Gambia are running tours into the mangroves without permission from TRY directors or from the women. The hotels do not offer any monetary compensation to the organization, depriving it of a source of revenue that it could substantially benefit from.

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

Tourism has quickly become a significant sector of the Gambian economy, contributing to 12% of the country’s GDP and employing over 100,000 Gambians a year. Many tourists come to The Gambia to engage in bird-watching, to look for dolphins in the Gambia River that runs length-wise through the country, and to immerse themselves in the beautiful ecosystem of the mangroves that spot the Gambia River coast. One of the more popular draws to The Gambia is its Ramsar Site, which designates Gambia’s Tanbi wetlands as “Wetlands of International Importance.” The Ramsar designation provides international acclaim to Gambia’s biodiversity, as the Ramsar Convention, conducted in 1975, is an international treaty that supports the sustainability and preservation of important wetland area in order to support biodiversity throughout the world. This international recognition for Gambia’s biodiversity provides a solid foundation for ecotourism, an industry that is growing globally but lagging in Gambia - ironic because the country provides the perfect space for it. TRY can add authenticity value to the ecotourism operation led by hotels in the area by imbuing a cultural experience into the tours, and creating a space for intercultural dialogue. By combining this cultural/educational experience, cooking lessons, and sales of handicrafts made by the women, TRY would be offering an integrative Gambian experience to visitors to the Gambia. At the same time, each component of the tour would create opportunities for the organization to benefit directly from tourism revenue.
About You
Organization:
Try Women's Oyster Harvesting
Section 1: About You
First Name

Fatou

Last Name

Janha

Website
Organization
Country
Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

Try Women's Oyster Harvesting

Organization Phone
Organization Address
Organization Country

, BJ

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, BJ

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?

With the Ramsar designation and beauty of the Gambia River, The Gambia provides an environment ideal for geotourism, yet has few hotels or operations that cater to this industry. Tourists to The Gambia are congregated around its capital city of Banjul and southward; a string of hotels along Gambia’s Western coastline abutting the Atlantic Ocean cater to the majority of Gambia’s tourists. These tourists are primarily Scandanavian and European, and many of them come to The Gambia with more illicit purposes than simply tourism. The sex industry in the country is alive and thriving, and male prostitutes are some of the most highly paid workers in the nation. Women come to The Gambia to rent an African man for the duration of their stay.

TRY's ecotourism venture would reinvigorate the tourism sector in The Gambia by increasing the number of people that come to the area with environmental or cultural interests. By generating revenue for TRY's activities, the ecotourism project would generate a large social good in increasing the income for TRY women and allowing the organization to grow.

Actions

TRY can add value to the ecotourism operation led by hotels in the area by imbuing a cultural experience into the tours, and creating a space for intercultural dialogue. Instead of having groups of tourists bussed from the hotels to see the mangroves, the women in TRY can welcome the tourists and show them around the wetlands. Among the 500 women involved in TRY, only a few are able to speak English. These English-speaking women would be able to walk the tourists through the mangroves, narrating and allowing the tourists to see for themselves the anatomy of the mangrove, and the everyday lives of the TRY women. The tour would encompass oyster cooking classes and offer handicrafts made by the women to sell to the tourists.

The Coco Ocean Hotel and Spa is already actively conducting tours into the mangroves, and from a strategic standpoint would be the first hotel for TRY to form a partnership with, since the market for ecotourism demonstrably exists. With luxurious spas, Moroccan design and architecture, and international chefs, the hotel is known to cater to ambassadors and embassy delegates. However, its offering of cultural activities or day excursions in The Gambia is scarce

Results

In the short term it is perceived that the results of the ecotourism project will include increased revenue for the TRY organization and concurrently a raise in revenue for women involved in TRY, and an increase in revenue for surrounding hotels that are also receiving a cut in revenue from the tours.

In the long term as the project expands and gains international attention, the expected results include an increase in tourism to The Gambia for the purpose of ecotourism, and a reinvigorated tourism sector in The Gambia focused heavily on the geotourism industry rather than the sex industry.

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

2011: developing partnerships with surrounding hotels will be crucial to the initial success of the ecotourism project. While TRY has some partnerships already in place, the ultimate test will be expanding from these hotels and developing a network of tours that extend throughout the hotels concentrated in Banjul. Publicizing the tours will require an ambitious marketing and advertising campaign as TRY proves to the hotels that its "tour package" can add value to the tourism sector and increase revenues and interest in the hotels themselves.
In 2012 and 2013, how TRY Women's Ecotourism Project deals with the question of sustainability will be crucial for its success. After months of experience in handling tours, the project leaders will have to reflect upon successes and weaknesses of the operation. It will be important to evaluate the tour leaders, and assess their strengths as leaders of the tours and as speakers of English. Employing multilingual individuals with language skills that extend beyond English will be increasingly important if TRY hopes to reach a larger audience.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

The one largest deterrent to the project's success would be the unresponsiveness of surrounding hotels to the project. TRY must be able to prove the value of the tours it leads for the hotels to ascribe to the idea, and it must be able to promise the hotels an attractive cut of the tourism revenue to make the project financially appealing. Problems in determining the appropriate share of the tourism revenue could deter the project from being a success.

How many people will your project serve annually?

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

Less than $50

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 1‐5 years

In what country?

, BJ

Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Yes

If yes, provide organization name.

TRY Women's Oyster Harvesting

How long has this organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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

Yes

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

Yes

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

Yes

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.

Working with the national Department of Fisheries, Department of Parks and Wildlife who manage the oyster grounds (mangove forests) and National Department of Community Development help TRY realize its goals of protecting the environment and protecting oysters from overfishing and having too short of an off-season. Try is working towards systemic change in The Gambia. Partnerships with these organizations also give TRY legitimacy which is extremely important in the eyes of both hotel owners who make decisions about partnering, and tourists that are potential customers. Tourists want to know that an organization is authentic and has significant backing and recognition, before they give their money to it.

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

1. The Association's main shortcomings are due to the lack of support, to vigorously execute its activities to realize its objectives. Other oyster groups with multiple objectives have been formed in disparate fishing communities but many of them have weak administrative and organizational structure. The strengthening of the association as an indigenous organization which will bring about cohesion and nurture a sense of common understanding within the oyster sector is therefore imperative.
2. Partnerships with surrounding hotels must be actively sought. The "value add" of TRY's ecotourism venture must be marketed and advertised effectively within Gambia's hotels to cater to the interests of visiting tourists.
3. Obtaining water rights to surrounding mangrove areas. This is important so that they won't be expelled from their lands and can assert ownership over their harvesting grounds.

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

I became increasingly upset when a nearby hotel starting running tours through the mangroves where the TRY women were working. One day one of the women harvesters approached me and said, "I hate how they come in with their loud boats, being disrespectful to our history without caring about us or seeing any of us benefit."

I realized that the market for ecotourism demonstrably existed because the tour buses always generated a high turnout. I came to the conclusion that if we could add value to the tours the hotels were already running, TRY Women's Ecotourism Project could generate higher demand and gain revenue from the operation.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Fatou Janha is an extraordinarily sweet and warm human being. She want to do everything possible for TRY, and she does. Fatou is constantly working and researching ways to enrich her organization and create greater efficiency within it. Her determination and work ethic are beyond comprehension. In a very short time she has grown TRY from merely a few women in the same village to over 500 women across numerous villages that are significant distances apart. She is so humble that in the past when presenting her organization to people she would leave out some accomplishments so as to not sound like a braggart.

Fatou’s vision is not only one of financial prosperity for the members of the TRY Organization of Women Oyster Harvesters, but she will not rest until the beautiful mangrove forests along The River Gambia are protected adequately. She has already extended the off-season of oyster harvesting so that oysters can grow to the appropriate age of reproduction, which has protected them agains overfishing and possible long-term extinction or endangerment. Fatou does not want to partner with hotels and provide ecotours to interested tourists simply for the economic advancement of her organization, but she is eager to share with people from all over the world. She wants to educate and inspire people and give them things to take back to the western world and share with everyone they know. Fatou is passionate about making TRY a well known and well respected international organization and hopes to continue towards growth and scalability. The most amazing characteristic Fatou possesses is her complete selflessness, she works so hard and is so driven for TRY to succeed, not for notoriety or wealth, but because she genuinely cares about the women and the precious natural resources of her mother country, The Gambia.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Through another organization or company

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

Social Venture Partners Rhode Island