Posted on 23 September 2016
As part of the HSBC Water Programme, WWF works with communities in the Mekong River Basin to promote good water stewardship so both people and nature can thrive.
Along the Mekong River, daily life revolves around water. However, the ever-growing demands on the Mekong and its resources result in increasingly-common problems like overfishing, pollution, and water over-extraction.
As part of the HSBC Water Programme, WWF works with communities in the Mekong River Basin to promote good water stewardship so both people and nature can thrive. In Vietnam, WWF supports an ecotourism pilot project to create sustainable livelihoods in Mui Ca Mau National Park (MCMNP).
Mrs. Tran Thi Soi’s family is one of the early families taking part in the program. Like most families in this part of the Vietnam Delta, their main form of income used to be aquaculture and farming – their livelihoods depend heavily on the park’s natural resources.
The mangroves are a key nursery for fish, a stopping place for many rare migratory birds, and a buffer between Vietnam and the sea, helping to slow coastal erosion and shield the local communities from rising seas. Without mangrove forests and a healthy Mekong River bringing sediment downstream and fish to spawn, these communities’ livelihoods and very homes could cease to exist.
However, financial pressures and lack of environmental awareness drive some people to illegally log and poach fish from the marine protected areas of the park, potentially harming the ecosystems that their life fundamentally depend upon. It is essential that families like Mrs. Tran’s receive the necessary training and support to generate income from sustainable livelihoods in order to relieve pressure on the local environment and protect their own living conditions.
The ecotourism pilot project is already making a positive difference in the park. The business of ecotourism services has provided jobs and opportunities for Mrs. Tran’s whole family throughout the year. Normally they would do aquaculture and farming, and then have free time in the low season. Now they have a job all year round, effectively increase the family’s livelihoods.
By creating new job opportunities, ecotourism is changing the way the hosts view and treat the environment. They have come to understand the responsibility to protect the mangrove forest and biodiversity, as a key factor in keeping their income sources.
“I have learned a lot about the environment since becoming an ecotourism host,” said Mrs. Tran. “I learned the ecosystem gives good conditions for life and livelihoods, and why mangroves are important and need to be preserved.”
Furthermore, the host families also help to pass on environmental awareness to tourists, promoting the environmental values of mangrove forests and encouraging the visitors to join them in keeping the rivers clean and healthy.
The ecotourism program is poised to expand its positive impacts. Park officials are working to get the required legal certifications to further develop the homestay businesses, while 10 more families have expressed interest in being hosts.