NCRC’s philosophy and conservation model have produced notable successes over the past decade, creating sustainable economic development in varied communities. This is possible for several reasons. With local ownership, buy-in is very high. Official support is given by the Government of Ghana, but the government is not directly involved in projects. A solid link between conservation, development and poverty reduction has been demonstrated, prompting additional communities to seek involvement.
These factors have produced the following sustainable benefits:
- Ecotourism growth is providing predictable and increasing revenue to communities
- Revenues are largely derived from in-country clientele, so income streams do not suffer dramatically from fluctuations in foreign visitor numbers
- Revenue sources are being diversified beyond ecotourism, including non-timber forest products and agricultural products, providing greater livelihood security in communities
- Several Community Protected Area (CPA) communities now earn sufficient funds to meet all annual operating costs
- Two CPA communities are now considering hiring external professional management to further expand their environmental and business activities
- 3 CPA communities are being considered for joint ventures with private sector hoteliers to establish ecolodges which would provide increased community revenue
Substantial challenges remain. Communities entering new partnership projects must buy in to at least a decade of capacity-building to achieve sustainable results. In order to achieve legitimacy in the community there must be a will to create and maintain financial transparency for community-level revenues. Rural destinations currently lack medium and high-end accommodations and related services to attract higher-end clients. Communities must develop the capacity to successfully negotiate and manage projects with private sector partners.
In order to increase sustainability on a national level, NCRC is negotiating with the Government of Ghana to launch a pilot project in 2009 to demonstrate that the NCRC conservation model can be successful in a government-operated reserve. The goal is to bring the model to multiple government parks and reserves by 2012. By that same year, NCRC’s overall goal is to bring 1 million hectares of land in Ghana under management in Community Protected Areas.
NCRC will also seek to transfer its model to other Africa nations, including Liberia, where the government and NGOs have initiated partnership discussions. Ultimately, NCRC’s goal is to play a key role in transforming conservation practice in Africa over the next 25 years.