Biodiversity Conservation through Tourism in Wakhan
“Biodiversity Conservation through Tourism in Wakhan District”, was implemented by Wakhan Pamir Association (WPA). Wakhan is one of the most important landscapes in Afghanistan for biodiversity. It is home to a number of threatened species, including snow leopard, Marco Polo sheep, urial, brown bear and others. Conservation of biodiversity in Wakhan is of utmost importance to Afghanistan, and to the long-term benefit of the local communities.

Tourism is the best hope to reduce poverty among the Wakhan people in a manner that compliments biodiversity conservation. Therefore tourism is of primary importance to Wakhan. Even though much of Afghanistan is being affected by conflict, Wakhan remains one of the few stable and peaceful parts of the country. As a result, since 2006 Wakhan has been receiving a steady stream of foreign visitors and is increasingly catching the interest of eco-tourists and adventure travellers.

The Centre will function as a conduit for tourism to Wakhan, and an information centre for biodiversity conservation. Tourists get information about Wakhan; they meet certified guides and cooks, be linked up with affordable taxis, purchase food for their trip and hire equipment (e.g. tents, cooking utensils, etc.). The Centre will also sell locally produced handicrafts and foods; and it will be a place where tourists can find accommodation and be served meals. It will better organise tourism to Wakhan and improve visitor satisfaction. With the Centre in place, it is expected that there will be a significant increase in the number of tourists visiting Wakhan, which in turn will stimulate a broad array of local businesses.

The Centre is a unique and beautiful building, a place that people gravitate towards. It have a rustic appearance, made of local building materials, with design features that incorporate traditional building concepts such as "Pamiri" skylights.
 
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Project Snapshot

Grantee:
Wakhan Pamir Association
Country:
Afghanistan
Area Of Work:
Biodiversity
Grant Amount:
US$ 50,000.00
Co-Financing Cash:
US$ 43,290.00
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 18,060.00
Project Number:
AFG/SGP/OP4/Y3/RAF/13/11
Status:
Satisfactorily Completed
Project Characteristics and Results
Linkages gef projects
One of the of three main outcomes of the project is enhanced sustainable land management in the areas inside and around the protected areas which the full size biodiversity project is aiming to create. This can either be achieved by modifying existing land-use practices to be more sustainable, or to promote alternative land-use practices. Wakhan National Park has significant potential as a nature-based tourism destination. If tourism facilities can be enhanced, and the SGP project is a significant step towards this, then this is likely to lead to an increase in international visitors and a corresponding growth in income to the area. This in turn is likely to encourage more local people to become engaged in providing services to tourists diverting them from other less sustainable practices. It will also put a monetary value on the aspects of the natural environment, wildlife and scenic landscapes, which the tourists value.
Project sustainability
The tourism centre has been constructed to a very high standard and will therefore be available for many years to come and during that time evolve to an important centre for Ishkashim as well as the tourists and local Wakhi people of the national park. Conservation of biodiversity is the cornerstone of any national park and has to be viewed as a long term mission. To this end the tourism centre will always be a focal point for information on the biodiversity of Wakhan NP. Up to date information on collared snow leopards and other WCS conservation activities will be available to tourists. Tourists will be taught about the NP and do’s and don’ts within the area and the sustainable construction of the tourism centre and its environmentally friendly use of local materials. The sign for the tourism centre contains images of snow leopards and marco polo sheep and this is testament to the understanding and importance of biodiversity to maximizing tourism in the region and consequently benefiting the local people. All of this promotes a positive image of conservation for Wakhan national park starting at the tourism centre
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