Catalyzing local socio-economic development using the natural and cultural potential of the region

Type: Ecological tourism development

Participating countries:Russia

Duration: February 2007 – July 2008

Total budget: 244,000 EUR (of which 80% from an EU grant)

Aim: To build capacity of local residents and support cooperation of local stakeholders in nature-based and cultural tourism with impact on improved livelihoods.

The project strived to tackle the challenge that despite the attractiveness and quality of the natural environment and rich cultural heritage of the Mary El Republic most rural residents live in abject poverty and despair. To extend the benefits of having Bolshaya Kokshaga Strict Nature Reserve in their vicinity, local people were approached to take part in the development of ecological and ethnographic rural tourism. The project offered training as well as direct support to improve recreational and related services (accommodation, tours, etc.) Special attention was paid to develop folklore holidays where traditional songs and dances could be demonstrated and unique cuisine and hospitality shared with visitors.

Main results:
1) Local residents acquired new skills and know-how: 180 people participated in special courses, training sessions and workshops, 30 people were engaged in provision of tourist services, 9 people were engaged in production of souvenirs and national costumes;
2) Ethnographical tours and performance programmes of local folklore groups were developed and effectively promoted;
3) Tourist infrastructure was improved – a local museum ‘Peasant house’ and 3 nature discovery and ethnographical trails created, 7 families were supported to open guest houses;
4) Cooperation in cultural tourism among various stakeholders established, including active participation of one of the largest tour operators in Russia Vladinvesttour;
5) Capacity of 3 NGOs, 2 municipal authorities, nature reserve staff increase, about 20 representatives of these organizations trained and cooperate mutually after the project;
6) Better influence on decision-making at the level of the republic and improved access to domestic investments for local partners and rural enterprises achieved (e.g. the president of the Republic of Mary El supported creation of Tourism information centre and a programme of small grants for tourist SMEs).

Role of Machaon: Project development. Machaon’s director acted as the project manager.
Partners: Natural Heritage Protection Fund, Medvedevskiy municipal authority, Kilemarskiy municipal authority, Information, tourist, cultural and business centre of Mari El Republic (Russia),
Location: Medvedevskiy and Kilemarskiy districts, Mary El Republic, Russia
Protected areas involved: Bolshaya Kokshaga Strict Nature Reserve
Funding source: TACIS programme of EU