What is ecotourism? Are these volunteer trips to nature, where people spend volunteer days and plant trees? Or maybe is it living in natural thatched huts on the ocean? Or is it an independent trip to the reserve with a backpack, a tent and a minimum of comfort? Someone thinks that not littering in the forest and not killing animals is ecological tourism already. Let’s look at this issue.
If things are more or less clear with “tourism”, then with “eco” now there are much more discrepancies. The fashion for everything “green” and “eco-friendly” is slowly capturing the world, and our perception filters have already tuned in to code words, sometimes not noticing very strange “artifacts”. Wherever they do not put green leaves and the inscription “eco” – on disposable dishes, aggressive chemical products, plastic bags and other non-environmentally friendly items. So believe the word advertising is not necessary.
Experts have their own opinions about ecotourism: this is a responsible trip to natural areas that promotes nature conservation and improves the well-being of the local population. This definition gives the International Society of ecotourism. Similarly defines ecotourism World Wildlife Fund WWF. Here are the main criteria from these serious comrades to check their own routes for environmental friendliness.
- The direction of travel – places with relatively untouched nature or preserved authentic life. These are, for example, nature reserves, national parks or such ancient villages and villages, where the bell tolls, go to the bathhouse on Sundays, and in the square grandmothers sell homemade cakes and milk from under the cow.
- The purpose of such travel is to study the natural and cultural characteristics. These are not galleries and shopping, but acquaintance with the traditional way of life of the locals, or acquaintance with wildlife, in order to feel part of it for some time and then disappear, leaving no trace behind.
- The tourism process does not harm natural ecosystems. Everything is clear: we just do not harm nature.
- It is economically beneficial for local residents to preserve nature and traditions. The trick is that the benefits and revenues from such tourism should not be received by corporations and not by the head office somewhere in the capital, but locals, who themselves opened a cafe, hostel or boat rental. And so that the traditions of the region are preserved and raised to the rank of cultural heritage, and not replaced by faceless “standards of service.”
In fact, it is not an easy task to make mass outdoor recreation not destructive for ecosystems, and the local population to benefit from the care of nature. But there are already good examples of projects implemented in this area. You can try for yourself.
For several decades, there have been international projects WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), that is, the World Opportunities on Organic Farms. In such programs, you can combine leisure and travel with work in organic agriculture. One of the founders of WWOOF, Wendell Berry, said: “Today’s minors already know where their children come from, but not everyone knows how potatoes grow.” Well, we are fine with potatoes, but to try yourself as a banana gatherer in Ecuador or as an environmentalist in Madagascar, to feel like a winemaker in Argentina or a gardener in Norway sounds really tempting.
There are several directory sites where you can choose the direction and project (wwoofinternational.org, woof.net, workaway.info, helpx.net). As a rule, on these sites, the participant is required to pay a registration fee of about € 20 in order to gain access to the host database. And then – the whole world is in your hands. If you want to go to Australia, and you want to go to Armenia. This holiday is not for the lazy, but impressions and new knowledge are guaranteed. The host, as a rule, provides you with food and accommodation in exchange for your work, plus there is free time.
An unusual tourist project in Russia: Alturizm is a travel company of a new format, although the word “firm” is too dry and soulless for such a spiritual project. The guys develop routes in which travelers, or “altourists,” as they are called, can break free from the bustling metropolis to dive into the depths of rural life, work with their hands, drink tea from a samovar, swim in the river and discover new happy people after the bath. On such trips, the Altourist team can take part in the restoration of an old wooden tower, collecting and drying willow tea, restoring a jetty on the river or some other locally important projects. In this way, travelers get acquainted with rural life and immerse themselves in nature, while local residents get support for their projects.
Toloka in nature
Belarusian environmental organization “Bagna” invites to volunteer camps on Yelnya bog and in the reserves of Polesye. Toloka is a joint help to nature: repairing dams, hanging artificial bird nests and enjoying the cosmic landscape of these places. Toloka in the Yelnya swamp turned out to be international: it is conducted jointly with the Estonian Foundation of Nature. Next in line are Turovsky Meadow and Middle Pripyat. In addition to helping nature and communicating with caring people, you can get to places where ordinary tourists do not always get there, and experts from the team will tell you the most interesting things you should pay attention to.
Finally, a few tips on how to ecologize any trip:
Transport: prefer hitchhiking, bicycles, trains and buses.
Food: choose establishments that prepare seasonal or organic-certified products and support local farmers.
Shopping: do not go to shopping malls, but to local artisans, to secondhands and to flea markets.
Sights: Do not forget to attend the “green” urban initiatives.Read More
Seeing how grapes grow, where sheep are grazed and how real cheese is made – for many city dwellers all this is real exotic. It is not surprising that every year more and more people are interested in agritourism. Residents of megacities leave to live on the farm, where they are learning to care for horses and ostriches, to understand forest mushrooms, milk cows and harvest olives, make sour cream and house wine on their own. The advantages of this occupation are quite appreciable: a change of scenery, fresh air, new skills, and, importantly, everything can be arranged even for free.
Long-term agro-tours are a rare story. As a rule, the majority of tourists are limited to vacation or weekend tours. There are many offers on the tourism-market, both in Russia and abroad. They are all very different in the program, as well as the level of comfort and, accordingly, the price. You can rent a villa in Tuscany and work in local vineyards, or you can live in a village house for a nominal fee or even free of charge in exchange for household help. Very often, under such conditions, the employee relies on meals at the master’s table and even a certain amount of pocket money.
To tell the truth, in this case you will have more work, but you can easily choose an activity to your liking, and the working day lasts no more than 4-6 hours. The rest of the time can be devoted to a rest, walking and excursions to new places.
Where can you go?
Rural tourism is common in the USA, Canada, Australia, Spain, Italy, France, and is also gaining popularity in Russia.
In the US, students regularly leave for farms to earn extra money during the summer holidays. Especially there are a lot of farms in Colorado, Texas and Arizona – there extra workers are always taken for the work with pleasure. The conditions are very spartan: a room for one or two, meals with the owners of the house and a small cash reward. For more demanding tourists there are whole ranches. For example, Black Mountain in Colorado, where you will have to not only take care of livestock, but also learn how to ride, manage a lasso, and also the program contains rafting on chasing rivers, fishing, rodeo and other cowboy entertainment. A week of this vacation will cost an average of 2000 USD.
In Italy, tourists will be offered to work in the vineyards – to collect and process grapes, as well as to participate in the collection of olives. Living conditions are also different: from luxurious villas to simple village houses. Approximately the same story in Spain and in France. Old mills, cheese factories, wineries, wineries, etc. are regularly restored to attract tourists to the farms.
What are you to do there?
As a rule, tourists are offered jobs that do not require special skills and do not constitute a threat to their health. You will harvest, fish, feed and care for animals, participate in process of making wine, cheese, butter, honey and other products. If you wish, you can feed and shear sheep – everyone can get work in the farm.
The contract will necessarily indicate the duration of the working day. As a rule, it does not happen longer than 6 hours, and this is on condition that you do not pay for lodging and meals. If you pay rent, then most likely, you will need to work only 4 hours or less.
Where can you apply?
Agritourism has become quite a popular form of recreation in recent years, so this trend was picked up by travel agencies and began to organize tours to farms. Firms provide visa support, organize leisure and accommodate you in any conditions, up to a private villa, but suck kind of vacation is no longer called adventure.
In the world there are many organizations that are committed to sending tired citizens to work in the fresh air, and working hands are found to thankful farmers.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (website) is the most popular organization in the field of voluntary agro-tourism. Go to the site, fill out a form, pay a fee in the amount of 40-55 USD and you are entered into the database and provide several farms, where you are ready to take. It remains only to choose the most suitable farm, to arrange with the owner on the terms and conditions, and hit the road. Usually you don’t need to pay more for anything – a farmer will provide you with a roof over your head and, of course, food. WWOOF works in 53 countries, it is always impossible to find nothing interesting.
It is also a worldwide organization, the scheme of participation is the same as in WWOOF, but unlike it, here you can work not only in farms, but also in schools, orphanages, churches and other organizations that need the help of additional workers. It is also a Web site.
Kibbutz is an agricultural commune in Israel. There is always a lot of work here, and there is a catastrophic lack of hands. Constantly need to harvest, milk the cows, care for the cattle and so on. Visitors can sometimes get the most “dirty” work, like washing dishes, but this is quite possible to agree.
Russia also has its own organization of recreation (and labor) on farms. At the moment, most of the proposals are houses for rent in different parts of the country, but among them there are people who offer to live on a real farm and teach them to milk the goats or to care for the bees.