GornoAltaisk, Moscow Citi Foundation and the WWF summed up the results of their joint program “Development of Eco-Tourism in the Altai Mountains and Western Tuva.” The program aimed to provide the local population with training on the basics of entrepreneurship and provide microloans for the development of businesses with a strong nature preservation component (ecotourism in the habitat of the argali mountain sheep and snow leopard, production of souvenirs and products made of felt, improvement of livestock quality, etc.).
In the first half of 2012, more than 30 seminars and classes were held on the basics of business development, environmental and rural tourism, with more than 700 local residents taking part in the Altai Republic. More than 200 people received individual consultations from experts in ecotourism and financial management in the tourism business.
In total, 92 applications were received for the microloan competition, from which 40 projects were supported. The total amount of all interest-free loans issued exceeded 1.5 million rubles. The process of gathering applications for the interest-free loan competition in Tuva was wrapped up in early September.
Journalists from Europe, America, Russia and Asia visited the districts and villages that participated in the program this year. An exhibition of projects took place in Inya, where villagers presented their achievements in the organization of “green” homes, the production of souvenirs based on local handicrafts, the creation of village hotels, organization of food services and excursions. Journalists appreciated the diversity of souvenir products based on the traditional arts and crafts of the Altai and enjoyed a presentation of a unique collection of clothing made of felt created by Altai masters. They were also treated to a performance of the renowned throat singing of the Altai people.
The program began in 2011. During the first stage, 580 people completed the training course and 150 of them subsequently participated in a business plan contest. Thirty business plans were then chosen for financing in the form of micro-grants totaling 1.3 million rubles.
The development of green tourism was chosen as a priority focus for the program for rural residents of the Altai Mountains as this is perhaps the most promising area for economic development. Taking into account the high level of unemployment in the Altai Republic, the development of rural (green) tourism in the Altai Mountains is often the only source of income for local people. Residents are counting on making a living from their services in the organization of green guest houses, excursions, arts and craft studios, transportation and horse rentals, ethno-shops and museums – what they can do by putting their hands and minds to work. Such efforts do not require major investments, but they must be done well and be underpinned by good ideas.
The development of eco and rural tourism in the Ulagansky district is gaining speed with each passing year. The renowned Katu-Yaryk Pass in the Altai Mountains can see over 100 passenger vehicles with tourists en route to the Chulyshman Valley every day. This area is located within the zone of cooperation of the Altai Biosphere Preserve and the Ak Chlosha Nature Park was recently established here. Evgeny Konushev, a resident of the village of Ulagan, proposed to organize an ecotourism stopover site. The idea caught the attention of the program coordinators as this makes it possible to maintain order and keep the area clean as well as to provide tourists with various services – sampling local cuisine, purchasing souvenirs and receiving comprehensive information about tourist routes in the Chulyshman Valley. Over the course of the short summer season at Katu-Yaryk Pass, Evgeny built a traditional Altai ‘ail’ house, which in the future will serve as an ecotourism stopover.
“Our village of Tyungur has always been visited by tourists and the main issue for them of course is food. I built my own café in the village, prepare traditional Altai dishes and organize horse rentals. For a long time I had considered the organization of guest houses and setting up a parking lot, but didn’t have enough money for it. After learning about program in support of rural tourism in our district, I decided to participate in the contest and received money for setting up stops on the tourist route. I bought construction materials using the money. I think that now we can provide proper recreation services for tourists. The program became a new starting point for my business.”
More about the program and results from 2011
The uniqueness of the program is its environmental conservation component. Experts from Citi Foundation and the WWF hope that preserving nature by raising the standard of living of local residents through the development of entrepreneurship will steer them away from poaching and unsustainable harvesting of natural resource. Such environmental conservation methods have been successfully used in many countries throughout the world.
Analysis of the results from the 2011 program has shown that the 30 programs that received support have proven to be sustainable; new jobs were created; the total value of goods and services produced and rendered by participants of the program in September through to December 2011 alone totaled 751,000 rubles. Through the sale of their products participants received approximately 300,000 in additional income.
The amazingly rich flora and fauna, landscape, cultural and historical diversity create a strong draw for tourists to the Altai Republic. In the summer of 2012, tourist traffic to the region increased by 12 percent (1.35 million visits), and the local government predicts this number to double by 2020. Considering the lack of industrial potential and the pressing need to preserve the pristine nature of the region, ecotourism is considered the most promising way to improve the standards of living of residents, more than 90 percent of whom reside in rural areas.
The Altai Republic has a population of over 200,000 people, the majority of which are engaged in animal husbandry and live and work in the Altai Mountains and steppe. One of the biggest problems impeding the development of remote Russian regions such as Altai is unemployment, which in some villages in the region reaches 90 percent. As a result, the standards of living for rural residents are very low, and the income of many herder families is only $1,000-2,000 a year. These factors contribute to the proliferation of poaching and the trade of plants and animals, which directly threatens the region's biodiversity. This is why to ensure the protection of Altai's unique natural wildlife standards of living of rural communities should be improved and alternative opportunities for the local population to generate income are needed.
The Altai Republic has a unique landscape and biological and cultural diversity: more than 2,000 plant species, over 80 animal species and in excess of 350 birds species can be found in the republic as well as a whole host of historical and cultural monuments. In the Altai Mountains there are two biosphere reserves, one national park, five natural parks and two nature reserves. More than 20 percent of the republic is environmentally protected land. The republic also boasts the Golden Mountains of Altai, a UNESCO world heritage site. The Altai Mountains are home to the world's largest populations of snow leopards and Altai mountain sheep (argali), which are both included in Russia's Red Book of rare and endangered wildlife.
Citi, the leading global bank, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citigroup provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services, and wealth management.
Additional information may be found at www.citigroup.com | Twitter: @Citi | YouTube: www.youtube.com/citi | Blog: http://blog.citigroup.com | Facebook: www.facebook.com/citi | LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/citi
World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
World Wildlife Fund (WWF), one of the largest international independent nature preservation organizations unites about 5 million permanent supporters and operates in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop degradation of the planet's environment to achieve harmony between humans and nature. WWF's strategic priorities are preserving the biodiversity of the planet, securing sustainable use of renewable natural resources and advocacy of actions to reduce environmental pollution and wasteful exploitation of nature.
The Citi Foundation
The Citi Foundation provides support to organizations which help people improve their lives, facilitating business development and the well-being of communities throughout the world. The Citi Foundation pays particular attention to programs involving 1) micro-financing and micro-entrepreneurship, promoting financial independence; 2) small and developing business, which positively impacts economic development and creation of new jobs; 3) education for the personal and professional success of young people; 4) financial education, which helps people make responsible financial decisions; and 5) protection of the environment with a focus on supporting sustainable businesses, which creating jobs and facilitate economic growth while caring for the environment. For more information, see the Citi Foundation website: www.citigroupfoundation.org.
ZAO Citibank, a full subsidiary of Citi in Russia, when it became one of the first banks with foreign capital to enter the Russian market when it first set up its office in the country in 1992. Citibank has since grown its business to be among the country's largest banks offering a full range of products and services to corporate and consumer customers. At present, the Bank has over 3500 employees; its distribution network includes retail branches, 550 ATMs and representative offices in the largest cities of Russia. Additional information may be found at www.citibank.ru