Eco-tourism in Jordan

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In a beautiful modern building on a hill overlooking one of the landmarks of Amman stand the offices of Wild Jordan. The building is functional, modern and fits into the landscape, and it gives you the possibility of learning about all the wild life in Jordan which is unique, to support the work of the organization through the sale of national eco-products. They also have a great café and restaurant.

We had a chance to meet with a dedicated young man, Abdullah Abu Rumman, who told us about this famous and respected organization.

Q : Could you tell us something about your organization.

Wild Jordan is the division of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) responsible for socio-economic projects, including all eco-tourism and handicraft enterprises that link the protection of nature with the improvement of the livelihoods of local communities.

Wild Jordan is an NGO but it has a very unique partnership with the Jordanian Government, because we have an agreement stating that RSCN is responsible for establishing and managing the nature reserves in Jordan. Currently we are managing six natural parks and reserves, and we have another eleven in the pipeline.

In every one of them we have eco-tourism projects and social development projects –– projects for hiking, biking, bird watching and many other things. For instance, we have a Desert Castles Cycling Trip. Another one is the Jordan Rift Valley where we propose many different tours. All of them have a common theme –– helping nature and helping people. In each of the sites we propose accommodation of different kinds, such as bungalows, tents and lodges. So there are many options.

For instance, the Shaumari Wildlife Reserve was set up as a breeding centre for Operation Oryx, introducing the Arabian Oryx into the wild in Jordan and neighboring counties. Another one is the Dana Biosphere Reserve, which also includes the Feynan Eco-lodge, a world class example of ecotourism, protecting critical eco-systems while creating new livelihoods for villages and Bedouin tribes.

Our organization is quite famous, especially in Europe because we have won quite a lot of international awards. Recently in the UK, we were awarded the Guardian Best Ethical Travel Award for 2010 ; the first time such a prestigious award has been given to an enterprise in this region, benchmarking Jordan internationally as having a strong sustainable eco-tourism sector.

We were selected because of this people-centred approach to protected area management that has placed Jordan on the global tourism map. It was first piloted in 1994 in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, through the establishment of a range of tourism facilities, including a campsite, a guesthouse and an eco-lodge. Inspired by the success of the Dana initiative, RSCN has been replicating the Dana model in all of its protected areas, including Mujib, Azraq, and Ajloun nature reserves, providing a series of outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and abseiling to occupy visitors during their visit.

Last year, Wild Jordan generated nearly 1 million Jordanian dinars through ecotourism ; covering approximately 45% of the costs of caring for Jordan’s protected areas ; providing jobs and additional income to close on 3,000 people from poor rural communities ; and attracting over 50,000 new international visitors each year to RSCN sites, making a significant contribution to the national tourism sector.

RSCN was ranked among the country’s top ten local community employers for the year 2010 by the Department of Social Security.

RSCN’s achievements in developing models of sustainable tourism would not have been possible without the support of international donors, especially USAID, the European Union, the Hanns Seidel Foundation, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development and the World Bank (GEF Programs).

RSCN is a non-profit non-governmental organization devoted to the protection and care of Jordan’s wild plants, animals and natural landscapes. RSCN is responsible for the management of Jordan’s nature reserves, which include Dana Biosphere Reserve, Mujib Nature Reserve, Ajloun Forest Reserve, Dibeen Forest Reserve, Azraq Wetland Reserve, Shaumari Wildlife Reserve, and recently established Yarmouk Nature Reserve.

For more information go to : www.rscn.org.jo/

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