KuzeyDoga Society’s vision is to study, promote, and protect biocultural diversity by emphasizing community-based conservation and ecotourism, mutual learning and constant dialogue with local people while building the capacity of local youth as creative, open-minded, well-rounded, and effective conservationists trained scientifically, open to traditional knowledge, and sensitive to local needs.
There is local, regional, and national interest in our community-based conservation, biocultural tourism, education, research, and capacity-building efforts in Kars and Igdir, particularly from students and local people who are open to innovative approaches that empower, educate, and benefit them in various ways. We emphasize working with local people, benefit from their traditional knowledge and other insights, meet with them constantly to get their feedback, and lobby continuously so that they will receive training, employment and other benefits associated with conservation and biocultural tourism. Our learning experience in Kars has transformed our vision from individual projects to a universal educational framework that is based on core principles that can be applied to any combination of world region, focal stakeholder group, and biocultural issue of interest and inspire others around the world.
Establishing northeastern Turkey as a center of biocultural tourism
Collaborators: Hasna Foundation, Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Kars Governship
-Establish the region as a key destination for biocultural tourism
-Train local students in the art and science of natural history guiding
-Build capacity in local people to host and guide national and international visitors
We have produced hundreds of publications on the biocultural diversity of Kars, Igdir, Ardahan, and the rest of northeast Turkey, including posters, calendars, newspaper and magazine articles, radio interviews, TV programs, and documentaries. Most of these can be seen on our website (www.kuzeydoga.org
) under Media and Galleries.
We will continue to promote the region as a top biocultural tourism destination among national and international circles and will continue to involve local people in our bird study program so that they can receive training to become part-time nature guides. In addition, Kars also offers various opportunities for other types of wildlife tourism that will be promoted through our work with plants, birds, mammals, and ecosystems. We will continue to promote outdoor activities in Kars, as well as to encourage and assist local people to develop outdoor trips for Kars visitors.
With the support of the Kars and Igdir governors, KuzeyDoga has renovated two government buildings in Kuyucuk (Kars) and Yukari Ciyrikli (Igdir) villages to serve as guesthouses with hot water and flush toilet for visiting nature enthusiasts. This means that visitors stay in the villages and spend income locally, rather than staying in Kars and bypassing the villages. KuzeyDoga does not receive any funding from channeling visitors to these villages, and donates its time and finds local participants for this project’s capacity-building programs, such as the small business and microcredit management course for village women we offered in 2010 and 2011 with the support of HasNa Foundation. This capacity-building is critical for local people to be able to host and benefit from visitors interested in their biocultural heritage.
We will continue to promote Kars, Igdir, Ardahan and Agri as biocultural tourism destinations. One of our biggest successes in this regard was our applying with Kuyucuk and winning the first place in Turkey in the 2009 European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) competition of the European Council:
2009’s theme was Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas. We applied with Lake Kuyucuk Wildlife Reserve and surpassed 55 other candidates in Turkey, many better-known and better-financed than us. Because Kuyucuk is too small to be promoted as a destination on its own, the Turkey Ministry of Tourism and Culture chose Kars and Lake Kuyucuk to be Turkey’s 2009 European Destination of Excellence. Now, Kars is also promoted throughout Europe as a destination of excellence for sustainable nature tourism.
There is no financial award for being chosen an EDEN site and this simply means more work for us at KuzeyDoga, as we are now the Kars contact for EDEN. However, this also means that KuzeyDoga is now part of the EDEN network and an EDEN representative for Turkey. As such, the EDEN network pays the expenses of one KuzeyDoga staff every year to participate in the yearly EDEN summit. This is a big advantage for promoting sustainable tourism in our focal areas and also learning about the best, most recent and low impact practices of sustainable tourism.
Recently new project to establish a visitor center at Lake Kuyucuk, to be carried out by Arpaçay Köylere Hizmet Götürme Birliği and KuzeyDoga Society has been accepted. The project aims to establish a visitor and education center in the village of Kuyucuk. The center will provide accommodation and food facilities and aims to employ local village women for different type of services. The project will launch in January 1, 2012. The project will be funded by the local development agency SERKA.