Posted on 03 April 2014
Ta Lai Commune is situated in the buffer zone commune of Cat Tien National Park and is home to indigenous ethnic minority groups of the S’tieng and Ma in the Dong Nai Province. This area has a high rate of poverty (795 poor households, 47.43%, Talai commune report 2009). Village 4 of Talai, where the longhouse is built as a traditional house of the local people with support of WWF to provide accommodation for tourism, is seen as the perfect gateway into Cat Tien National Park.
The first stage of the project was to work with the local communities who have a limited understanding and awareness of ecotourism, environment protection, and conservation as well. They heavily depend on forest resources for their livelihood. Engaging these communities in tourism activities proved to be a challenge.
The project conducted a series of training courses for the local people including cooking, guiding, tourism hospitality, business management, and English language classes to equip the locals with relevant tourism skills so that they would be more confident to become actively involved in tourism operation.
In June 2013, the Capheex company, which works in commodity trading, was officially on board for the partnership with the local community. This is to be in close collaboration with the community to operate the Talai longhouse and develop tourism activities in the area. The contract was signed between the two parties with strong support and observation of the management board of Cat Tien National Park and the local government authorities, to provide a firm legal foundation for effective cooperation. Through this initiative, eight local people are now permanent staff working in the longhouse. In addition, other households are involved in making handicraft, weaving and other related services as cooking, guiding, traditional dance performance, etc. All these make it a good opportunity for local people to directly and indirectly become involved in tourism and generate alternative income.
The first priority has been to restore and improve the traditional longhouse and its facilities in order to scale up the tourism development in Talai and Cat Tien National Park.
Recently in March 2014, a big event called Talai trophy was organized to promote ecotourism in Talai in particular and Cat Tien National in general, as well as community engagement and respect for nature and the surrounding environment. The event attracted 66 participants from international organizations and companies, as well as many journalists and media representatives in Ho Chi Minh City. Local government authorities, the board of management of Cat Tien National Park, and local people in particular were all actively involved in supporting this event.
The partnership is also distinguished by a benefit sharing mechanism for which the contribution of 150,000VND per adult tourist and 75,000VND per child, per night, will be remitted on a monthly basis to the Village Development Fund. This fund is managed by the collaborative group in the local community under endorsed regulation and agreement of all members in the community. The fund aims to provide services for the poor, loans for households to develop livelihood activities, and funds for community activities and environment protection.
Ecotourism in Talai has already resulted in significant community impacts. Nearly 70 local people are directly or indirectly involved in tourism activities generating a stable income. This helps improve livelihoods and contributes to reducing forest dependence. The local awareness of ecotourism, environment, and conservation has also been strengthened.