The Nô matu i nô firkidja (Our land, our livelihood, in Creole) project has successfully combined ecotourism and agritourism to achieve greater food security for the people of Cacheu, Guinea- Bissau.
Against the backdrop of the sustainable management of forestry resources of the Cacheu Mangroves Natural Park (PNTC) in northwestern Guinea-Bissau, this project has successfully promoted and developed ecotourism and agritourism, paving the way for improved economic and social conditions within local communities.
The project’s main objective is to secure income in villages through locally provided and locally supported tourist services such as walking routes, cycling routes, sea excursions, accommodation and sales of handicrafts, with the main attraction being the unique fauna and flora, natural landscapes and the culture of the communities living within the protected area. Tourism and food security are complementary activities. One of the aspects with the greatest impact in this project is the reclamation of the bolanhas, the traditional rice paddy fields which use flooding for production. Rice is the most important staple food in the region and these fields are also an attraction for visitors.
Food security for local communities is often threatened by a lack of capital for investment in farm machinery. Ecotourism is a source of income that allows investment in the bolanhas, through irrigation equipment and acquisition of appropriate seed varieties.
To support the production and marketing of non-wood forest products, the project has five key aims: preserving the Manjaco people’s weaving tradition which uses natural dyes, sea salt, mangrove honey, palm oil and natural soaps. Support for the sale of these products also involves developing marketing channels linked with ecotourism activities.
To ensure sustainability and profitability of these services, and to avoid possible imbalances that such services may bring, a three-way management model was created between the community, the ecotourism department of the Institute of Biodiversity and Protected Areas of Guinea-Bissau (IBAP), and private companies interested in using the service.
The management model aims to raise income for the local population, through a community-private partnership, with IBAP acting as a regulator. In this set- up, communities use the structures built by private concerns, which provide accommodation and local jobs through quotas predefined in the agreement. IBAP’s role is to regulate the tourism generated, ensuring that local people genuinely benefit from the economic activity. The community actively participates in shaping this model through its own elected representatives.