The solution is made by and for vulnerable communities residing around or close to Natural and Biosphere reserves in Egypt, more specifically in New Valley (village of Bashandi) and the governorate of South Sinai (St. Catherine), to protect their culture and environment through improved quality of livelihood. The project is aimed to create market demand for creative and cultural art work as well as traditional local agro-food items such as herbs to maintain livelihoods of the communities and meet basic subsistence needs in light of current socio-economic instabilities.
With the support of MAWARED foundation for Sustainable Development which is a collaborative operating platform intended to assist local and vulnerable communities that have unique business ideas and an entrepreneurial vision and CREATE Team, a local group of young designers, which helps local communities to develop products and add innovative techniques and designs, Geo-Tourism has been adopted to assist these communities through the human livelihood approach:
- Re-directing the community away from generic and sporadic activities to foster multidimensional programmatic activities
- Towards integrated and inclusive value chain approach
- Promoting the 2 pronged inter-linked value chain approach:
- Creative industries vs. handy-crafts
- Endorsing sustainability and beyond.
Geo-Tourism trips are utilized as a propelling platform to inclusively engage targeted women and entrepreneurs penetrate markets, access to finance and market their products through 2 tracks:
- Track 1 (out-bound): travelling with Geo- tourists to select destinations such as Cyprus, Lebanon, and other potential Euro-Mediterranean countries of the region.
- Track 2 (in-bound): offering the opportunity to locally sell their products within their communities when Geo- tourists travel to Egypt.
The platform has provided the communities with access to markets that naturally appreciate cultural and traditional food items that needs to upgrade products to be in compliance with tastes and technical requirements of EU markets.
The project efforts have brought changes to communities lives and led to:
- Selling products through an open exhibition with direct sales of products of 1000 women and youth from the communities and income increase by 35%
- First Geo- tourist trip (in-coming): January 14, 2013 trip to Bashandi, New Valley governorate with 74 Geo-Tourists and the Godfather of Geo-Tourism Jonathan Tourtellot
- Second Geo-tourist trip (out-coming): Sept 14, 2013 trip to Cyprus natural reserve with 80 Geo-Tourists including St. Catherine Association for Medicinal and Aromatic Herbs
- Establishing a supply chain and linking women entrepreneurs from St. Catherine, Sinai to market segments in Cyprus full access
- Initiating capacity building twinning programs with the creative and agro industries in Cyprus
- Higher value products have been developed by introducing new production techniques, design of new packaging and new branding campaigns. Product value added increased by more than 60% and prices increased by 50%.
The effort is being shared in knowledge and experience to encourage replication and scalability with similar countries from the South such as Lebanon, Tunisia and Yemen and supported by product quality control practices and experience from North Country Cyprus (Troodos Council) and YPM Business Consulting.
Mawared Foundation (Egypt), CREATE designers Team (Egypt), local communities and local governments, UNIDO, UNESCO, Mayor of Plattres (Cyprus), , Arz El-Choouf Biosphere (Lebanon), Tunisia Ministry of Environment, Biosphere Network (Yemen), Troodos Council (Cyprus) and YPM Business Consulting
Egypt, Fifth Settlement, New Cairo
Mawared Foundation for Sustainable Development
Ms. Sina Bassam Hbous
Founding member and Resource and Community Mobilization Director