TranThi Mai wakes up very early in the morning to prepare for a working dayon which 50 tourists are expected to take trips in coracles.
Asthe chief of the boat tour, her duty is to walk around her fishinghamlet and find enough people to help with the tourists.
Maiand many other of her neighbours who are stay-at-home housewives havelearned what it’s like to have an income on their own.
Since2005, they have worked part-time for the Eco-Tour company in Phuoc Haifishing village located in Cam Thanh Commune in Hoi An, an old coastaltown in the central province of Quang Nam popular with foreign tourists.
The company’s tours have become a hit with visitors,providing local residents with another source of income as the trade infishing products has declined.
“I set up the company with thevision of creating a sustainable business that would preserve andpromote our environment and strong social and cultural values,” owner ofthe company, Tran Van Khoa, known as Jack Tran, said.
Born inthe fishing village, Khoa, who had been working in tourism, said hewanted to establish a company composed entirely of local residents.
He has 23 staff and six boats that can serve 1,500 – 2,000 tourists each month, along with support from local residents.
His eco-tours allow tourists to learn about the daily life offishermen, their families and community by taking a cruise on roundboats on the Thu Bon River.
Tourists travel with localfishermen on the river and enjoy a hands-on experience of castingfishing nets, paddling the uniquely shaped boats, taking part in boatraces and exploring the tranquil water coconut (Nypa palm) bushes thatflank the waterways.
The Nypa palm bushes are part of the Hoi An-Cu Lao Cham Biosphere Reserve.
As the most common plant seen in Cam Thanh Commune, the Nypa palmbushes form a scenic ecosystem in Hoi An, a World Heritage City.
For people in Cam Thanh commune, the water coconut wetlands providefish, palm leaves and a beautiful area for tourism as well as an idealrefuge for boats during heavy storms and typhoons.
However, the Nypa palm wetlands are declining in both quantity and quality.
According to local residents, the wetlands area was substantial until the 1990s, but now only approximately 60ha remain.
The causes of the loss are said to be the unsustainable use of Nypa’s resources.
To protect Nypa palm resources, since April, the Mangroves for theFuture (MFF), a partnership-based initiative promoting investment incoastal eco-systems that support sustainable development, has supported agrant project on the “Sustainable Use of Cam Thanh Nypa Palm Wetlands”.
The project’s implementing agency, the Centre for NaturalResources and Environmental Studies (CRSE), has identified several keyproblems resulting in the degradation of Nypa palms.
The60,000-USD project aims to support local communities of Cam Thanhcommune to use the Nypa palm wetlands in a sustainable way and receiveeconomic benefits at the same time.
The two-year project willinclude activities to raise awareness of the values of the Nypa palmwetlands of stakeholders in the commune.
“The Hoi An Eco-tourcompany’s activities help increase awareness for both local residentsand tourists about the value of mangrove palms,” Nguyen Bich Hien, anMFF expert, told Viet Nam News.
The project will study current ecotourism activities and propose sustainable financing for the area.
“The project will also help train eco-tour guides, facilitating thepartnership and agreement with the community,” Hien added.
Developing, testing and operating a Nypa palm Eco-Tour programme as wellas formulating a tourism strategy for Cam Thanh commune with theparticipation of local community are other targets of the project.
“We are very happy to join the project because we understand thatsustainable development is very important,” said Chau Sang, a formertaxi driver who quit his job a year ago and now works for the Hoi AnEco-Tour company.
“We would like to protect the water coconutwetlands for tourism, but also for sustaining seafood that live underthe water coconut forest. We want to preserve our traditional fishingjobs along with our cultural values,” Sang added.-VNA