Techiman (B/A), Jan. 22, GNA - Mr Joseph Appiah Adjei, Senior Resource Officer of the Sunyani Tourists Board has said that tourism has in recent times been identified as a means of reducing poverty at the community level if well planned and managed in the country.He said this, while delivering a topic on "Eco-Tourism Development in Ghana" at a two-day Eco-Tourism workshop for 50 selected participants made up of farmers, traditional rulers and opinion leaders at Techiman on Thursday.
The workshop with the aim of developing the Forikrom Bonte Caves was organised by the Forikrom Abrono Organic Farming Project (ABROFAP), a community based organisation and sponsored by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grant Programme (SGP) under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Mr Adjei said tourism ranked the fourth largest foreign exchange earner and it was therefore imperative for communities that had been endowed with tourism potentials to ensure proper preservation and conservation of these natural endowments, which had been bequeathed to them by nature and preserved by their ancestors for their benefit. He said the tourism industry had received international recognition as a potential driving force in the socio-economic development of third-world countries among, which Ghana has not been exempted.
Mr Adjei revealed that, the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Tourism is leaving no stone unturned to make sure that tourism becomes the largest foreign exchange earner for the national economy by the year 2007.
He indicated that the purpose of community based Eco-Tourism Project (CBEP), which had already started working from 1996 towards developing environmentally and culturally sensitive and among other things, was to create opportunities for rural communities to earn income, by creating tourism-related jobs through the conservation of local eco-systems and culture and as well as to show the communities of beneficial ways of using community assets.
Mr Adjei said the project had been a collaborative effort between the Nature Conservation Research Centre (NCRC), Ghana Tourist Board (GTB), and United States Peace Corps-Ghana, The Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV-GHANA) and the project communities with funding support from (USAID/CBEP), adding that, 14 communities in Ghana had so far benefited from the project.
He noted that if tourism development was to have any meaningful impact upon the development of the rural area, there was the need to involve people themselves in planning implementation, monitoring and evaluation of tourism projects.
He advised them to form Tourism Management Team (TMT), which should involve the opinion leaders and other important stakeholders, whose main responsibility would be to ensure proper planning and implementation process to make ensure that proposed developments took cognisance of local cultures beliefs and needs.