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Minority Cultural Experience

A sustainable tourism model

  • With the recent changes in the national forest law and growing numbers of red book agreements, Ethnic Minority communities in Vietnam are increasingly regaining ownership of their traditional lands. CIRUM’s two decades of advocacy and mediation on behalf of these marginalised communities has delivered outcomes around the country, from Lao Cai in the north to Kon Tum in the Central Highlands.
    However, the economic development trajectory of Vietnam’s uplands is still dominated by dams, regional transport infrastructure and, increasingly, unsustainable mass tourism which increases inequality and in which local people play only a peripheral role. Now that Ethnic Minority communities are increasingly obtaining rights over land, the next challenge is to use these rights to deliver meaningful benefits to communities, reducing poverty, reversing environmental degradation and empowering them to take control of their futures.
    Creating alternatives to large resource and tourism developments on traditional lands requires empowering local communities to develop sustainable enterprises using their natural and cultural resources. Well-designed for-purpose businesses can not only create income and jobs for disadvantaged minority people, they can create incentives for people to maintain and protect their culture and lands. By designing and developing social enterprises in partnership with local communities, CIRUM hopes to deliver shared value outcomes that demonstrate alternatives to the top down, large scale development that is being increasingly common in the Mekong region.
    CIRUM has several projects that are demonstrating this new approach. We are working with Y Ty community in the north of Lao Gai province to pilot a sustainable tourism model that provides visitors with a deeper, more authentic alternative to the mass tourism development in neighbouring Sapa. We are also working with the Red Dao community of Sai Duan to develop herbal baths, with the construction of the traditional bathhouse and homestay almost complete. Once training, marketing and management arrangements are in place, the community is hoping to officially launch the herbal baths community enterprise before the end of the year.
    To support this work, the Australian Volunteer Program has placed a Social Enterprise Development Advisor, James Pilkington, with the organisation. James is supporting the successful development and launch of these projects, and building a “CIRUM approach” to community enterprise development from identifying which community assets should be used to develop the business to successful pilot and scale up.
    The goal is for CIRUM to be able to work with Ethnic Minority communities all the way from obtaining rights over their lands to seeing concrete benefits community-led development, and in doing so, creating a more sustainable, equitable and prosperous Vietnam.