About 18 individuals from States were given an opportunity to get their own Food Handler’s permit from the National Government’s Ministry of Health with the support and assistance from the project called Babeldaob Community Eco-Tour (BCET) sponsored by the Sasagawa Peace Foundation (SPF) from Japan.

Community members from villages in Babeldaob were trained by the Ministry of Health Public Health last Saturday, September 7th, hosted by Ngaraard State’s PAN program. There were nine from Ngaraard, three from Ngatpang and six from Aimeliik and all expenses for the Blue Health Certificate and the Food Handler’s permit were provided by the SPF. The four hour training conducted took place at the Kerradel Conservation Network (KCN) office with lunch including coffee and snacks provided by Ngaraard State villagers.

The BCET project is a project resulted from an idea proposed about three and half years ago of marketing Babeldaob’s site visitation through Eco-tour activities. The project originally included all nine States in Babeldaob in 2016 of training individuals appointed by State Governors to train in Palau and Japan of the concept of an Eco-Tour activity. The overall concept of the project is to entice visitors to Palau to enjoy the scenery of Babeldaob’s natural resources with the generated revenue shared amongst community members.

Activities of the Eco-Tour are touring the forest through jungle paths visiting conservation and cultural sites to include home-stays with lunch and dinners provided by community members such as those that recently received their Food Handler’s permit.  Tour guides as well as story-tellers are also activities of the project as well as fishermen to take the visitors fishing and/or taro patch owners showing visitors the planation farms and the money generated will pay for community members’ services.

BCET activities will commence in October 2019 by hosting SPF Director Chano, the person responsible for funding the project, into touring specific areas in Babeldaob. The project’s website is ready and will open in October with initial BCET customers from Japan and Taiwan to visit Palau from November 2019 to January 2020, courtesy of SPC.

The States currently involved in the Eco-Tour to continue promoting and marketing Eco-Tourism within their own states, with the assistance of the Bureau of Tourism under the Ministry of Natural Resources, Tourism & Environment and other non-profit organizations, are Ngaraard, Ngardmau, Ngatpang and Aimeliik. The four States will share and trained neighboring states to utilize its Natural Resources and cultural heritage if they do so wishes to be a part of the Eco-Tour. The Sasagawa Peace Foundation will continue to assist, especially in the role of promotion and marketing the Babeldaob Community Eco-Tour within Japan and friends from Taiwan.

The definition for Eco-Tourism is defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves education” with an emphasis on enriching personal experiences and environmental awareness within common interpretation that promotes greater understanding and appreciation for nature and the local society through culture and historical sites.

In summary, it is tourism to areas of ecological interest (typically exotic and often threatened natural environments), especially to support conservation efforts and observed endangered environmental surroundings in a controlled manner so as to have the least possible undesirable effect.” Eco-tourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel.

The concept of Eco-Tourism is basically in line with the prospect of the Protected Areas Network (PAN).  However the funding derived from the PAN program stays within the State Government while the revenues generated by the Eco-Tour project are shared amongst community members. (PR)