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KEEPING THE PEOPLE IN THE PARKS: A CASE STUDY FROM GUATEMALA

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Abstract

Ecotourism is seen as a mechanism by which environmental conservation can be promoted and attained. Nevertheless, nature conservation NGOs do not really understand that ecotourism has unforeseen consequences. Anthropologists can be good mediators between the conservation NGOs and the communities that are the targets of their ecotourism projects. This paper describes a case study in which the authors were indirectly consultants for The Nature Conservancy in Guatemala and the manner in which they served as a social conscience for the NGO. The authors also served as assistants in developing a collaborative network for tourism projects that have had direct benefits both in the short run and in the long run for the communities participating in those projects. The conclusion drawn from the case study is that applied anthropologists can play a significant role in mitigating the negative economic effects of conservation projects that are designed mainly to help wildlife rather than people. These anthropologists may also have a role in helping local communities benefit from the ecotourism development efforts of nature conservation-oriented NGOs, which are often found as part of the requirements for receiving funding from their donors.

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