AN AWARD WHICH MAKES A TELLING DIFFERENCE

Application for the 2017 UIAA Mountain Protection Award (MPA) opens in early March. Embarking on in its fifth year, the MPA is an internationally-recognised forum for projects, companies and initiatives which support sustainable tourist practices in mountain regions. The 2016 Award showcased 23 projects from 19 different countries on five continents, with Mountain Wilderness from France chosen as the winning project.

In 2014, the Pamir Horse Adventure project, a Tajikstan-based community tour operator, received the award as recognition for its outstanding contribution to conservation and tourism development initiatives in the Pamir Mountains.

Some two years on from that success, the UIAA caught up with the project’s founder Aslisho Qurboniev to discuss its progress since 2014.

UIAA: What impact did winning the UIAA Mountain Protection Award have on the Pamir Horse Adventure project?

Aslisho Qurboniev: Winning the 2014 UIAA Mountain Protection award was not something that we expected. By entering the MPA platform, we had aimed to get publicity and recognition and share our practices with other communities. After we were selected as the winners by the UIAA Mountain Protection Commission our confidence was bolstered. Winning the Award gave us a lot of publicity, locally and internationally, both on the relevant mountain protection platforms and in the community-based tourism sector. We made good use of the opportunity to promote our activities and our tourism destinations. We devoted the financial award to sponsoring our community-based tourism activities. The award also enabled us to visit the ITB Berlin (Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin) – the world’s leading travel trade show. Additionally, we used the money to send our local students to study both English and courses for mountain tour guides as well as purchasing some much needed equipment for camping.

UIAA: Why is it important that international initiatives like the UIAA MP Award exist for projects such as your own?

AQ: Platforms such as the UIAA MPA give an opportunity and showcase to local organisations, such as ours, to reach out to the world and share their experience and be rewarded. It encourages local initiatives and helps to start change from grassroots level. If there was more funding and support, many more communities across our region would be encouraged to take an interest in protecting their environment, improve their local infrastructure and develop it. Unfortunately, these opportunities are rare. Most people see no benefit, or reward, in taking part in protecting their environment or participating in community-based initiatives and instead leave the country for labour migration.

UIAA: Do you have any news to share about the current status of the Pamir Horse Adventure project?

AQ: Our community-based Tourism Development and Environment Protection initiative is still active and we are going forward with our initiatives. Most recently we raised 3,500 USD to build local bridges. These bridges are not only used by tourists but are also essential local infrastructure. Building them will make an important contribution to the lives of local people. One such bridge was constructed as new and another one was repaired. Another bigger bridge is also planned to be built this summer, but this is subject to funding from an international NGO in Tajikistan. We are also trying to support local communities and vulnerable individuals by raising donations for them as an active local NGO.

Further details about the Pamir Horse Adventure project can be found on their website: http://www.pamirhorseadventure.com


Video: Pamir Horse Adventure

About the UIAA Mountain Protection Award

The UIAA Mountain Protection Award is open to associations and travel agencies working in the mountain environment who are engaged in at least one of the following activities:

  • Conservation of biodiversity – including plant and animal species
  • Sustainable energy and resource management
  • Sustainable waste management and disposal
  • Adaptation to/mitigation of effects of climate change
  • Protection of the environment through culture and education

Nominees must also demonstrate engagement and collaboration with local communities to develop a culture of ecotourism initiatives which attract and inspire visitors.

The application process opens in early March and details will be communicated shortly beforehand.

For further details please visit the dedicated project area:
http://theuiaa.org/mountain-protection-award/