A Fresh Start: Asian villages carve out a new life
In 2004, the Wildlife Conservation Society, which credits itself with having saved the American bison a century ago, set up the Tmatboey Ibis Ecotourism Project to lure bird-watchers. During the most recent peak season, November 2008 to May 2009, services provided to bird-watching visitors brought in more than $12,000, a fortune by local standards. About 30% went into a community fund for improving basics like education and plumbing; today, life in Tmatboey has been significantly improved by new wells, water pumps, roads and a new school.
In villages in many parts of Asia, nonprofit groups from around the world are putting into practice that time-worn proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Rather than donating clothes or books, handing out mosquito nets or building schools, they’re bringing money-making enterprises to rural Asian communities. Some involve training in activities such as sewing and bamboo craft; many are tourist-related.