Community Ecotourism: The Role of Social Capital and Gender in Community Empowerment

Community-based ecotourism ventures have the potential to reconcile conservation with development by creating positive synergies between tourism, conservation, and rural communities. However, they face numerous challenges such as inequitable benefit sharing, lack of transparency, insufficient investment, or lack of capacity building. It has been hypothesized that high levels of social cohesion, cooperation, and coordination are instrumental in ensuring successful indigenous ecotourism developments. Social capital – constructed upon common norms, trust, and networks – has been proposed as the ‘missing link’ in development and has become a focus for policy, practice, and research in recent years. Additionally, gender issues pertaining to ecotourism’s social capital have received little serious attention from scholars to date but have been suggested as being highly relevant.
I take a comparative case study approach using surveys and interviews to investigate the role that social capital and gender issues play in the success of community-based ecotourism in Ghana. In evaluating the communities’ perceived success of ecotourism at enabling both community empowerment and conservation, I expect to determine whether or no well functioning community ecotourism ventures also have high levels of social capital and gender equity. Drawing on the research results, I will develop a gender-sensitive social capital framework for community ecotourism´s success in Ghana. Recommendations will also be made for the formulation of policies and policy mechanisms that are the most appropriate for encouraging the sustainability of forest resources through ecotourism development as a means of alleviating poverty and mitigating climate change. A better understanding of how to develop successful community ecotourism will represent a step towards achieving sustainable development globally.

Ana Elia Ramon-Hidalgo  →