NGOs, ecotourism, and community based conservation

Funded by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, 2000-2003

This research project arose out of my PhD, and explored new themes and issues at some of the sites and with some of the Costa Rican based NGOs I was already familiar with. The project had three central objectives: 1) To examine the activities of ENGOs operating in rural Costa Rica, and their roles in promoting, facilitating and sometimes opposing community based conservation (CBC); 2) To investigate the meanings attributed to CBC by the various stakeholders (ENGOs, local people, government representatives) involved in conservation undertakings; 3) To contribute to the understanding of ENGOs as agents of change in rural developing areas.

One of the NGO strategies that became a central focus of this reserach was NGO use of volunteers at their project sites. 'Volunteer ecotourism' is a relatively new and growing phenomenon and raises both possibilities and potential problems in rural developing communities. We explored both the experiences and motives of volunteers, and the meaning of volunteer ecotourism both as a new form of tourism and as a conservation and development intervention (See Campbell and Smith 2005, Campbell and Smith 2006, Gray and Campbell 2007).