Community-based Ecotourism and Muong Cultural Identity Reservation
Modern economic development has placed extraordinary pressure on the Muong people, endangering the preservation of their rich culture and traditional lifestyle. However, community-based tourism provides a compromise between the pressure to participate in modern-day capitalism and the conservation of the Muong cultural identity. Such programs were launched in Tu Ne Commune, Tan Lac District and Hoa Binh Province.
Community-based tourism is tourism in which local residents (often rural, poor and economically marginalised) invite tourists to visit their community. This kind of tourism enables the visitor to discover new habitats and wildlife, as well as celebrate and respect the traditional culture of the local people. Tourists are able to experience and participate in the everyday life of the Muong people. The locals benefit from this tourism because it increases their community’s income, while preserving their culture.
The eco-tourism group was set up in Cu Village with 50 members divided into small groups, including a Cooking Group, a Performance Group, a Tour Guide Group, a Weaving Group and a Homestay Group. To support the program, CECAD used funds from ICCO and FPSC to assist the locals to build a 500m2 Muong community house in Cu Village where the tourists can enjoy traditional music, song and dance. This is also the place where community activities, such as the village meetings take place. In the community house, there is a library with more than 200 books of a variety of genres for the locals, especially students who want to learn about other cultures. CECAD also assisted with building bathrooms, replacing the fibro-cement roof on the homestays with a roof made from palm leaves, buying more traditional musical instruments for the Performance Group, acquiring materials for the Weaving Group and introducing the community-based tour to both domestic and foreign tour operators. Since June 2008, 30 tourist groups have visited Tu Ne, including 48 foreigners and 21 Vietnamese.
The Tourism Group in Tu Ne now provides the following services:- Homestays: tourists are invited to swim in a nearby river, plant seeds, pick vegetables, cook and relax in a traditional stilt house- Performances: locals perform traditional music, songs and dances. Guests are invited to join in the bamboo dancing and to learn how to play a musical instrument.- Food: the tourists can enjoy a traditional Muong dish, with vegetables picked from the garden.- Souvenirs: Souvenirs include an assortment of weaving crafts, handmade by the Muong people.CECAD continues to assist the Muong people in developing their community-based tourism. The Muong people live in mountainous areas, which are closed to outsiders, so many are shy when meeting tourists, especially foreigners. Additionally, it has proven difficult to find a Muong representative who is able to act as a tour guide, as well as provide tourists with information about Muong culture and lifestyle. In order to ensure the long-term success of this project, CECAD will help resolve these issues by teaching the Muong people about tourism, as well as promoting their tour options.