Mbabane: The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Country Office has committed itself to continue supporting government and traditional leaders in facilitating cultural tourism product development and marketing.
UNDP Resident Representative Onesimus Muhwezi disclosed this during the workshop for Chiefs and Members of Parliament held in the Shiselweni Region by Eswatini Tourism Authority (ETA).
ETA has launched a series of workshops to ensure that tourism contributes to community development, in line with the World Tourism Day 2020 theme, “Tourism and Rural Development.”
Over the last five years, UNDP in partnership with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has invested about E77 million towards strengthening national protected areas including development of ecotourism and conservation infrastructure. Five ecotourism facilities were renovated and upgraded as part of infrastructure development. The beneficiaries were Shewula, Mhlumeni, Khopho, Khelekhele and Mahamba Gorge.
Muhwezi said through the UNDP sustainable and inclusive growth portfolio of the 2021-2025 country programme, there is an opportunity to develop partnerships to support inclusive tourism development as an engine for economic growth and culture preservation.
“In addition with the recently established UNDP-GEF small grants programme. We hope to explore and expand these partnerships with other development partners such as Africa Wildlife Foundation and the European Union (EU),” he said.
Muhwezi said UNDP supports tourism because the sector is one of the world’s most important economic sectors. The sector employs one in every 20 people in Sub Saharan Africa and provides livelihoods to hundreds of millions more, especially women and young people.
He said tourism also allows people to experience some of the world’s cultural and natural riches and brings people closer to each other. He said it was gratifying to see efforts being made by government through ETA and Eswatini National Trust Commission in promoting domestic tourism through various initiatives.
“In societies with strong culture such as Eswatini, sustainable natural resource management is driven by the beliefs and behaviors of human communities and local cultures are strengthened by their intimate connections to the natural environment that sustains them,” he said.