Ecotourism and Sustainable Development of Forests and Forest Villagers in Turkey

Gülzade Kahveci[1], Kenan Ok and Ersin Yýlmaz


Lack of social and economic infrastructure in the forest villages leads to social pressure on forest resources, which should be reduced for the sustainable management of forest resources. The local people have the right to live in their environment, but not at the cost of destroying natural resources. Forest planning should take account of the demands of the local people in terms of social needs and forest resources. In particular, opportunities for income-generating activities should be offered to rural people. Ecotourism implementations in suitable forest villages may be the best income-generating activities that are also ecological. Such ecotourism projects should aim for direct and indirect improvement of income levels and living standards of the local people. Reduction of pressures on the natural resources, protection of the ecological balance, cooperation among regions and countries, and acceleration of information and experience exchange between rural and urban people can be ensured by ecotourism project in forests villages.


Aims of the paper are to introduce the ecotourism situation and activities from Turkish Forestry and to discuss, to learn experiences in projects of other countries. In that study, firstly ecotourism understanding of the Turkish foresters and related publics are introduced regarding the relation among ecotourism, sustainable forest management and rural development. Then, expectations of the ecotourism activities are discussed and some projects that are implementing or in formulation stages are explained concerning their aims, activities and constraints.


Understanding the concept of and the issues surrounding the concepts especially ecotourism is essential for successful planning and implementation of the projects.

2.1. Ecotourism

The term was first mentioned in the literature by Kenton Miller in 1978 (Rahemtulla and Wellstead 2001). It was initially used to describe nature-based travel to relatively undisturbed areas with an emphasis on education. However, the concept has developed to a scientifically based approach to the planning, management and development of sustainable tourism products and activities.

Ecotourism is an enlightening, participatory travel experience to environmental, both natural and cultural, that ensures the sustainable use, at an appropriate level, of environmental resources and, whilst producing viable economic opportunities for the tourism industry and host communities, makes the use of these resources through conservation beneficial to all tourism role players. Ecotourism is cultural tourism (a cross cultural experience), nature tourism (assisting with conservation programs), a travel-learn experience (discover how we are coping with modernity), a little bit of soft adventure (just being her an adventure), and benefiting the well being of indigenous people (Anonymous1, 2001).

Specifically, successful ecotourism projects must; effectively promote the preservation entire local ecosystem; be economically viable in order to attract financing and be sustainable; Be well planned, financed, managed and marketed in order to meet the stringent environmental and recreational demands of a true ecotourism development (Anonymous1, 2001).

2.2. Sustainable Development

Sustainability of the forests has been accepted as the main principle of the forestry profession for a long time. At present, especially after Rio Earth Summit in 1992, sustainable development or sustainable resource management has became an attractive idea for resource managers (Warner, 1997). Early in the development of the concept of sustainable development, it was recognized that there was a need to link conservation of resources with the development needs of rural population depended on the resources (Gilmour, 1995).

In this study, sustainability term is used as a concept for decision makers can be used to assess the consequences of their actions on human communities and nature. And, It contains values on social structure, culture, traditions, economic opportunity, and ecosystems and their species. As reported in McCool 1995 for tourism and environment, we accept that concept of sustainability in ecotourism should consider four key challenges: 1- A better understanding of how tourists value and use natural environments; 2- Enhancement of the communities dependent on tourism as an industry; 3- Identification of the social and environmental impact of tourism; and; 4- Implementation of systems to manage these impacts.

2.3. Forest Villagers

Forest resource or ecotourism planning must take many ecological, social and economic variables into account. Social and economic variables consist of the characteristics of forest villagers. According to Turkish Forest Law numbered as 6832, villagers who live within or near forest areas, has legal status as forest villagers and they can get financial and technical support concerning that status by General Directorate of Forest-Rural Relation (ORKOY) and General Directorate of Forestry (GDF) under Ministry of Forestry. In this paper, villagers who has legal status, are defined as forest villagers. They may affected by decisions in ecotourism planning. However, they can also affect the results and implementation of the plans by using their legal rights, lobbying activities etc.


3.1. About Forestry

Forest area in Turkey covers 20199256 million hectares, which corresponds approximately 26 percent of the country surface. However, as a result of destructive utilizations and interventions over centuries, productive forests cover only about 44 percent (8,9 million ha) of total forest area, or 11 percent of the country, and remaining 56 percent (11,3 million ha) carries only degraded or severely degraded unproductive forest cover presently. On the other hand, as a result of great range of climatic and topographical conditions prevailing in the country, forest ecosystems show great diversity (Dogru,1997).

3.2. About forest villages

In Turkey, today 7,6 million forest villagers live at 20104 villages located inside or nearby the forests. There are 7297 villages inside forest and 11851 villages next to forests. Due to their limited land resources as well as lack of alternative sources of income, these communities have traditionally been heavily dependent on utilizations from the forest areas. Forest villagers are the poorest community in Turkey. They take the lowest share from the national income and such public services as health and education (Anonymous2, 2001).

Their sole income source is the forests. Economic activities of villagers are especially based on forestry and timber production. Other income sources consist of the works such as maintenance, operation and protection of these forests, and the right of utilization of these sources. However, such ordered forest works and rights of utilization are far from satisfying their living expenses and needs. Therefore, they apply intensive pressures on the forests by the demolition of forests to gain new arable lands, illegal tree cuttings, using the forests as illegal pastures for animal breeding, and even intentional forest fires to create new business fields.

Scarcity of the employment opportunities without forestry activities, and difficult living conditions force the forest villagers especially young people, to seek alternative jobs locally or to migrate out of the village areas. Result is continuous and rapidly increasing migration rate to large urban centers and increasing problems of irregular urbanization and unemployment.

In order to develop the forest villages, and hence, prevent pressures on forests and rural migrations, ORKÖY was founded under the Ministry of Forestry. This general directorate provides incentive credit facilities and technical support services to expand various income-creating activities such as breeding, poultry, beekeeping, fishing, green houses, carpet weaving, medical and aromatic plant cultures, etc. in the forest villages, but the governmental subsidies remain short, as the resources are scarce and limited (Anonymous2, 2001).

3.3. Swot Analysis for Ecotourism In Turkey

If somebody analyzes the situation of the ecotourism in Turkey, a table as seen in Table 1 may be drawn. Turkey has been living early stages for ecotourism. This situation may be resulted as a strength or weakness. There are many opportunity can be used as ecotourism activity. Natural resources should be utilized in accordance with sustainability principle and the education of these matters should be given to under developed portion of the people.

On the other sides, protective and environmental functions of the forest resources are becoming more then more important functions than timber raw material production of the forests. Forests house rich variety of flora and fauna species, conserve biodiversity of forest ecosystems and genetic diversity of great number of native and endemic species which should play vital environmental and economic roles for the present as well as future generations at local national and even global levels.

Amenity and recreation functions of forest areas have also increasingly gained importance for rapidly urbanizing populations of the country and they are expected become the prime management and utilization objective of the significant forest areas in the near future. Population structure has been changing and share of the population in urban are increasing.

Table 1: Swot Analysis for Ecotourism In Turkey

· Natural and mixed forests which are contain rich biodiversity
· Existence of the tourism facilitators
· Existence of the infrastructure on natural resource
· Authentic and rich cultural structure in forested area
· Labour capacity which has well knowledge needed for ecotourism activities can be employed in ecotourism at local level

· Insufficient experience on natural resource for tourism facilitators
· Low cooperation's among tourism agencies and forest resource managers
· Criteria and planning problems in ecotourism planning concerning its social, cultural and ecological aspects
· Low interest to improve decision models on ecotourism planning
· Low support for ecotourism project in local or governmental level
· Insufficient experience and interest of the forest villagers to jobs out of the timber production

· Growing markets both in Turkey and global manner
· Contemporary advantages concerning geographic position of Turkey
· New job and income possibilities generated by ecotourism
· To improve the awareness on nature conservation in local and cultural level
· New financial sources for protected areas

· increasing of the visitors which are misdirected and uncontrolled to protected areas
· Illegal trade on endemic species
· As a result of missplanned and directed eco-tours, degradation of natural resource and local cultures
· Transformation of the ecotourism from nature friendship activities to new product for market
· Unstability of national market on ecotourism and macroeconomic risks


The term ecotourism is not well known in Turkey. Many mass tourism agencies collect their activities such as trek tour, safari tour or resting in national park under ecotourism title. But, it is arguable to call as ecotourism. However, there are some projects, which can be accepted as well planned and well targeted concerning sustainable management principle. Hereafter, these projects have been introduced briefly.

4.1. Pilot Project for Ecotourism in Forest Villages

Project villages selected which are located in the south part of Turkey. For the project implementation was applied for financial support of European Community. OR-KOOP as applicant plan to realize the project with collaboration of private sector and public administration.

The project aims improvement of the income levels of the people living in Daran, Kocaslý, Dumlugöze by means of the ecotourism application, using their own natural, cultural and historical resources.

The project covers the ecotourism applications aims at improving the socio-economic conditions of the forest villagers of low income level living in the forest villages by means of using their own natural, cultural and historical resources without damaging the natural environment, but letting the villagers know such beauties and resources can provide them a constant income. Introduction of home boarding business by restoring the village houses and the promotion and marketing of the regional home and handicrafts to tourists makes it possible to offer the beauties of natural environment and rural life and various sportive activity facilities to the utilisation of the urban tourists, so that the living standards of regional people could be improved with the protection of natural environment.

4.2. Participatory Activity Selection of Ecotourism Planning: A Case Study of the Cehennemdere Valley, Turkey

The duration of this research project is 2 years. The project owner Institutes are Eastern Mediterranean Forestry Research Institute-Tarsus and Istanbul University, Faculty of Forestry, Department of Forest Economics-Istanbul.

The aim of this research project is to apply the "Analytic Hierarchy Process", which is one of the operations research techniques for solving complex multiple criteria decision problems, for taking decision makers-the public-stakeholders and experts' preferences into account in choosing alternative activities of ecotourism planning for Cehennemdere Valley.

In this research project, assessment forms for determining alternative ecotourism activities and capacity of the region will be prepared and apply to Cehennemdere Valley firstly. So alternative ecotourism activities in study area will be determined. Secondly the representatives of decision makers, the public, stakeholders and experts will be defined and questionnaire forms of Analytic Hierarchy Process technique will be filled by representatives. Thus by using this technique decision maker, the public, stakeholders and experts' preferences will be clarified. So alternative ecotourism activities of the Cehennemdere Valley can be evaluated with respect to judgments made by decision makers, the public, stakeholders and experts.

4.3 Ecotourism in Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management Project in Turkey

Project objective is reported in project document as " to establish effective, intersectoral, participatory planning and sustainable management of protected areas and natural resources at four selected biodiversity conservation demonstration sites and build capacity at the national level to facilitate replication of these activities at priority conservation sites throughout Turkey" (GEF II, 2000).

As seen from objective of the project, GEF II in Turkey is a conservation project. Four sites in different regions are selected for the project. These sites has a significant capacity for ecotourism activities. They have interesting components of the flora and fauna besides ecosystems and also undisturbed areas concerning their local cultural structures.

Project started in 2000 and will be terminated in 2006. Expected benefits of the ecotourism in project is not yet seen. In first two year of the project could realized only inventories. Aim of the inventories is to determine the alternatives, which can be candidate ecotourism activities and clarify social and economic constraints or opportunities. Some specific check lists and questionnaire forms were prepared using the guide books such as (McIntyre. 1993) to implement inventory activities. Also, some social assessment activities were applied in each project sites. As a result of the social assessment, It is seen that local people has labour and hosting facilities, but they used to work based on forest cutting and they don't believe to earn money from ecotourism. Level of the awareness of local people on ecotourism and its benefits is the most important constraint of the project.


As a result of great range of climatic, topographical, cultural, religion and economical conditions prevailing in the country, forest villages show great difference. Because of that all regions and all forest villages are not suitable for ecotourism application. According to relevant surveys, it is essential to interview the villagers firstly and to investigate of the village profile must be conducted for the formulation of the ecotourism project.

If well planned ecotourism projects are implemented, most remarkable change could be seen in the forests. The villagers don't demolish the forests to open cereal-growing fields, as they have enough money to buy cereals from commercial market. They don't breed excessive number of animals, since they earn money from the boarding business. The young people of villages don't migrate to big cities. The improved living standard in villages could be also reflected on the education of young people who could not continue school education due to insufficient income level. The ecotourism covers information and culture exchange. While the urban population learns something from the villagers on nature and farming, they can open newer horizons to the villagers boarding them in their homes.

Ecotourism benefits especially to women. The women meet their urban fellows, learn many things from and establish friendship with them. Female villagers gain a higher self-confidence as a result of such communications. This is a very important development for the country.


The forest resources of Turkey could not be sustainable managed under economic and social pressure of local people. Ecotourism could have positive impacts by changing the structure of the forest use from active to passive forms, by increasing income level and by decreasing illegal exploitation. Natural beauty, historical and cultural attraction offer to urban people on the ecological way by rural people. Both of them drive a profit from and exchange their experience.

In order to develop an effective ecotourism management in Turkey, following suggestion could be carried on:

Thus, the decision makers should take account that such planning, implementing and monitoring process of ecotourism is only for conservation of the natural resources and community well-being.


Anonymous1 2001. Internet- Information papers about ecotourism. www.soc.titech.ac.jp

Anonymous2 2002.ORKOY Year reports. Ministry of Forestry, Turkey

Dogru, M. 1997. Turkey Forestry Sector Review, final version, by World Bank.

GEF II. 2000. Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management Project Document. GEF II, Turkey.

Gilmour, D.A. 1995. Collaborative management of forests for conservation and development. Issues in Forests Conservation. IUCN, Gland.

Mccool, F., S., 1995. Linking Tourism, the Environment, and Concepts of Sustainability: Setting the Stage. USDA For.Ser. Gen.Tech. Report INT-GTR-323

McIntyre, 1993. Sustainable Tourism Development: Guide for Local Planners. WTO. Madrid, Spain.

Rahemtulla, Y.G. Wellstead, A.M. 2001. Ecotoursim: Understanding Expert and Academic Definitions. Northern forestry Cent. Inf. Report NOT-X-380 Canada.

Warner, K. 1997. The vision and role of community forestry in sustainable development. Proceedings of the XI World Forestry Congress, 13-22 October 1997, Volume 5.

[1] Forest engineer, Istanbul University, Faculty of Forestry, Dept. of Forest Economics and GEF II Igneada PAMA Team, Turkey. Email: [email protected][email protected]