Restoring the Balance

A tribal community in Nagaland discovers a way to supplement their income while protecting and conserving their heritage
Named after the river flowing alongside, Dzüleke village is a picturesque farming village nestled between evergreen mountains in Kohima district, Nagaland. It is home to about 30 Angami Naga households that dot the lush landscape. Traditionally a hunting community, the villagers in Dzuleke banned all hunting activities in the year 1999 to ensure that the wildlife in the area is conserved for generations to come. Their conservation efforts have led to the resurgence of a wide variety of flora and fauna that thrives in abundance.
The village was already receiving a regular stream of visitors comprising of local researchers and Indian and foreign scientists as well as nature lovers. However, as the community had no resources nor knowledge on how to manage the tourism activities and was not able to reap benefit from promoting their village as an eco-destination.
In the year 2014, NEIDA identified Dzüleke Eco-Tourism Board (DETB) as a partner while looking at various options to promote sustainable conservation initiatives in Nagaland. NEIDA’s aim was two-fold: ensuring the local community benefits from tourism while, at the same time, preserving the natural and cultural heritage of the region.
NIEDA decided to follow a structured process for capacity building, given that it was important to train the locals to handle the demands of tourism. To cope with the influx of tourists, homeowners were given training in setting up home stays. The training included hospitality management, housekeeping, English classes, cooking, workshops on sanitation and basic accounting.

One of NIEDA’s goals was to ensure that the project became self-sustaining. Care was taken to ensure that each participating family benefited equally from Dzüleke’s growth. Working with the community, NEIDA encouraged DETB to set up the Dzüleke Development Fund. A tenth of all income from tourism-related activities goes into this fund, thus creating a sustainable model for community development.

With a regular influx of visitors, the local community was soon engaged in hosting tourists. Zevino, a homestay owner, is happy that by renting out one room to tourists, she earned an additional income of Rs. 3,500 per month on an average. Her primary source of income is from agriculture, which sometimes fell short of meeting her family’s needs. This additional income has been a huge relief.

Tourism is a seasonal activity, however, and agriculture remains the villagers’ mainstay. The goal of the community-based eco-tourism project in Dzüleke is to sustain the community’s conservation efforts by offering guests an opportunity to experience true Naga rural life, while at the same time, enabling the community to supplement their income.

Ecotourism has provided a new lease of life to this tiny community in the hills, which now plays host to visitors from around the world.

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