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Youth-led eco-tourism camp boosts Tafileh's economy

By Camille Dupire - Jan 17,2018 - Last updated at Jan 17,2018

Ahmad Al Saudi, 25, runs the Ein Lahtha eco-tourism camp in Tafileh, along with members of the local community (Photo courtesy of UNDP)

AMMAN — An eco-tourism camp set up in Tafileh with the support of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has helped create job opportunities and increase local communities' income by at least 10 per cent since its establishment.

Part of the Promoting Local Economic Development project (PLEDJ), implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Interior, the Ein Lahtha tourism camp was set up in 2016 in Tafileh, 180km southwest of Amman.

"The PLEDJ project was set up with the aim of contributing to the local economic development of the Tafileh and Ajloun governorates," said UNDP Country Director Sara Ferrer Olivella, noting that "by supporting the development of small tourism services in a region known for its ecological attractions to local visitors and foreign tourists, we have contributed to the empowerment of local communities, poverty alleviation and employment opportunities".

Run by Ahmad Al Saudi, 25, with the help of his father, the Ein Lahtha camp provides eco-tourism services in an authentic bedouin setting.

The 10 tents, overlooking the iconic valley, offer visitors a typical Jordanian experience with authentic Bedouin food and drinks prepared by a local woman and catered by youth from the area. 

The Ein Lahtha camp also offers several activities such as hiking trips in the Dana Natural Reserve, giving tourists the chance to discover the area's natural wonders and explore various landscapes, according to Ahmad.

"This project provided many work opportunities, for me and my father first of all, but also for my brothers who help with the business operations," the camp manager explained, adding that three other young Jordanians are working as waiters and caterers for the visitors.

The young man, who underwent a business and soft skills training course provided by the PLEDJ, also met with a professional trainer, who taught him how to handle the camp.

"The expert showed me how to create a reservations’ system and gave me valuable advice on how to run the place the right way,” Ahmad recalled, noting that the camp has helped improve the well-being of his family significantly and has increased the household income by at least 10 per cent.

The Ein Lahtha camp also supports local producers as all ingredients used at the camp, which can host up to 100 people, come from local suppliers, according to the camp manager.

The camp, which has been operational since 2016, has hosted many local and international guests, in addition to holding several cultural events in cooperation with local institutions.

"This is one of my favourite places in Jordan," said Caroline Brown, an American tourist who stayed at the camp last summer, adding, "it is entirely run by locals who know all the secret stories of the area and provide you with a friendly, caring atmosphere in a stunning setting".

"The project is becoming a new landmark in the area, and its founder has become a well-known figure in Tafileh," the UNDP country director explained, noting that Ahmad was recently elected as a member of the national decentralisation committee of Tafileh.

Ahmad is now working to partner with tourism companies to arrange regular touristic trips to the camp. He is also thinking of setting up a leisure space for the local community and a glass restaurant which would be directly overlooking Dana Reserve. 

“People will enjoy their food in front of this splendid view of Dana,” the young man said, hopeful.

 

Since its launch, the PLEDJ, which is funded by the EU delegation in Jordan, has offered small grants to support more than 46 small-scale projects in the field of food processing and tourism, contributing to the creation of around 130 employment opportunities, according to the UNDP website.

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