Water Access in the Fight Against Poverty: Tourism or Multiple Use of Water Services?

Water Access in the Fight Against Poverty: Tourism or Multiple Use of Water Services?

Diego Azqueta (University of Alcalá, Spain) and Álvaro Montoya (University of Alcalá, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/jsesd.2011100104
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Abstract

Rural poverty in underdeveloped countries is a critical issue. A fair amount of literature exists examining the conditions of pro-poor tourism development, as well as different ways to fight it. However, in some cases, and because of the existence of a limiting factor, a potential incompatibility between tourist development and other strategies can emerge, as well as the need to compare relative efficiency. An example of this potential conflict is the one posed by tourist development and the Multiple Use of Water Services strategy (MUS) to alleviate rural poverty. In this case, the limiting constraint is access to water. This paper analyses the impacts, direct and indirect, on poverty levels, of tourist development and MUS. the authors examine the Quindío Region in Colombia, where the MUS strategy is being implemented and where an ambitious tourist development plan may open social conflict regarding water supply. The results of this analysis shows that, even if the MUS strategy has a greater positive impact on poverty alleviation, in terms of income and employment generated per unit of water, its water footprint, contrary to expectations, is much higher than the one corresponding to the tourist sector. This may jeopardize its future development, calling for a more balanced approach.
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2. Development Of Tourism In El Quindío

In this section both, the Colombian region of El Quindío, as well as the existing development plans for the tourist industry in the Colombian Coffee-Growers Axis (Coffee Axis) will be succinctly described.

2.1 The Quindío Region: Socioeconomic Characteristics

The Department of El Quindío is located in the Central-Western part of Colombia, in the Andean region (Figure 1). The Department, which covers 1.845 Km2, belongs to the so-called Colombian Coffee-Growers Axis (Coffee Axis), and is situated along the Western slope of the Andes Central range, between the 04º04'41” and 04º43'18” latitude North and the 75º23'41” and 75º53'56” longitude West.

Figure 1.

The Quindío region in central Colombia

The economy of the region has been historically highly dependent on coffee and was, therefore, strongly affected by the coffee crisis of the early 1990s. The unemployment rate in the region, for instance, was the highest in the country in the period 2001-2004. In 2008 the rate of unemployment was still at 16.6%, while underemployment accounted for another 33.8% of the active population. In 2006, the Gross Domestic Product per capita for the Department of El Quindío was just below $ 2.500.

Armed conflict is also present in some parts of the region.

The Department of El Quindío, therefore, suffers from severe problems of poverty and unemployment. This situation points to the necessity of changing the economic structure of the region, away from the coffee sector, and it is here where tourism may play an important role.

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