Mountain Resident’s Livelihoods: Adaptation Strategies in the Swiftly Progressing ‘Weather’ of Tourism in Protected Areas

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Protected Areas (PA) play a pivotal role in tourism development, which in itself creates vital economic opportunities for local communities in terms of promoting alternative livelihoods. Importantly, in most mountain regions worldwide, locals have limited possibilities to generate income; therefore, delivering mountain PAs as sustainable tourism destinations are seen as a source of employment and additional economic benefits. It appears straightforward, but protected areas may also trigger disorganization in traditional economic performances of local residents, living in or at the edge of PA. Now that significant inroads are made in the development of PAs globally, Georgia as a country with transition economy joins this international movement. Remarkably, the data collected within the protected areas of Georgia, reveals the rapid increase in the coverage of PA and the number of visitors. In the paper, which is based upon data collected during the scientific research project “Transformation of livelihood practices in rural settlements located at the edge of protected areas in Georgia”, great emphasis is placed on empirical information analysis gathered through the triangulation method (interviews) and sustainable livelihood concept in Adjara (south-west Georgia). Selected research areas are located close to newly-established (2012) Machakhela National Park. The collected qualitative information will be analyzed using a combination of type building and ‘quantitizing’ approaches through CAQDA software. The paper delves into the process of how global phenomenon, namely expansion of tourism and PAs shape livelihood practices of local mountain residents in Georgia. Importantly, the study sheds the light of the ongoing transformation pathways and its impact on the society in transition. On the one hand, restriction of the traditional livelihood practice accelerated the short-term out-migration (rural to urban). On the other hand, difference in the owned capital cause inequality during the adaptation process of the new livelihood strategy (guesthouses).
Livelihood, Inequality, Transformation, Mountain, Protected areas