Conserving the Sinharaja Rainforest through Sustainable Ecotourism


Conserving the Sinharaja Rainforest through Sustainable Ecotourism

Sinharaja Forest Reserve is Sri Lanka’s only remaining primary tropical rainforest and home to the country’s highest concentration of endemic species of plants and animals, several of which are rare or endangered. Designated both a UNESCO Biosphere and World Heritage Site, the forest reserve’s health is critical to the country’s ecotourism industry. Sustainable ecotourism can accelerate economic growth through increased foreign exchange, employment, and business opportunities, and help countries reach development objectives while protecting their natural resources.

When COVID-19 hit, international tourism to Sinharaja came to a halt and those working in the sector suffered huge financial losses. While tourism across the globe steadily increases, Sri Lanka’s tourism industry continues to struggle as it grapples with an ongoing economic crisis and supply chain disruptions.

To help protect the Sinharaja’s fragile ecosystem and promote the economic vitality of its natural resources, the USAID CATALYZE Public Sector Development (PSD) Activity provided a grant to The Rainforest Ecolodge, which borders Sinharaja. USAID support provided training to 40 naturalists and eco-guides of the Rainforest Ecolodge, Sri Lanka’s Forest Department, and the Association of Tour Guides. Training included courses on nature interpretation, conservation, client handling, safety and first aid, and soft skills. The USAID grant also enabled the Ecolodge to provide new birdwatching and butterfly observation platforms, improve nature trails to increase visitors’ experience, and promote its attractions to more national and international visitors.

The Rainforest Ecolodge prides itself as the only hotel to be awarded the LEED Platinum award in Sri Lanka. USAID, in 2006, supported the design and management of the Ecolodge according to best environment and energy practices, using eco-friendly material with minimum disturbance to the natural habitat. The Rainforest Ecolodge was opened to the public in January 2012 and awarded the Wild Forest Award in 2013 for its efforts in conserving energy and preserving the ecological balance around the property.

USAID CATALYZE is proud of its contribution to fostering inclusive and sustainable economic growth of Sri Lanka’s micro-, small-, and medium-sized businesses in high-growth sectors, such as sustainable tourism, technology, and the commercial care industry.

Visit the USAID CATALYZE PSD page for more information.


USAID CATALYZE, implemented by Palladium, is an 8-year program designed to mobilize $2 billion in private capital for development impact, especially in underserved social sectors and frontier markets across the globe, complemented by a cross-cutting inclusion of gender-lens investing. CATALYZE supports blended finance solutions working with local and international businesses and investors to explore and find commercially-viable opportunities and approaches to creating jobs, developing sustainable social services, tightening and rationalizing supply chains, and advancing inclusive growth. We work across 28 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean, with 190 partners, including financial institutions, business advisory service providers, anchor firms, and job trainers.


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