Nairobi, 30 October 2009 - Olympic champion sprinter Usain Bolt took a break from the track on Friday to launch the Zeitz Foundation's Long Run Initiative, which aims to create and support ecotourism projects around the world.
The Long Run Initiative's pilot project in Kenya is a 50,000 acre solar and wind-powered conservancy in the Rift Valley region with a negligible carbon footprint.
"Although I am known for running short distances, I want to inspire others to join me in the long run. Anything worth doing is worth striving for and the future of our planet is the ultimate cause", said Bolt, the Zeitz Foundation's Cultural Ambassador.
Speaking at the organization's press launch in Nairobi, Zeitz Programme Director, Liz Rihoy, said she was hopeful that the project will be a driver of green growth in the region by creating a model for using tourism to promote the protection of natural habitats.
Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister, Moses Wetangula, and World Indoor Hurdles Record Holder, Colin Jackson, were among the dignitaries who showed up in force to support the event.
According to Jochen Zeitz, founder of the Zeitz Foundation, the 2009 film "Home" on the state of the planet, by UNEP Goodwill Ambassador and renowned French filmmaker, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, was the main inspiration for the project. "The stunning depiction of the workings of the planet demonstrates that we can all make a contribution to a sustainable world," he said.
Besides Kenya, the Long Run Initiative will launch Ecotourism projects in Brazil, Tanzania, Costa Rica, Indonesia, New Zealand, Sweden and Namibia. The projects are expected to contribute to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage in these countries.
Ecotourism is of special interest to UNEP for its impact on conservation, sustainability, and biological diversity.
As a development tool, ecotourism advance the basic goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity by strengthening protected area management and increasing the value of ecosystems and wildlife. Ecotourism projects also offer a sustainable approach to conservation by helping generate income, jobs and business opportunities, benefiting businesses and local communities.