Ecotourism should empower local people through shared participation, provide income opportunities to stimulate local economy, and have minimal impact on natural resources to conserve local diversity.
Ecotourism allows communities to build economies while protecting natural environments. Local jobs provide income, and controlling the way outsiders experience pristine environments protects them from exploitation. Increasing understanding of and sensitivity to remote locations and cultures encourages sustainable thinking and raises awareness as travelers learn sustainable ways to
support communities outside their own country.
The potential for ecotourism to conserve environments, educate travelers, and sustain vulnerable communities means a positive impact in the fight against both ignorance and poverty.
Having already established eco-lodges with three project partners in three indigenous communities in Latin America, Change for Children’s most recent endeavour is to explore opportunities to further engage local populations in responsible tourism in Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Bolivia.
Casa Verde – Bosawas, Nicaragua
The Casa Verde – the Green House – established in San Andres on the banks of the Coco River in the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve in northeast Nicaragua has provided a humble home away from home for students, volunteers, field staff, and visitors since its construction in 2008 with support from Change for Children. The Casa Verde and its kind hosts have warmly received over 25 organized brigades from Change for Children alone — hanging hammocks, preparing meals, and even providing musical entertainment for soil scientists, teachers, youth, dental professionals, and geologists alike.
The location of the Casa Verde is not only remote, but is also extremely rich in biodiversity. Although the Miskito and Mayagna peoples have lived in this territory for hundreds of years, many of the Bosawas’ 20,000 square kilometres – the largest protected rainforest north of the Amazon and designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1997 – remain largely unexplored.
Change for Children is exploring opportunities to work with the Miskito people to promote responsible travel to this unspoiled natural area where species of birds, plants, and insects abound and where sharing conservation education and knowledge justly nurtures local pride. Increased ecotourism in the area has the potential to sustain the well-being of local people environmentally, socially, and economically in a location where isolation and lack of outside resources have historically contributed to lack of opportunity
Strathcona Lodge – El Pilche, Ecuador
The Strathcona Lodge is an opportunity for the El Pilche community to generate jobs for its people and income into this remote area. In its early stages, the community has prioritized the use of revenue for improving access to healthcare for pregnant women and the elderly and enabling a paid teacher position in the local school.
The El Pilche community, engaged in all aspects of the initiative, stands to benefit economically, cooperatively, and collectively. Collective thinking has already generated community plans for a
future organic garden and medicinal plant nursery.
The Lodge is well-positioned to provide accommodation for volunteers working in indigenous communities on activities such as medical brigades, scientific studies, and permaculture work. As stewards of the 9,200 hectares of primary forest in which they live, the Kichwa people, having first built the Lodge, are now eager to welcome guests and build community.
Albergue Sapecho – Alto Beni, Bolivia
The Albergue Sapecho (Sapecho Hostel), constructed with support from Change for Children in various phases from 2009 to 2014 is located in the small community of Sapecho in north central Bolivia. Originally constructed as a field house for hosting training workshops for women entrepreneurs, the Sapecho Hostel is well-positioned to take on a greater role in stimulating the economy for the Moseten Indigenous peoples in the Alto Beni municipality of Bolivia where traditional lands are being over-exploited by industry and damaging the delicate rainforest ecosystem.
Project partners are now leveraging the amenity and taking advantage of its remote location to promote locally-operated multi-day eco-tours. Visitors are introduced to the local ecological production of organic cocoa, experience the beauty of the Kaka River, and also learn of the intensive water pollution and deforestation caused by irresponsible gold mining companies. While balancing environmental and social awareness with rainforest adventure, ecotourism in Sapecho is allowing communities to build economies without exploiting, altering, or destroying the environment.