Community Involvement is one of the most important parts of ECO-tourism.
Is tourism helping the area? Are we sensitive to tourism's effect
on the community? Tourism needs to benefit the local population and culture.
We (Michelle and Andres, the owners of Black Sheep Inn) have lived in the town of Chugchilán since 1993. Some of our employees have been with us since the inn opened. Some of our employees we first met when they were 4 years old. We are invested in this community. This is our home.
Our intent has always been to help Chugchilán prosper, sustainably, by taking advantage of the astounding natural resources that surround this area. We are very proud of the local businesses that have developed since we started our inn. Local drivers, local guides, horse providers, bike rental shops, and more hostels now find a home in Chugchilán.
When political leaders in the area ask us how to improve tourism, our answer is always the same: educate the kids, clean up the streets, provide better communications, roads, sanitation, water and services to the citizens. In short, what's good for the regular community is exactly what's good for tourism.
For over 15 years we have been living in Chugchilán and we are a part of the local
community. Michelle has taught English and Computers in the local high school since
1997. Andres often repairs the town water system and phone lines and has been on the
water committee for 4 years. We have donated computers, phone lines and a copy machine
and to the local school, health clinic, and police station. With the help of a
generous donation, we have subsidized school textbooks and teachers salaries since 2002.
Three local students have received scholarships for continuing education.
Library and Learning Center
One of our most successful projects has been establishing a local Public Library/Computer Learning Center stocked with over 1000 Spanish language books and 8 computers. Students now have a resource for research and investigations. Young children are becoming interested in reading. High school students are getting hands-on experience with computers. British School of Quito has led computer workshops at the library and assisted with technical difficulties. All of these projects have been supported with the help of Black Sheep Inn guest donations.
Black Sheep Inn has sponsored numerous workshops with tech assistance from US Peace Corps Volunteers: family planning, guiding skills in native flora and fauna, guiding ethics, first-aid for hikers, nutrition and women’s health, and knitting. Locally knit crafts are displayed and sold in the lodge and proceeds go directly to the artisans.
Tourism and the Local Economy
We have encouraged community members to participate in the growing local tourism industry by opening hostels and restaurants. We also provided an interest-free loan to a neighbor enabling him to start a horseback riding business. We have organized a tourist transportation cooperative with local vehicle owners. Native Guides take tourists hiking. We now have a musical instrument lending library to help bring traditional Andean Folkloric Music back into the area.
A competent local staff of 9 full-time workers run the Black Sheep Inn. All staff members have been working with us for many years, and have become our ‘family’. In 2000 we offered a continuing adult education program for staff to improve reading, writing and mathematics skills. In 2004, we took the entire staff whale watching on the coast of Ecuador. For some of them it was the first time they had seen the ocean, let alone whales! In 2008 the staff traveled with us to the orient (Amazon area) of Ecuador and to Papallacta Hot Springs.
Being part of the small, very rural community of Chugchilán has been very rewarding and is an integral part of our lives.
Chugchilán - the local village by the Black Sheep Inn
Chugchilán's Recycling Centre has been an initiative of the Black Sheep Inn's since Andres (co-owner of the Black Sheep Inn) was elected to be King of Garbage in Chugchilán in 2006. By working cooperatively with public officials Andres helped purchase a small property to use as a separation facility, tree nursery and mini landfill.
Trash used to be swept weekly in the canyon in front of the local school. Now trash is separated into cardboard, hard plastic, soft plastic, paper, metal and organic. Recyclables are sold and profits go directly to the people who sort the waste. Organic waste has been composted and used to fertilize a public central park in the village.
Local materials, local labor
The Recycling Center is built out of hand made adobe blocks and roofing material salvaged from an old demolished market building. It was built using all local labor. This project helps to maintain a clean and healthy village. Local people are employed and have been trained to do every step of the work involved in recycling. Tourists volunteer on designated clean up days in the village.
The Recycling Center receives organic and inorganic waste from the village of Chugchilán. Over 50% of the waste is composted, 30% separated and sold to local recyclers and approximately 20% goes into a small landfill.
There are 4 separating stations in the village of Chugchilán labeled with signs and images describing how to classify the waste. The vehicle is highly visible (and cute) when transporting waste and it can easily convey important public messages of cleanliness and sanitation to local villagers.
Milestone -- Recycling Collection Vehicle
For WTM World Responsible Tourism Day 2007, the Black Sheep Inn, along with guests and village members, decoratively painted recycling messages on the new 3-wheeled diesel eco recycling vehicle. The 'Tuk-Tuk' vehicle was donated by the local mayor to transport solid waste to the Recycling Center built and established by the Black Sheep Inn. This 'ECO' vehicle has a range of 100 km per gallon. We are investigating the possibility of converting it to bio-diesel.
Before the generous donation of the vehicle to transport the waste, the Black Sheep Inn had been volunteering the use of its pick-up truck. Black Sheep Inn is now in charge of vehicle maintenance. The painting of the 'Tuk-Tuk' vehicle is one small part in the project of community Environmental Education; which will continue in the local schools, more recycling stations will be established, there will be garbage pick-ups at local homes, and a tree nursery will be established using fertilizer from the finished compost.
Milestone -- Tree planting with recycled fertilizer For WTM World Responsible Tourism Day 2008 Black Sheep Inn started planting native trees using organic fertilizer produced from composting village waste. The recycling site now has over 200 trees planted.
For more than 10 years we have been looking at ways to best preserve the unique and beautiful forests of the Iliniza Ecological Reserve. While the Reserve is technically protected wilderness, no effective plans are yet in place to maintain the environment. Please feel free to copy and forward this Proposal for Work to be Done to help The Iliniza Ecological Reserve, Cotopaxi Province, Ecuador, South America.
Proposal for Preserving Iliniza Ecological Reserve
We, Michelle Kirby and Andres Hammerman, have lived in Chugchilán since 1994 and have witnessed the exponential destruction of the Iliniza Ecological Reserve. We can honestly say that of the cloud forest that we first encountered back in 1995, 70% has been destroyed. We would contend that less than 50% of people who are destroying the forest know that they are working within a reserve.
This non-sustainable use of the forest must stop.
We have come up with steps for work within the Iliniza Ecological Reserve. We have never done this type of conservation work before, so it is very likely that we are missing some steps or plans of action. Our objective would be to preserve the forest and provide an alternative way of life for the pioneers who, for economic reasons, are forced to exploit the forest in what is clearly a non-sustainable way. We would be happy to hear advice and experience from you.
Priorities for this conservation program would be community education and economic alternatives. There also must be a number of surveys and research projects started before such conservation efforts can be effective. We need to know what we are dealing with, first hand.
The reserve size is very large- 149,000 hectares (357,600 acres), which means each of the projects are also large. It would be good to start these projects in a small section of the reserve and then expand. This list of projects could be augmented and prioritized differently.
Survey of Property Ownership
It is important to know who has legal rights within the reserve. An in-depth study utilizing information from the Registry of Property surrounding and within the reserve is needed. Interviews of people who live in or near the reserve are necessary. It is important to inform property owners personally and in writing of restrictions that exist concerning their land. It would also be good to know which properties are for sale. This work would necessitate 1-2 people working full time for 2-3 months perhaps with a vehicle for the initial survey. The data collected would need to be updated once a year. The annual update would be less time consuming.
The Iliniza Ecological Reserve was established in December 1996, and still many people who live within the boundaries of the reserve do not know what this "reserve" signifies. Educative programs in the local schools and communities defining the reserve and helping people understand the benefits and regulations of a natural area are long overdue. If one person visited 5-6 schools a week, it would take 2 months to reach to all the schools that are either within the reserve and/or very close to the reserve. It would be great to have a full-time person with materials and the ability to travel from school to school doing educational projects. This work would necessitate 1-2 people with transportation, ongoing.
Currently, there are about 6-8 misplaced signs for the entire 149,000 hectares announcing that one is near the reserve. Posting signs that delineate the boundaries of the reserve is a logical and necessary step. Signs containing the following information: name of the reserve, size of the reserve, local authority, and perhaps a simple list of rules, regulations and restrictions would at least emphasize the existence of the Reserve. Signs are meant to heighten awareness among the local communities that they live and or work in a protected area. This work would necessitate 1-2 people working for 2 months, with vehicle. Signs would also need to be maintained.
The cloud forest is being destroyed by local people due to poor economic conditions. People do not have much of an alternative, and are selling the wood or charcoal in order to feed and clothe their families. Starting sustainable alternative incomes for the local people is extremely important. These alternative projects need to be well organized, thought out, fairly administered, and initially funded. Below is a list of some ideas for alternative income.
-- Collecting Fees from Tourists
-- Setting up a small Shelter/Hotel to receive Tourists within the Cloud Forest
-- Marmalade Production from both Wild Blueberries and Raspberries
-- Wild Herb Production
-- Cooperative of Alpaca Herders
-- Training Locals to be Forest Guides
-- Trail Building
-- Reforestation with Native Tree Species
Wildlife Survey and Study
The main purpose of a reserve is preserve habitat for wildlife. Currently there are at least 5 endangered bird species living within the reserve. It is important to maintain statistics on these animals and to research animal ecology and ecosystems. An ongoing wildlife study and survey is extremely important. The implementation of this survey would provide a base for further research. This work would necessitate1-2 trained people working full time.
Patrols and Controls
Of course in a reserve this size, it will be hard to keep track of what is going on. Some organization needs to check permits, and verify their authenticity, and penalize people who are breaking the law. It is currently illegal to cut trees and take out wood as boards or firewood from the cloud forest. Without patrolling the forest to make sure there is compliance with the established regulations the exploitation continues daily.
We here at the Black Sheep Inn do not know where to turn. Our experience with INEFAN has been nothing more than one big headache. We have worked with Peace Corps Volunteers in hopes of starting education programs, but very little has happened so far. We need support from an experienced organization. How do you save a forest? How do you do so without upsetting the local communities needs and expectations?
We are willing to help in whatever way we can. We can act as a resource for local contacts steering volunteers in the right direction. We could help people find housing. We could keep a library of records and data collected so that there will be continuity in the various studies that are set up. We can help with some of the local transportation, but we cannot provide a vehicle. We could help with making and posting signs, as long as we know where to put them and are authorized to do so. We can provide computer and internet access from the Black Sheep Inn, as long as it is not abused. In short, we are more than willing to help with programs that are set up.
Please let us know if you can provide us with what is necessary to preserve The Iliniza Ecological Reserve.
UPDATE 2001 On October 20th, 2001 we were invited to a meeting with two NGO conservation groups, Jatun Sacha and Proyecto Paramó, and representatives from INEFAN, the Ministry of the Environment and the local Municipal Government of Sigchos. We hope that this is truly a beginning in the process to save this Cloud Forest. Please write to us if you would like an update or would like to help.
UPDATE 2004 Unfortunately, the above meeting produced no results, but we have been working closely with a new Peace Corps volunteer. We have held a number of training workshops for a local guide program. We are planning to put up signs on the upper Paramó portion of the reserve and we have started a small native tree nursery. For more updates see the end of the Cloud Forest Letter.
UPDATE 2009 We have been told that there will be an Iliniza Ecological Reserve office in Sigchos.
Andres Hammerman & Michelle Kirby
The Black Sheep Inn
An Ecologically Friendly Hotel
P.O. Box 05-01-240
Chugchilán, Cotopaxi, Ecuador
Which buzzword would you choose?
Ethical Tourism, Responsible Tourism, Geotourism, Sustainable Tourism, Ecotourism, Green Tourism, Whole Travel Tourism, Organic Holiday Tourism, Community Based Tourism?
They are all very similar. How do you choose?
Many tour agencies and hotels put the prefix ECO or GREEN in front of their name in the hopes of attracting clients. Yet ecotourism can mean different things to different people. We at the Black Sheep Inn feel that as a traveler and tourist you should look for the following facets when visiting ECO sites or ECOLOGICAL operations. We feel that these criteria represent true efforts at being ecological.
|Principles of Ecotourism|
2. Low Impact or "Green" Hotels
4. Meaningful Community Involvement
5. Environmental Education & Interpretation
We have given this same definition to EcuadorExplorer and they also use it on their website.
Conservation takes place on many different levels. It can be in the form of private reserves, native tree reforestation, or supporting an established Ecuadorian Reserve area. Although pristine protected areas are extremely attractive for tourists to visit, it is important to know that the purpose of a protected area is to maintain habitat for flora and fauna, allowing species to exist and thrive without human interference. Whenever visiting a protected area, your visit should be made with minimal impact.
Low Impact and Green Efforts have to do with how a hotel or agency manages its own impact and waste. Ecological management practices include recycling, water and energy conservation, ecological waste systems (such as composting, and gray water systems), and allowing the guest to decide whether to change linens or towels. These simple efforts make a huge difference in the long-term impact of tourism. In nature there is no waste, everything is recycled and used over and over again on the planet. Tourist facilities should have the same "No Waste" practice.
Sustainability means that many of the products consumed at a facility are locally produced. Good examples of sustainability are construction using local materials and methods, organic gardens for onsite food production and using renewable energy resources. Ultimately sustainability means a lifestyle that is in balance, and can easily be maintained in the future. This is especially important when visiting ecologically sensitive areas.
Community Involvement is one of the most important parts of ECO-tourism. Is tourism helping the area? Is the establishment sensitive to its effect on the community? Tourism needs to benefit the local population and culture. Ideally, the community should own the establishment, but if this is not so, the locals that are employed should have non-menial jobs and paid fairly. The community should benefit from the natural and cultural resources that they are willing to conserve and share with visitors/tourists. Ecotourism can be a tool for alleviating poverty.
Environmental Education and Interpretation means that as a guest you leave an ECO-facility having learned something about the environment, the culture, or even new ways of recycling. It is important that the spread of information is clear and relevant. Also look for educational programs that help the community to preserve their environment and culture and further their own education.
We at the Black Sheep Inn hope to help the tourist/traveler as well as the travel provider to better define ECOTOURISM and therefore in the long run, better the planet. Your visit supports the ongoing effort to be ecological. We are still learning new ideas for being ECO-lodge-ical. We have only got one world, so let's care for it!
Black Sheep Inn is an active member of the Ecuadorian Ecotourism Society - Asociacion Ecuatoriana de Ecoturismo (ASEC).
Black Sheep Inn has been ECO-certified by the Ministry of Tourism in conjunction with the Ecuadorian Ecotourism Society (ASEC).
Black Sheep Inn is also a member of the EcoClub S.A. based out of Greece.
For great resources on Ecotourism check out www.planeta.com. The goal behind this website is to create a much-needed public space for the development of conscientious tourism that benefits travelers and locals alike. This award winning site serves as an information clearinghouse and information catalyst. They invite experts to contribute articles and participate in virtual forums. Original articles and links feature the work of communities and individuals who are pursuing holistic development strategies, particularly in ecotourism.
Eco Certification has become a hot topic. We have received Eco-Certification from the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism and the Ecuadorian Ecotourism Society (ASEC) in August 2003. We have complied with over 70% of the technical norm established by the Ecuadorian Government. There are several certifiers around the globe. Ecotourism and green travel are growing rapidly.
Earlier Work on the Principes of Ecotourism
In 2002-2003, we co-authored a white paper with Seven Recommendations for Strengthening Ecotourism in Ecuador." We wrote this collectively online via email and chats with a group called GIFEE (Grupo Internet en Favor del Ecoturismo Ecuatoriano).
|7 recommendations to the Ecuadorian Government|
|1. Use the INTERNET as a policy, management, educational and promotional tool.|
|2. Develop school and continuing EDUCATION programs on ecotourism, nature conservation, and sustainable use.|
|3. Expand CONSERVATION and improve protected areas through scientific and transparent management.|
|4. Improve WASTE MANAGEMENT nationally and in the tourism sector through Reduce, Reuse and Recycle policies and plan for clean sustainable transport.|
|5. Improve access to FINANCING and education for small private and community ecotourism efforts.|
|6. Redesign the Tourism PROMOTION strategy of Ecuador to be imaginative, efficient and sustainable.|
|7. Encourage COOPERATION with and between all stakeholders|
To see the entire document:
In 2003, we presented the 7 Recommendations to our local mayor and counselors. We also gave a PowerPoint presentation at the Catholic University (Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador - PUCE) and another to the Ministry of Tourism about the GIFEE recommendations.