Mariscal Sucre - Education for Community-Based Tourism, FINAL REPORT

 

We are happy to announce the completion of our Education for Community-Based Tourism project with the community of Mariscal Sucre. Over the last year, as part of our efforts to enhance access to quality education in rural communities, we conducted a series of workshops and structured dialogues with community representatives. All together there were 14 workshops, 4 structured dialogues and numerous informal encounters*.  Over the course of more than a year, approximately 50% of the community’s 200 members have participated in project activities. The official representatives, or active project participants, included 18 community members. The majority of the participants are women, mostly mothers (and grandmothers) aged 24 to 60, with a few men and adolescents. The chief facilitator of the project was Pachaysana’s Co-Director and Coordinator of Research & Community Development, Belén Noroña. Co-facilitator of the project was Pachaysana Executive Director, Daniel Bryan. Other Pachaysana participating facilitators have included of Juan Kunchikuy and Javier Cevallos.

 

*Informal encounters include the interactions between project facilitators and community members as part of our other ongoing activity with the community of Mariscal

 

Project Objectives

 

The main objective of this educational project was to contribute to community empowerment and awareness, questioning the following.

 

Placing special emphasis on sustainable, community-based and volunteer based tourism:

 

  • How is tourism being understood and run internationally and regionally? 
  • What are the tourism industry’s positive and negative impacts at the local level?
  • What are Mariscal’s strengths, opportunities, threats and weaknesses for future opportunities in developing community based tourism to complement the community’s local economy? 

Project Methodology

 

Pachaysana’s methodology for this project is based on several community-based participatory approaches. In other words, we integrated the community’s participation at the highest level from the beginning to the end of the project. Working with us, Mariscal defined the topics and areas of focus. Through Participatory Action Research, Participatory Planning and Participatory Mapping, among other engaged learning techniques, the community was able to use our team as a guide for collective empowerment. In this way the project belongs to the community as they create, undertake and evaluate all parts of it.

 

For example, participatory mapping (seen here) allows the community to identify problems, both internal ones and those with neighboring communities.

 

Participatory theater methodologies were used in order to better define the local reality and identify practical opportunities for change. The community identified Pachaysana’s use of Theater for Social Change as exceptionally useful, as it connects community processes of analysis with an emotional, physical and practical method of interaction. Often, complex themes are better understood and digested through theater, and it served as a core stage for the learning process.

 

Here we see the community engaging in theater in which they must negotiate with a foreign oil company. 

 

Finally, we continuously implemented visual material (drawing, for example) so the community could more easily communicate their views with regards to the complicated concepts we were exploring. For example we use drawing to explore local views of what poverty and development mean, and as a way to facilitate measurement.  Examples are seen just below.

Project Planning - Growing Together

 

Planning for a project of this sort is never easy, as it must walk a fine line between taking advantage of the expertise of the team (for example, a model for Community Based Tourism had been tested before, at a smaller scale, by Belen Norona when working with other communities in Ecuador and Peru) and encouraging the maximum participation from community members, taking advantage of their rich array of knowledge and experiences. The Pachaysana team members never dictated the education project; rather, the community itself determined the themes based on the initial workshops and discussions. In other words, Pachaysana had to overcome any desire to create a black & white planning guide, at least until the community developed a clear understanding of the scope of the project and their role as owners of the process. 

 

Synopsis of Workshops

 

All the workshops and structured dialogues were organized in the following blocks:

 

  • Using different lenses to make sense of difficult concepts: Poverty, Development, Participation and Community.

  • Community based tourism case studies: Lessons learned

  • Diversifying our economy – A comparison approach

  • Imagining Community Based Tourism in Mariscal

  • Making it happen: Moving toward action

What we learned together

 

Throughout this process we tried to ensure that the community will be able to apply the learning experience and continue with the project on their own in the future. At the same time Pachaysana continuously evaluates the experience so that it serves the enhancement of our knowledge in creating community-based educational models.

 

The community learned of both the potential benefits and pitfalls related to expanding community-based tourism. Clearly there are economic and educational opportunities, but those must be balanced out with the possibility of conflicts between those families who benefit most and those who benefit the least. There was tremendous concern as to how increased tourism could disturb the cohesion within the community and result in grievances among families. The dialogue turned to creating systems that assure sufficient distribution of benefits, such as the creation of policies aimed at including all families in the community, as well as the integration of neighboring communities into the project. Additionally, Mariscal engaged in a detailed dialogue about what is “being sold” and the risks of objectifying traditional cultural life. Activities were thus created to further explore the conflicts between maintaining the local identity while satisfying commercial interests of their potential business partners if they are to continue with this endeavor. To exemplify Marical’s level of awareness, they are concerned how touristic vendors (like travel agencies) present information for marketing purposes including written and photographic material.

 

Pachaysana continues to develop best practices for community-based educational programming, and Mariscal offered excellent suggestions for how to improve our work.  Of note is recognizing the unclear and subjective definition of what we call a reciprocal relationship (NGO and community). To achieve reciprocity, even when all have nothing but “good intentions,” everyone’s interests should be communicated clearly from the start and reiterated throughout the process. This constant communication allows us all to feel the pendulum swinging between both actors and make sure that it is as balanced as possible. 

End Notes

 

What is happening now? Mariscal has decided to continue to pursue the community-based tourism project.  They have requested that Pachaysana stay on as advisers. We are assisting with minimal outreach so that the community can continue with small groups of tourists and practice what we have learned over the course of the project. They are also weighing options regarding potential partners who would assist in the marketing.

 

Finally, it is important to say that this project would not have been possible without the participation of Lucero de Tapia (to right) from the Zanjarajuno Ecological Center, an animal rescue and environmental education center that is considered a part of the community. Lucero played a key role in encouraging community members to join the project as well as organizing the community at the local level.  And very special thanks need to be sent out to Marta Rivera (bottom right) and Roiver Yumba (straightening out paper, bottom right) for volunteering as community based organizers and leaders throughout this time.

To Left: Community expression of Development

 

To Right: Community expression of Poverty

 

© 2014 by The Pachaysana Institute. 

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