Celebrating International Day of the World’s Indigenous PeoplesAugust 9, 2012
Around the world, some 370 million indigenous people–keepers of unique traditions, custodians of our earth’s biodiversity and representatives of the world’s incredibly diverse citizens–live in 70 countries. In celebration of these distinctive individuals, we’re sharing a few stories about our work with indigenous communities…
Supporting Community Tourism in Ecuador
Community lodges in Ecuador offer travelers a unique vantage point from which to experience the country’s ancient cultures and impressive biodiversity —however, not all community lodges offer the kind of service and comfort that international travelers’ demand.
To help indigenous communities improve their tourism businesses, generate additional income and become more effective environmental stewards, the Rainforest Alliance has been working with the Huaorani Ecolodge, Kapawi Ecolodge, Sani Lodge, Secoya Lodge and Napo Wildlife Center.
In 2011, the Rainforest Alliance arranged for representatives from several international tour operators to visit the lodges. In addition to considering these lodges for inclusion in their catalogues, participants offered suggestions to the lodges’ managers for improving accommodations, such as enhancing the quality of bungalows, cleaning up trails and strengthening guide training.
“We’re open to everything the wholesalers and customers suggest. That’s the key to success in tourism,” observes Jiovanni Rivadeneira, general manager of the Napo Wildlife Center, a lodge managed by the Añangu community.
Twenty-five community members also had the opportunity to participate in an internship hosted by The JW Marriott Hotel Quito, where they learned ways to improve their lodges’ kitchens, restaurants, and housekeeping and maintenance skills.
Finding the Roots of Farming Knowledge
The Rainforest Alliance’s work with farmers around the world often puts us in contact with indigenous communities committed to managing their land in a socially, environmentally and economically friendly manner. Here, Rainforest Alliance trainer and auditor Noah Jackson shares brief impressions garnered from his work with indigenous communities…
“When I think about indigenous people and my work with communities throughout Southeast Asia, it is the knowledge that most often stands out,” Jackson says. “This knowledge is shared, traded, constantly tested and passed down. It’s what will protect farmers – they are the keepers of the secrets of planting good seeds and maintaining crops of wild edibles.”
“Their knowledge is buried within stories, customs and culture. It’s something we all need — it’s fundamental — and it’s one of the many reasons we so value these indigenous people. In addition to their rich history and culture, we need their indigenous knowledge. Here, as in many places, it’s allowing them to grow food and survive in a changing world.”
Recovering from the Ravages of Hurricane Felix
Since 2005, the Rainforest Alliance has been helping communities in Nicaragua’s North Atlantic region to manage their forests sustainably. In the wake of Hurricane Felix—which struck in 2007 and resulted in major ecological damage—we began working to build local businesses and encourage economic recovery in the region. Five years later, 30 communities comprised of more than 2,000 people have benefitted from this work. In addition, seven new forestry cooperatives have been established with smart management plans and alliances with domestic wood product companies.
A key aspect of working in the post-hurricane area: salvaging fallen or damaged timber while promoting the natural regeneration of the forest. Salvage operations are producing saleable commercial wood that provides immediate income for indigenous families while also forestalling the risk of permanent forest loss from fire, pests and conversion to other land uses.
The Rainforest Alliance has also trained the Awas Tigni community in value-added processing, and helped to facilitate the acquisition of small-scale carpentry equipment and a portable sawmill. Now, community members are employed in their own villages, producing pre-sawn boards made of mahogany and other high-demand hardwood species that command higher prices.
With the Rainforest Alliance’s support, Awas Tingni has also developed alliances with buyers and brokers of wood products, including Maderas Preciosas Indígenas e Industriales de Nicaragua S.A., a Nicaraguan wood buyer focused on domestic furniture markets and committed to sustainability.