Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Bordered by ocean on its eastern and western sides, Nicaragua is a country with great natural beauty and resources and a tumultuous sociopolitical history. As a result of tremendous internal strife over the past 30 years, Nicaragua's economy has never fully recovered or experienced the booms that other Central American countries have. While the basic basket of goods for a family of six costs $177 per month, government workers earn on average $41 a month, teachers $62, doctors in public hospitals $100, and agricultural workers $45. Sixty to 65 percent of adults are unemployed, with rates going as high as 85 percent on the Atlantic Coast where Catalina's project has its focus. More than half of all Nicaraguans survive on less than one dollar a day. At present, Nicaragua has more than 80 natural parks, wildlife reserves, and jungles, all currently threatened by timber industry growth. Its neighbor, El Salvador, has lost over 90 percent of its native forests to farming and human use. In the face of these challenges, the local community immediately embraces any project that protects the inhabitants and neighbors of forests. The Nicaraguan Ministry of Tourism concludes that the market for nontraditional tourism is growing, but that few, if any, ecotourism programs currently exist in Nicaragua. This situation is in no way unique to Nicaragua. Throughout Central America, and in much of South America, local communities, governments, and private interests are struggling to generate sustainable sources of income, despite increasing interest in and patronage of projects that raise environmental consciousness. In general, Latin American ecotourism projects involve private land and an observational rather than participatory approach to the environment. Moreover, ecotourism projects are often led by expatriates and discourage direct contact with the local community.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Catalina has designed a program that engages poor Nicaraguan communities in long-term economic development through socially responsible tourism. While ecotourism has become visible in other ecologically rich countries, like neighboring Costa Rica, Nicaragua currently lacks the outside investment necessary to mobilize resources for community improvement. Catalina's Learning in the Community initiative addresses the need both to expose impoverished people to positive, external influences and to increase the developed world's awareness of the most underserved populations' socioeconomic potential. Over the course of a five-day trip, tour groups stay with local families, visit a nature reserve, meet with local leaders, and attend workshops in which they explore different ways to form more permanent relationships with their host communities. The organization's vision transcends ecotourism, providing local people with the business skills needed to build and market tourism enterprises, while engaging visitors in a unique, but otherwise ignored social and natural environment.