Conscious Tourism: Co-Creating Change in the Peruvian Amazon

Conscious Tourism: Co-Creating Change in the Peruvian Amazon

$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Onsite educative programs with academic framework and hands on community designed activities. First step for developing Geotourism in Upper Amazonian Forests were headwaters originate. Visitors, local students and rural actors build together low cost and easy replied Permaculture eco-technologies required for local sustainability.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Proposals for community-based tourism in the Upper Amazon lack market focus, hands on experience with visitor groups, and technical content in environmental management. The causes are: weak grassroots organizations, low rural educational levels, and prior local distrust to new proposals. Cumbaza River has a watershed of 57,000 hectares and 200,000 inhabitants. Its primary forest has been reduced from 20,000 has. (1977), to 8500 has. (2005). Between 1977 and 1985 the minimum flow was 6.5m3/s and maximum: 13.5m3/s. Between 1995 and 2007 these rates fell to 2.33m3/s and 8m3/s. Only 32% of the regional population has available drinking water. Macro policies are not getting the desired results at the micro level. Science breaks down every aspect and considers them separately. Permaculture is science applied to life's necessities in the field. The farmer sees life as a whole. The daily work can be construction, planting, harvesting, to prepare herbal remedies, hunting, etc.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

This Project is building the necessary social foundations (trust, motivation, interest) that are required to produce complementary advancements associated to Geotourism. Permacultourism is able to be carried out as business, social project or both. This is a socially grounded proposal which is the result of having lived in natural protected areas’ boundaries in the rural Amazon. Cultural exchange is the basis for developing medium-term geo-tourism in places with little experience and lots of potential. The interaction with the visitor encourages environmental awareness of local people, revalues their resources, knowledge and traditions. Field activities are dynamic, entertaining and consistent with local technical-environmental needs. As a result local ideas emerge, children, mothers, youth and farmers get involved in environmental issues, and visitors are really sensitized to the experience. Conscious Tourism is a crusade that builds Permaculture rainwater harvesting and water treatment systems (eco latrines, water filters, swales), in Upper Amazon’s Cumbaza’s Basin. Inspiration of new ideas and local creativity create more playful, participative, and friendly programs expanding environmental awareness and actions. This is a unique experience that promotes rainwater storage tanks technology in Peru. Amazonian people can learn easily this technology. Its construction is possible using a participatory approach to the task. It helps Amazonian populations (with water shortages due to climate change) to meet new countries through their new friends. Permaculture also offers solutions for sustainable agriculture, food, bio-housing, sanitation, recycling, natural medicine, and conservation of biodiversity (forests, water sources, lagoons, springs, ponds, rivers and waterfalls).
About You
Semillas del Cumbaza
Section 1: About You
First Name

Rodrigo Javier

Last Name

Ponce Otoya


Semillas del Cumbaza


, SM

Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

Semillas del Cumbaza

Organization Phone
Organization Address

San Roque de Cumbaza

Organization Country

, SM

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, SM

Website URL
Would you like to participate in the MIF Opportunity 2010?


Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had on your clients and the tourism sector?

Committees of local farmers, youth guides, and local school environmental group, have been incorporated in the programs. Native communities along the basin are motivated and willing to join these proposals with farming related activities (organic coffee, cooking, elaboration of crafts, wine, molasses, alcohol, planting and harvesting), implementation of required technologies (eco-toilets, rainwater harvesting , bio-construction); and protection of water, forests and biodiversity.

Cumbaza river provides 13% of the water of Cordillera Escalera Regional Conservancy Area: 150,000 has. of humid tropical mountain forest annually producing 20m3/s of water (Amazonas affluent). Conserves water, salt sources, forests (of clouds, hills, and foothills), orchids, spectacled bear, deer, peccaries, curassow, tapir and felines.

Meeting rural Amazon while building with local tools, resources, and strengthening the social fabric in hidden paradises is very likely to be a Life Changing experience.

Regional public sectors, international development (ID) support, and national universities; are interested in co-developing freshwater sustainable tourism destinations in region’s protected mountain forests: Chazuta (Cordillera Escalera), Blue Lagoon (Cordillera Azul), and AHARAM (Alto Mayo). Rural actors are also interested in linking local education improvement through volunteering alternatives, learning Permaculture, and strengthening small businesses.

There has been an increase in:
- Tourism and “top of mind” of San Roque de Cumbaza
- Number of stakeholders with projects of reforesting, childhood and natural products
- Regional youth environmental volunteering proposals
- Environmental education place built for local school, and also replied by one regional NGO.
- Support in environmental guard groups to protect water sources in communities’ forests.


To finalize the Business Plan
To establish as an independent Social Enterprise
To run 5 groups in 2011, 7 in 2012 and 13 in 2013
To sign strategic alliance with committees along the Cumbaza river basin: develop their marketing plans, programs for organic volunteers with organized farmers, and formalize communal protected forests.
To reproduce experience in regional freshwater sustainable tourism destinations prioritized.
To strengthen alliances with ID, regional government, fair trade coffee and cocoa cooperatives, universities, NGOs and protected Areas.
To empower partnerships among grassroots rural organizations in the destinations served: peasant patrols, forest guards, eco-productive projects, mother’s groups, fishermen, youth and schoolchildren; with special emphasis in gastronomy rural committees (mothers), bed n breakfasts (micro entrepreneurs), and regional youth guidance and ecotourism operations.

Long Term:
Participate in the development of a Regional Permaculture, Ecotourism and Research Center; a Peruvian Permaculture Institute; and assessment of new markets for Geotourism.


Permacultourism inspired new local ideas and proposals. For example: native’s seeds museums, dance cultural exchanges, and interpretative trails.
Local perceptions towards tourism were improved.
100 regional students registered to participate in programs.
Three pilot experiences done in 2010 with UK students were successful. Visitors recommended water systems and fair trade as themes.

To achieve:
Improve rate of population with access to safe water in the province of Lamas from 12% to 15% in 2013. Annual 15% increase in revenues from visiting groups.
Annual Campaign spreads importance of rural enterprises.
Rural committees, technical education, and eco-productive clusters, are strengthened with strategic alliances.
Regional youth develop as guides, tour operators and related rural projects. Rural and regional tour-guides are articulated.
Cordillera Escalera improves conditions for research and tourism.
International visitors to the Region grow from 5% to 10% in 2013.
Conscious tourism expands geographically and educational tourism is a national priority.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

To cover the costs for Permaculture implementations (logistics specialists and materials) either with visitors, visited, or third parties (NGOs or regional government) funds.
Align rural training with target market requirements.
Participate in regional, national, and international fairs.
Develop marketing plans for rural community based tourism destinations offered.
Consolidate the image and offer of Cumbaza’s river watershed.

5 visitor groups to implement:
1 Rainwater storage system in Aucaloma community (Cumbaza)
1 Eco latrine in Chirikyacu
1 Fair Trade Program in Alto Shamboyacu
1 Building in San Roque de Cumbaza (Interpretative Center and activities with children)
1 Craft and gastronomy program in San Roque

Cluster production for forest conservation and biodiversity water producers participating in rural tourism proposals. Traditional wisdom, knowledge and farm and forest management recovery programs take place in parallel to tourism activity.
Regional students participate in rural projects.
Continuity, consensus and coordination between stakeholders of natural protected Areas (Codillera Escalera, Cordillera Azul, and Alto Mayo).
Alliances, business strategy and freshwater community based regional prioritized destinations; strengthen their image, offer and service.

7 groups
1 Water treatment system in San Roque de Cumbaza (course-event)
1 Rainwater storage system in Lamas
2 Fair Trade Programs in Alto Shamboyacu
3 Nature, Adventure, and gastronomy programs in San Roque and Chirikyacu
New proposals developed

To achieve university accreditation for improving pricing levels and cover 100% costs.
Empower social fabric through cultural exchanges.
Rural groups attend visitor groups directly (13 groups, including Chazuta, Blue Lagoon, and AHARAM: region's freshwater destinies)
Launch of new routes and activities for nature and adventure tourism, co-developed with regional students:
- Within protected areas
- Circuit: Chazuta – Sauce
- Circuit: Lamas – Alto Cumbaza (Shamboyacu, Chirikyacu) – San Roque
Open call for local tour operators to meet new proposals.
Regional Permaculture Ecotourism and Research Center assists growing interests. It generates incomes implementing technologies.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

Low participation of rural authorities can delay success. Fortunately, authorities in Cumbaza’s basin are participating, as the ones in Chazuta and Blue Lagoon.

Indigenous federations often exert considerable influence on its member communities. Fortunately, relations with Kechua-Lamas Federation and its native members along Cumbaza’s basin are polite and confident.

These communities are very focused on words and details. Misunderstandings in organization management, projects and training, can create conflicts and reduce motivation. It is important to be clear, and take time to complete the process required for a village to become sustainable. Community over-expectations can play against.

Is essential the recovery of traditional agricultural knowledge and practices; and show tourism potential as an opportunity for community development, rather than for commercial purposes only. For example: farmers in the organic certification process can require visitors’ help in implementing compost piles, eco-latrines and water systems. Other option can be to build a traditional communal place for assemblies.

Low educational level generates some communication gaps between locals and visitors. At this point, tourism value chain requires regional youth and students’ participation as articulators, hosts and leaders.

Consensus about natural protected areas is important to be continued.

Climatic or political convulsions can also lead to social crisis, and limit tourism to the region. At present, social peace has been achieved, leaving these situations as low probability events.

High air ticket prices for foreign visitors can also limit arrivals to the area. As new airlines are appearing in the market, this risk is becoming reduced.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$50 - 100

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy or introduce models and tools that benefit the tourism sector in general?


What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

In what country?

, SM

Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

Colectivo Semillas del Cumbaza (Community Based Organization registered at Local Municipality)

How long has this organization been operating?

1‐5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Regional Environmental Department, responsible for Conservation Area Cordillera Escalera, supported our 2010 tests with building materials, equipment, volunteers, staff and small budgets for constructions.

Waman Wasi, Choba Choba, ANIA, Rotaria del Peru, Engineering and Agrarian National Universities, and Pacific University are partners providing advice, research, training, practitioners (trainees), and eco-constructions. TechnoServe and NGO Encuentros advise us in business and youth.

Regional Tourism Department, ID, and regional universities are interested in educational tourism alternatives for their specific context of prioritized freshwater ecotourism destinations. Blue Lagoon: 350 km where tilapia, gamitana, and paiche fishes are raised; Chazuta: hot springs, river navigation from upper forest to lowland Amazon, annual fishing festivals, in Quechua villages were craft artisans and healers give special self esteem; and Aguajal Renacal del Alto Mayo (AHARAM): worldwide highest altitude of this ecosystem: navigable floods and streams, were air-rooted trees grow, while palm trees maintain water levels, and otters live.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

1 Commercialization and Market Research in fairs and events. Alliance with National Department for International Promotion.

2 In the Field:
Sign strategic partnerships with communities in Cumbaza’s basin: formalizing the conservation of communal headwaters and primaries forests, assisting Eco-systemic Services Compensation (CSE) initiatives, and training in commercial, marketing and quality service skills.

San Roque de Cumbaza: continue participating in the 4-year process since the conformation of the local Tourism Management Committee, incorporating new local grassroots members and native communities located in the upper basin (Chirikyacu and Shamboyacu). Develop technical skills and local emerging leaders’ projects.

Chirikyacu (Quechua-Lamas Native Community): participate in the development of the Center for Environmental Education and Recovery of Degraded Lands in the Upper Cumbaza’s Basin, just built with support of the University of Valencia (Spain). Sunipi Kausani waterfall (150m) is located in its communal protected forests, in Cordillera Escalera’s Protected Area boundaries.

Shamboyacu (Quechua-Lamas Native Community): members of Oro Verde fair trade coffee Coop. Cumbaza River gets born in their communal forests. They are used to visits from their foreign customers.

Empower coordination within community’s grassroots organizations and partnerships with educational institutions, students, and / or volunteer groups; for further development of quality national and international student exchanges, covering various related aspects. i.e.: rural guides, gastronomy, natural products, beekeeping, forest guards, and biology, among others.

3 Technical:
- Develop partnerships to fund technologies’ logistics, specialists and materials during early years:
A) Iron-cement rainwater storage tanks: National Engineering University, National Association of Cement, and Permaculture Institute of the Brazilian Cerrado (IPEC).
B) Eco-toilets and black and gray water treatment (sewage) systems: Rotaria del Peru, Cenca, and IPEC (bio-septic infiltrators technology).
C) Coops Oro Verde and Acopagro (winner of best-quality cocoa in the world), regional government, and ID interested in developing educational tourism in their freshwater tourism destinations.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

A ritual with traditional Amazonian medicine “Ayahuasca” led me in 2006 to live in the jungle and, simultaneously, to study a master's degree in ecotourism; searching for sustainable, inclusive and supportive alternatives. The experience of living in rural villages identified outstanding developments in many fields in the north eastern Amazon of Peru. It was also overwhelming to meet the differences between theory and practice.

As a small group of environmentalist friends, we decided to live in the District of San Roque de Cumbaza, whence of the river of the same name, whose sub-basin provides water to more than 200 thousand people. We explored traditional, holistic and natural medicine, met the operation of local and regional governments, NGOs, and mostly; of local population. We generated a humble flow of visitors, offering them massages, Reiki therapies (healing hands), yoga, meditation, hiking, hosting to students and volunteers, moon calendars lectures, among others. Some activities with the population were:

- Recycling Campaigns in conjunction with local youth and school.
- Promoting ecotourism in the District by hiring local villagers and consuming their products.
- Influencing the Interagency Coordination between stakeholders with projects in the area.
- Implementing a project of “Land of the Children” (ANIA).
- Performing expeditions Regional Conservation Area Cordillera Escalera (ACR-CE) for registering fauna.
- University Volunteer Programs and Educational Eco-Tourism, including courses for local high school students in computer science, English, mathematics, environment awareness and related activities.
- Developing an ongoing project of Natural Handicraft Products including local women and agricultures: wild peanut butter (omega 3, 6, and 9), peanut, and cacao.

We also participated in communal tasks, and assemblies, local workshops conducted by various government institutions, NGO’s, and development projects (in general). Our purpose was to assess the potential and synergies of this area. We focused in developing one place based in its potentials, instead of expanding one product with potential (such as coffee or wild peanut) through an entire forest ecosystem. The main problem detected was related to local confidence among the villagers themselves, including his own organizations, and outsider projects (and limited coordination between them).

In 2009 I began a Master's degree Thesis: Permaculture and Ecotourism: potential elements for mutual benefit and development in Cumbaza River Sub-basin. Some members of this group began performing some consultancies in the region, and I began designing this proposal: Conscious Tourism was conceptualized for the Geotourism Challenge 2009, was implemented and executed with experimental groups in 2010 and seeks to consolidate in 2011. Technical cooperation is an indirect support by outsourcing some of the group members for its sustainable tourism projects (in the same region).

As a group, we decided in 2009 to register as Grassroots Committee "Cumbaza Seeds."

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Economist graduated from Pacific University in July 2001, upper third, eleventh place.
5 years experience in multinational banking in Peru: Banco de Credito, Citibank, Banco Santander Central Hispano, BBVA, BankBoston. Experience in finance, marketing, sales, strategic planning, risk analysis, teamwork, and goals achievement. Sociable, pro-active, open to change, innovator, and analytic. Proficiency in English and Portuguese.
Thesis submitted and in evaluation process for the Master of Ecotourism at the Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina. Consultant and facilitator of rural processes for certain entities of international cooperation, and work experience of 6 months in Rainforest Expeditions: Leader in its field in Peru. Post-graduate studies in marketing and volunteer services carried out in Permaculture: renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, water systems, bio-construction. Skills and hobbies: acting, music and sports.

I grew up in upper middle class in Lima and studied at one of its best schools. I was lucky to meet “necessity” given the economic difficulties of the late 80's in Peru. That’s why I work since 19 years old as teacher, researcher for business and finance magazines, insurance company trainee, economic research projects assistant, and demanding and dynamic financial markets; paying my undergraduate and post-graduate studies by my own and always having excellent results.

I was always aware that these jobs were temporary to earn savings and further devoting myself to something more appropriate to my passion for nature, social inclusion, and spirituality or holistic medicine. When I had the opportunity in late 2005, I made the change. I took my savings to the jungle.

To research about the Global Eco-Villages Network (GEN), allowed me to visualize the tremendous potential for Peru to grow breaking the current paradigm of sustainable development and towards a new one where people from the city moves to the country with altruistic purposes and benefits for people with fewer opportunities; and a reassessment of traditional skills, knowledge and hard work involved in living off the land (field).

Since Eco-villages are still under-developed in Peru, I linked the thesis research to Permaculture, which could be understood as the technique required for creating theses eco-villages. This proposal is just to set the basic conditions for reaching many other niche markets that can be operated in tourism and also to further development of other industries. For example: “Healing” or “Peace and Spirituality”, adventure tourism and flora and fauna trails, are other local alternatives with great potential to be Researched and Developed. However, short-term results are important to maintain and improve motivation of community based tourism initiatives, for which the priority is the local markets and the coordination with the already existing tourism flows.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Through another organization or company

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

Asociación para la Niñez y su Ambiente (ANIA)

MIF Opportunity 2010
Has your organization been legally constituted or registered in your country or one of your target countries for at least three years?


Does the applicant organization have sufficient financial resources to guarantee the co-financing required by MIF during the execution period of the project? (This amounts to at least 50% of the project’s total budget with 25% in cash and 25% in-kind.)


Does the applicant organization have experience managing projects co-financed by international organizations? Please describe below

This application is in alliance with the Municipality of San Roque de Cumbaza, San Martin Regional Government (through its Tourism and Economic Resources Department), and GTZ (German International Cooperation). These organizations present and registered in the area have experience managing projects co-financed by international organizations.

Community based Organization Collective Seed’s of Cumbaza has no experience in managing funds. Although it is making their own through Natural Handicraft Products listed above. Conscious Tourism continues and complements many environmental grassroots projects leaded by this group.

Community base rural Tourism Organization COGETUR has neither experience in managing international cooperation funds, but is also generating their funds and using them for their communitary enterpreneurship, since Sept 07.

On a personal basis, I have experience in managing small projects co-financed by international organizations. For example: US$ 3M project co-funded by the German foundation Wilhelm Oberle and the Municipality of San Roque de Cumbaza, and previous personal experience in assesing and tracking medium-term loans between $ 20M and $ 5MM (Asset Based Finance) for multinational banks. This shows an upgrade process of regional trust in grassroots innovator proposals aligned with Bio-Regional goals.

Please classify the applicant organization according to the options below

Community based Organization

What problem-area does your project address?

Access to knowledge and training, Access to markets, Access to financing.

How will your project address this problem?

The region is having a process of change towards a market approach in rural development. Government officials currently working and training rural community based tourism enterprises are professionals engaged in ecotourism masters; and them together with emerging new leaders, are aiming for common goals.

Changemaker’s flexibility to achieve goals is required. Participation and complementation with other actors in the tourism value chain is also essential. In the case of experience along the Rio Cumbaza, Conscious Tourism is beginning a program of workshops for training and supporting the communities settled in the area in Geotourism matters; and also to develop appropriate strategic planning (marketing plans, business plans, and/or master plans for protected areas).

In the case of sustainable tourism destinations prioritized by the regional government and international cooperation, similar processes are begining in Chazuta, Sauce and Aguajal renacales the Alto Mayo (Aharam). There is some external participation of some Collective Cumbaza's Seeds in these experiences. Coordination with local governments, organizations, and regional universities interested in accompanying the process is also a key element for success. And its also being empowered by stakeholders.

The presence of diverse actors of the Tourism Value Chain during the workshops guide decision making and action plans towards consensus. Tour Operators, NGO’s, and universities, coordinate with rural actors to divide responsibilities to achieve training in required skills for quality service, budgets (finance) for cluster projects, and market plans.

Who is benefited by the initiative? (Please highlight the type and number of beneficiaries, and their role in the tourism value-chain.)

Rural active groups of 3 different locations (San Roque de Cumbaza, Native Community of Chirikyacu, and Native Community of Alto Shamboyacu). These groups have 130 members divided in groups of mothers (food and laundry providers), farmers (organized for forest conservation and traditional agriculture and knowledge recovery), and youth (guides and interpreters). School groups, artisans and micro entrepreneurs, also participate.

Their play role is at the basis of the tourism value chain, in rural areas adjacent to Biodiversity Conservation Areas. The main purpose is to link this value chain basis with the private sector to access regional markets and develop receptive potential niche markets. This proposal also seeks the participation of other local grassroots organizations related to sustainable development into the sustainable tourism and conservation of the environment initiatives.

Direct Beneficiaries: 150 families
Indirect beneficiaries: the destinations considered populations raise to 3 thousand people.
Other beneficiaries: Universities, Technical Institutes and regional youth in general. It is also important to note that Cumbaza River Subbasin supplies more than 200 000 people in total. The latter will receive improved quality water and technologies with significant multiplier effect.

How will the project's results assist the region’s tourism sector and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises?

By providing: market focus strategic planning, measurable environmental impact with quantifiable targets, and skill training in microfinance and micro businesses to rural grassroots organizations; and linking NGOs that preserve natural areas nearby, and research institutions.

Cumbaza’s River Basin is a first experience of niche markets access with innovative proposals such as Permaculture and Organic Volunteers. Each destination co-develops their marketing plan. In this case, locals also benefit with green technologies required. For Example: iron-cement cisterns for rainwater harvesting, water treatment filters, infiltration trenches, composting toilets, bio-building, options for solid waste segregation, sustainable agriculture design, among other Permaculture low cost and easy to be learned and replied knowledge-technologies.

NGOs, private tourism operators, universities, regional government, and technical cooperation; are coordinating to make synergies and aligning training, research and marketing in the same direction: To strengthen the social fabric and the links within tourism value chain: between private enterprises, trainers and advisors of small and medium enterprises, partnering success stories, alternatives for the conservation of the environment, and improving education levels.

The last 3 years stakeholders’ focus was mainly to organize community based tourism groups. This experience matured the importance of improving commercial skills: coordination, management, planning, sales and accounting, among others; and encouraged the emergence of small local businesses which, in turn, represent a strengthening of local social fabric, economic dynamics, and interest in nature resources friendly alternatives. This perception is being proposed by rural actors, institutions or organizations involved, and advisors consulted in a regional basis.

As mentioned before, Conscious Tourism strength is to develop rural actor skills in business matters. Joint ventures can also be done with allies as NGO Technoserve, Encuentros, and various universities.

Farmer's Markets, Community Supported Agriculture, and Carbon Trade Off, are many alternatives that require social fabric motivation towards Bio-Regional strengthening. October 2010 was the first local Amo Amazonia campaign also supported by many stakeholders present in this proposal.
This must go further every year.

A. Total Budget (100%)

US$ 130 000

B. MIF Contribution (up to 50% of total budget and US$. 500.000 max)

US$ 65 000

C. Cash co-financing (at least 25% of total budget)

US$ 32 500

D. In kind co-financing (at least 25% of total budget)

US$ 32 500