What impact have you had on your clients and the tourism sector?
Direct clients include local community members who benefit from the healthy ecosystems which attract geotourism.
Often overlooked for environmental conservation programs, women are naturally inclined to base enterprise on environmental and social values. Our female enviropreneurs manage tourism-centered businesses including kayaking tours, a guide association, hostels, locally-sourced seafood restaurants, and a tree nursery supporting watershed restoration. In coordination with our sea turtle program, women have also formed a sea turtle nursery, generating income by protecting nests and educating others about sea turtle conservation.
DOZENS OF COMMUNITY VOLUNTEERS
Communities may learn to be effective stewards, if empowered to manage coastal resources. Performance-based direct payments for conservation encourage community members to protect nests. Full-time sea turtle rangers protect La Flor's nesting turtles, including Hawksbill, Leatherback and Green sea turtles. Local fishermen lead boat tours to view humpback whales and sea turtles off the coasts.
THOUSANDS OF COASTAL STEWARDS
Our education programs have changed local behaviors which impact the environment, mobilized over 15,000 participants in International Coastal Clean-ups, and enlisted a rising generation of Nicaraguan surfers to the cause of ocean conservation.
HUNDREDS OF CHILDREN
Participatory environmental programs in local schools engage children through field trips, sling-shot exchanges, and outdoor science projects.
With our partners we have developed interpretive signs, destination websites, brochures for micro-enterprises, and train eco-tour guides. Paso Pacifico’s more lasting impact is through the local communities' now commonly valued idea of the Paso del Istmo biological corridor and the need for landscape connectivity to enable tourism.
1. Strengthen female enviropreneurs:
• build on the leadership of women to spearhead tourism enterprises (i.e. restaurants, artisans, hostels)
• improve women-run sea turtle hatchery to receive tourists
• assist with market linkages
• train and equip tour guides, including kayak guide
• expand watershed restoration programs surrounding La Flor (increasing demand for saplings from women-run tree nursery)
2. Empower communities to manage resources:
• establish protective measures within Marine Protected Areas (MPA) with local fishermen leading patrols
• create voluntary management zones for MPA with no-take and sustainable fishery zones
• develop citizen science monitoring through Project Noah, share this activity with tourists
• provide employment via research and protection programs with rangers
• research and monitor reefs, forests, and watersheds
• provide income to communities through voluntary sea turtle protection, financing program through ecosystem markets
• protect nests and guide tourists using solar technology designed for sea turtle protection
We expect the ELLAS initiative to achieve several goals, all designed to meet the needs of local economic development and environmental conservation:
In addition to supporting already viable tourism-centered businesses (including kayaking tours, hostels, and guide associations), the ELLAS initiative will help women launch new local businesses to service the growing needs of the community and geotourism destination.
To ensure the biodiversity of coastal habitat unique to Central America's Pacific reefs, the ELLAS initiative will expand and support marine protected areas (MPAs) and ensure community management of those MPAs.
By protecting the nesting and feeding grounds of critically endangered sea turtles, humpback whales, and more, the ELLAS initiative will help Nicaragua's Rivas province attract tourists interested in marine wildlife.
The community-based programs of the ELLAS initiatve will put La Flor on the map as a geotourism destination boasting healthy wildlife populations, pristine beaches, and authentic communities.
What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.
Path to ELLAS initiative success:
• Negotiate management zones with local fishermen
• Identify capacity-building needs of existing tourism and conservation micro-enterprises
• Introduce Project Noah technology to communities
• Initiate MPA monitoring
• Work with mobile provider to enable technology
• Establish peer-reviewed standard for trading Sea Turtle Credits
• Create ecosystem service market, conducting third-party validation of products
• Purchase La Flor protected area to avert development and set aside for conservation
• Find opportunities for additional community-created coastal and marine protected areas
• conduct training to respond to needs of enviropreneurs
• assist with access to markets for enviropreneurs
• seek approval from government for community-designed fisheries management zones
• initiate wide-scale use of Project Noah technology in tourism and conservation activities
• expand beaches protected with voluntary payments for conservation system
• identify weaknesses in small enterprise to provide additional training and support
• form partnerships to increase global visibility of geotourism destination
• create and organize management mechanisms for La Flor and other community-established protected areas
• share results of Project Noah citizen science monitoring with tourists worldwide
Indicators for overall success:
• Increased levels of participation and increased decision-making, determined by pre- and post-workshop surveys and participant tracking
• Improve health of La Flor protected area, measured by long-term monitoring programs indicating marine health, sea turtle nesting activity, and key wildlife indicator species
• Accepted plan for fisheries-management zones to protect the marine protected areas, defined by published and publicly accepted plan
• Increased economic vitality and tourism sector built around principles of geotourism, determined by micro-economic indicators (household surveys) and an evaluation of alignment with geotourism principles
• Improved watersheds surrounding La Flor, measured through changes in forest cover over three-year period and monitoring of seedling survivorship in reforestation
What would prevent your project from being a success?
Our biggest concern is a massive housing development slated for La Flor. Though La Flor is currently a protected area, the local government has pre-approved the building of 200 homes on spec. The project is slated to break ground within the next year, so we urgently need to find a solution.
While we embrace the potential for economic development in the communities where we work, it is vital that foreign (and domestic) investors are made aware of our region's commitment to coastal ecosystems and local traditions.
We understand why the developer in question wants to build 200 houses. La Flor is home to some of the world's most unique landscapes: from mangrove wetlands and turtle nesting beaches, to a newly discovered coral reef unique to Central America’s Pacific. Because the Rivas Province offers unrivaled beauty, 200 spec homes would undoubtedly sell. Our focus, however, is to find an alternative buyer for this property, one dedicated to conservation.
Barring outright ownership of the protected area for the Nicaraguan people, we hope to cooperate with the developer to minimize environmental degradation. Many of Rivas' existing developments and resorts have actively sought our counsel to avoid the pitfalls of mainstream commercial expansion, such as extensive erosion, impacting mangroves and the sea floor; and watershed degradation resulting from increased irrigation and plumbing demands, which directly impacts vital marine ecosystems. At the very least, if the La Flor protected area is destroyed we will support the community to establish a new and voluntary marine protected area. The potential community-led protected area includes a mangrove estuary located in the Ostional community and already identified by local people as a priority for community protection.