Black Sheep Inn Ecolodge

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Black Sheep Inn Ecolodge: Creating a Sustainable Community Destination

Chucchilan, EcuadorChucchilan, Ecuador
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
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Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

Black Sheep Inn is an international award winning Ecolodge that is 100% Community Operated. It showcases eco-living features: composting toilets, recycling, natural building, rainwater catchments, greywater systems & has created a model for participative community development & poverty alleviation.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

mainstream tourism could be educational, protect the environment, benefit the community, alleviate poverty & have profits?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Historically human settlements abuse the natural environment & capitalist ventures exploit underpaid labor; this also applies to rural tourism. The world suffers from environmental degradation & economic inequality. Since tourism is integrated across cultural & environmental sectors, there are many aspects to consider when analyzing the impacts of its development. Ideally the local community, environment, business & visitor should benefit.

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

Black Sheep Inn has followed a unique model for community development. It has led by example & guided community members to take advantage of tourism. This has given community businesses a competitive edge. There are now 4 locally owned hotels, 2 horseback riding businesses, trained native guides, a transportation coop, community library, higher education scholarships & foreign community volunteers. BSI showcases sustainable eco-living practices which empower travelers as a learning experience. Not only is the Inn 100% community operated, but it has created a sustainable tourist destination in a previously unknown village. Tourism has provided a new economic lifeline to a poor community. This METHOD = RESULTS.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

As the 1st world advances on a daily basis with information technology, rural communities like Chugchilan get left behind. In order to bridge this gap we created a community library/computer learning center with guest donations & community collaboration. Chugchlan's library has over 1000 books & 10 computers with FREE internet access. The library was created with the following donations: books, computers & money from tourists; literature from Room to Read; British School Quito gave equipment & programs; free shipping from US press attaché; a room in the local Church; construction materials from Cloud Forest Hostel; furniture from local missionaries; BSI provided labor, technical support & a librarian’s salary. All collaborations!

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Before 1994, the village of Chugchilan was unknown by tourists, travelers & agencies. 20 years later, Chugchilan has preserved its cultural charm & now has several small community businesses that profit from sustainable tourism including: horseback riding tours, woodworking furniture coop, 4 locally owned hostels, local native guides, 2 welders producing metal woodstoves, transportation coop, scholarships for University level students & a Public Library/Computer Learning Center with FREE internet access. Other improvements in the community since 1994 include: telephone & internet service, a health clinic, an ambulance, pavement in the plaza, over 200% more bus routes & a police station. Sustainable development, with rural community benefits, is hard to achieve. BSI used a model of complete immersion into a community to create a village destination as opposed to one eco-resort.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

BSI is a grassroots endeavor that embraces change. Major investments included time, energy & commitment as opposed to heavy funding. Founder's Andres & Michelle were dedicated to the growth & sustainability of the community & environment. Today the business IS entirely operated by Edmundo Vega. He was born & raised in Chugchilan before tourism developed. He studied hospitality & worked in Quito in hotels & restaurants for 30 years. His return to Chugchilan to take over the BSI was a perfect match. Edmundo rents the facility & runs all operations with the help of a local staff.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

BSI is a homespun grassroots business. It has grown & developed with commitment & reinvestment of income. It has achieved a triple bottom-line of benefits for the community, environment & profits. When a community member opened their own hostel, it was suggested that we lower our rates in order to compete. We did exactly the opposite & raised prices, offering a fair market share to our local neighbors & increasing variety for visitors.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Community-based tourism projects in Ecuador have often failed because the initiatives didn’t start in the communities. They were created by NGO’s or development agencies who lacked experience in tourism management. NGO initiatives have focused efforts on building & infrastructure leaving the community without sufficient training. In Chugchilán the model is different because locals have had the opportunity to learn from BSI’s example. They have developed well designed products for the target client. Most importantly, they have learned first-hand how to provide good service.

Founding Story

In 1992 founders Andres & Michelle discovered the rural community of Chugchilan. There were no tourist facilities in the area so they stayed with a local family. Enamored by the culture & country life, accompanied by spectacular scenery & extremely friendly people, they stayed for two weeks. When the family offered to sell them land they asked themselves, “Is this a dream come true? An opportunity we can't pass by?” Here in the rural Ecuadorian Andes they could tread lightly & live sustainably. They could own their work. They could create a home & realize their eco-ideals. With the community of Chugchilán they felt welcomed & had the freedom to experiment & learn from their mistakes. That is what they have done for the last 20 years.


Edmundo Vega, born & raised in Chugchilan, is the head honcho, manager, administrator & renter of the Black Sheep Inn. Since he began operations in 2012 TripAdvisor reviews have skyrocketed. He & his local staff, who have all been working at BSI for over 15 years, manage every aspect of tourism. Edmundo's expertise, hospitality & lovable personality, along with his staff's dedication are what sustain BSI's uniqueness & charm.
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Organization Country

, X, Chucchilan

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, X, Chucchilan

Funding: How is your project financial supported?


Awards: What awards or honors has the project received?

2011: National Geographic Traveler - Worlds Best Hotels, South America STAY LIST
2009: Delta SKY Magazine - Top 10 Eco-Resorts
National Geographic Adventure - Top 50 Ecolodges
2008: International EcoClub Eco-Lodge Award
2006: International EcoClub Eco-Lodge Award
Skål International Ecotourism Awards for Rural Accommodation
2005: Smithsonian Magazine/Tourism Cares for Tomorrow Sustainable Tourism Awards for Conservation
First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards - Highly Commended in Mountain Environment
World Travel & Tourism Council - Finalist for Tourism for Tomorrow Award
2004: Short-Listed Responsible Traveler Award
2003: Top 10 Eco-Lodge in the World - Outside Magazine
Eco-Certified jointly by Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism and the Ecuadorian Ecotourism Society

Where have you learnt about the competition?

I have followed Ashoka and ChangeMakers on and off over the years.

Tell us about your partnerships:

Black Sheep Inn has been an active member of several Ecotourism Organizations over the years: TIES - The International Ecotourism Society,, STI - Sustainable Tourism International,, Pack For A Purpose.

The Inn is an integral part of the local rural community of Chugchilan

Challenges: What challenges might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

BSI is now 100% community operated. The facility is rented & operated by Edmundo Vega who was born & raised here in the village of Chugchilan. The local staff have worked for the Inn for 10-15 years & all live within walking distance. Owners Andres & Michelle, who live in Chugchilan for over 20 years now volunteer their time in the community.

Until now tourism in the area has developed sustainably benefiting the community & natural environment. A new paved road is being finished to the rural community, it's hard to tell what changes it will bring. Strong sustainable tourism will prosper.


Florie THIELIN's picture

I plan to visit Ecuador and the Black Sheep Inn in a few weeks, will be happy to help !

Love these people, project and community. You have 200% support for your work.

Andres Hammerman's picture

Dear Ron Mader,

Can you make specific comments about best practices of the Black Sheep Inn and community of Chugchilan or where you see room for improvements? New ideas are always welcome.

Also feel free to comment on the entry in Makers or More


Andres Hammerman