Tuesday, September 10, 2013

In the Andes of Peru GeoTour

For months I've been working on an ecotourism project and in the past few weeks things have really started to happen. It's the brainchild of our Watershed Committee. We figured that tourism, if done the right way, could support environmentally-friendly changes here in our valley. There are three districts here in the watershed of the Yanamarca river: Marco, Acolla and Tunanmarca. These three local governments don't work together much. However, from an environmental standpoint, this whole watershed is one ecosystem. The water doesn't care about jurisdiction as it flows from the springs
 through the fields, picking up toxic agricultural chemicals,
then into the river, picking up the detergents from people washing their clothes in the river,
 and into the wetland where the birds, amphibians and fish live.
We hope this project will help the people here think in terms of the watershed, and so our ecotourism project will take visitors on a journey around the watershed. The circuit will have an environment theme. When people visit the archeological site, we'll ask them to pick up trash. When they visit the organic gardening demonstration, they'll learn about how to farm without toxic chemicals. We have a very successful reforestation area, and the GeoTour will celebrate that.
We'll require hostels and restaurants to pass a 'green practices' test in order to be part of the tour.
We're still trying to think of other ways the tourism circuit can incorporate environmental education, and ways it can motivate local people (and tourists) to care for the environment. If you have any suggestions, please write me a comment! We need all the creativity we can find. Tourism can be tough on the environment. Here in the Yanamarca Valley, we want it to do the opposite. We want it to help us toward our dream of becoming a "Valle Ecologico", an example to other communities here in Peru of how to care for the Pachamama.
I'm having a great time developing this project with the local ecotourism team. For over a decade, I've played a game called "geocaching". It's a treasure hunt game that uses GPS coordinates to guide people to interesting locations. I like this game a lot because it gets you outside and brings you to places you never would have seen otherwise. And the hunt aspect is exciting. I suggested to the committee that we organize our tour around this game. The "In the Andes of Peru" GeoTour was born. It's been a huge process. I wrote a Peace Corps grant, and after multiple revisions, it was accepted and my project was placed up on the Peace Corps website. At the time of this writing, we're actively raising money. So, dear reader, if you have some cash to spare, please donate to this project here.Update: the project is fully funded. Thank you donors!
     I'm also working with a tourism website that was developed by some Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. The idea is to bring tourists to communities where Peace Corps volunteers are posted. It's great for the kind of traveler who wants to get away from the tourist traps and experience the genuine culture of daily life. In other words, perfect for our ecotourism project. Things here may not be perfect, but they're real. This is deep Peru and our project will give visitors access to the inside story. The company is called Keteka. I've been appointed an "ambassador" for Peru. I'm writing a separate blog on their site that will follow the GeoTour project. You can have a look here.

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