Communities

1 year of the Global Community Tourism Network

One year after launching the Global Community Tourism Network, Planeterra announces recipients of Global Community Tourism Fund.

It has been one year since we publicly launched the Global Community Tourism Network.  We started with 200 community tourism enterprises in the Network in 68 countries and have grown to over 387 communities across 76 countries in just one year. 

Through countless webinars, mentorship sessions, and peer to peer learning, we knew that we wanted to take our support one step further. 

In March 2022, we launched the Global Community Tourism Fund, a grant program that supports growth and recovery for community tourism enterprises within the Global Community Tourism Network (GCTN) through small grants and mentorship. We received many applications  from our community partners around the world and are excited to announce the recipients.

Each recipient will receive a flexible grant to support initiatives such as infrastructure upgrades, equipment purchases, marketing, training and more. Read more about the first projects supported by the fund below:

Lavender Jeep Siem Reap – Cambodia

Lavender Jeep is an adventure tour company providing curated tours of Siem Reap, Cambodia, in a 1975 A2 American Jeep. Lavender Jeep was founded to create employment opportunities for women and fund educational programming that primarily benefits young women and families. The staff members are shareholders in the company earning 30% of the profits on the tour.

A change in vehicle registration laws in Cambodia meant that funds were now required to register their jeeps. Without funds to cover this cost, Lavender Jeep had to decline tour bookings over the past months. Lavender Jeeps hasn’t had travellers since March 2020 and requested a grant to help get their drivers back on the road! With this grant, they are able to register and be able to receive travel bookings again!

Learn more here.

The Cove- Malawi

The Cove Ecolodge is a social enterprise in Chitende, Malawi. Their mission is to utilize money from tourism revenue to support community-driven development projects. They believe in fostering sustainable solutions through building relationships, working and learning together, and valuing their interactions with each other and the environment. A few of their development projects include road construction, water solutions, as well as community grants to young single mothers.

Chitende is a rural village in northern Malawi that is isolated from the government grid system for water and power. The ecolodge does not have access to water for their showers. Planeterra has distributed a grant to support the building of a piped water source in a central location in the community that will allow for 15 households to have access to cleaner, closer portable water. This piped water system will also allow the lodge to have water which will enable them to increase their customer base. 

Learn more here. 

Girls Empowered by Travel- Nepal

Girls Empowered by Travel – Nepal (GET-Nepal) is a non-profit organization that provides safe opportunities for women to travel and get involved in community work in a welcoming and safe environment. Through travel and tourism, GET-Nepal aims to empower women, especially those from marginalized backgrounds, by engaging them in leadership building workshops, creating female change-makers, and providing opportunities for economic participation.

Throughout the last two years, the hiking trails in the local village have fallen into disrepair.  This hiking trail is needed in order to receive travellers as they will trek from the bus stop to the community. Through the Global Community Tourism Fund, we have sent a grant to support the community to re-open these trails in order to safely receive travellers in the coming months.

Learn more here. 

Red Rocks Intercultural Exchange Center- Rwanda

Red Rocks brings under-served communities into the tourism supply chain and supports community development projects through their initiatives of cultural heritage conservation, visual and plastic arts (painting, drawing, sculpture, modeling, etc.), and graphic arts (painting, drawing, design, and other forms expressed on flat surfaces). Red Rocks also provides budget accommodation including a hostel room, an ample tranquil campsite in Red Rocks Intercultural Center, and Red Rocks Guest House to host visiting travellers. 

As a result of the pandemic and the lack of tourists visiting the area, many artisans and weavers have no markets to sell their crafts. Unfortunately, this has impacted women and youth more significantly.  Red Rocks requested funding to develop and implement a marketing plan to increase the number of visitors to seven local communities. The funds will support new audiovisual and promotional material, update their website, and train local leaders on marketing in the area. 

Learn more here.

Osmose- Cambodia 

Osmose is a non-governmental organization dedicated to the environmental preservation and the socio-economic development of the Prek Toal area, located in the Tonle Sap UNESCO Biosphere reserve. Osmose facilitates both the conservation of the Tonle Sap environment and the sustainable livelihoods of the floating village communities. The projects are based on income-generating activities, mainly visitor services including meal experience, homestay experience, guide service, peddle boat ride, and water hyacinth handicrafts. For this purpose, Osmose trains specialist guides to conduct eco-tours and created a community restaurant and some homestay services. Women in the community are trained in water hyacinth weaving and can sell their products for additional livelihoods. All these services are managed by a local cooperative supported by Osmose.

Osmose has created several floating structures: a Saray water hyacinth handicraft workshop, an environmental education school, and a community restaurant all connected by a floating bridge. Some of the bridges are currently in a poor condition. Income from ecotourism saved in the community box supported the maintenance, however, because of the COVID-19 crisis and the lack of visitors for nearly two years, there weren’t funds to support the repairs. Planeterra has sent a grant to support the renovation of the various platforms so that it is safer for staff and visitors to the area!

Learn more here.

Asociación de Turismo Rural Solidario ASTURS PERÚ- Perú

Asociación de Turismo Rural Solidario ASTURS PERÚ is a community-led and owned organization representing 14 Indigenous families and impacting 70 community members. The association provides homestay experiences on Lake Titicaca, Perú. The experience benefits community members through capacity building and training on community tourism, and offering an alternative source of livelihood. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, community tourism activities have been hit hard, many local families lost income from tourism which was their major economic activity. 

Today tourism is restarting slowly, but the homestays need improvements to guarantee health and safety for travellers. Previously, homestay hosts used only piped water both for their consumption and to prepare food for travellers, however, new domestic health and safety restrictions require filtered water for guests.  Planeterra is helping support a new piped water system that will allow for 12 Indigenous households to have access to cleaner and potable water. This implementation will not only guarantee a quality service for travellers but also improve the health of the local community. 

Learn more here.

Red de Turismo comunitario Jipijapa Wankavilka- RED TCJW- Ecuador

Red de Turismo comunitario Jipijapa Wankavilka is a community tourism network that is represented by 7 communities of the Manabí province, on the coast of Ecuador.  The organization works to empower their community through tourism, specifically women,  as well as to preserve local traditions, and protect their natural resources.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant loss of income for the communities, despite having the infrastructure and tourist attractions in the area. Currently, the lack of internet access, digital tools, and traveller awareness has been a significant barrier to the community. Planeterra is providing a grant to support the development of a marketing plan, including funding new audiovisual and promotional material, website support,  and training for local leaders on marketing initiatives. We hope this grant allows them to connect with travellers once again to support these communities. 

Learn more here.

Read more

CFLI SOUTH AFRICA & GOOD WORK FOUNDATION

By Evie Ndhlovu, Program Manager Europe, Middle East, Africa

In late 2019, I set out on my very first research trip for a new Planeterra partner in Kruger National Park (KNP), South Africa. It had only taken a few months to narrow down leads, through phone calls and favours from old friends, but one name stood out, the Good Work Foundation (GWF), a campus where youth were receiving digital skills and more recently Tourism and Hospitality training. Once there, I got to experience first hand the drive, the organization, and the excitement that filled the Hazyview campus. The training that was offered was done so for free, to young people whose villages surrounded the famed Kruger National Park. In their villages, young people did not have many opportunities, and the easiest way to succeed to them was leaving the villages for the big cities, menial occupations in the richer surrounding neighbourhoods, or a life of crime.

The Good Work Foundation was working to change this, by offering 25 opportunities for training in tourism and hospitality every year. This meant that 25 young people would receive the knowledge needed for them to find occupations in the lodges located in KNP and also entry level positions in these lodges after they completed their training. Out of hundreds of applicants, only 25 could receive this life-changing education, and this was not enough. It was not until Mr T, a former student and now facilitator at GWF, offered me a cup of coffee, that a light bulb lit up in my head. Coffee! What if a cup of coffee could bring more opportunities to youth and women in the villages around the Kruger? Coffee was going to be the link that would bring together two organizations to use tourism to increase impact in the villages around the KNP. 

CREATING A TOURISM EXPERIENCE

The Good Work Foundation’s main campus is located in Hazyview, right on the road leading to the popular Phabeni and Paul Kruger entrance gates of KNP. It’s a location where hundreds of travellers pass by daily headed into the famous park to sightsee and game view. And through a partnership with Planeterra, an express breakfast service could be developed to offer travellers a hot, or cold beverage on their way into the park. The ripple effects of this express service would be endless. The income could be used to grow class sizes and include more local youth to receive the tourism and hospitality training. The breakfast service could generate income that could be used as stipends to the students who are often breadwinners in their homes. It could also be an opportunity for employment to the alumni of the academy who chose to stay. Moreover, this could be a practical training center for the students where they receive hands-on experience in the tourism industry. With all set in place, the pandemic came and without travel, the idea of the breakfast service was put on the back burner, until the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) opportunity of 2021 came be.

The CFLI is a prestigious Canadian funding opportunity that sees many organizations yearly seeking to achieve key projects in their missions. When the call for South Africa proposals came in June of 2021, our first thought was our partners in Kruger. With a tough year behind us due to COVID-19, we asked GWF if this opportunity would be one to jointly pursue, and without hesitation, they got up and got to work on a proposal. 

In order to continue and expand their mission without large donor dependency, GWF was ready to pick up the conversation on the breakfast service. This service was to be managed and beneficial to their Tourism and Hospitality Academy, as it would provide hands on training and a stipend to the students, allow GWF to grow their class sizes without donor dependency and finally bring to the tourism industry of the Kruger, a fresh innovative service with purpose. And just like that, the proposal was deemed successful and we got right to work. 

Read more

CFLI Project in Sri Lanka comes to a successful close

Planeterra & Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives

In June of 2020, Planeterra was awarded a grant from the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI), for a project focussed on increasing domestic demand for Sthree’s handicraft and cafe has come to a close! The CFLI is a program designed to support small-scale, high-impact projects in developing countries, which align with Global Affairs Canada’s thematic priority areas for engagement.

This month marks the end of Planeterra’s project with the Candian Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI). We began working with CFLI in June with our partners at the Women’s Development Centre (WDC) in Sri Lanka. The goal of this project was to empower women entrepreneurs dependent on international tourism for their income, to better access the domestic markets in order to reduce the volatility of their household income to changes in the tourism market.

We are excited to share that this project has equipped 110 women entrepreneurs and 23 employees from the WDC in Sri Lanka with increased knowledge of business management, improved handicraft skills, and a better understanding of domestic market channels and trends. 

These trainings have renewed a sense of confidence within the entrepreneurs to capture new markets with the right products, and a new confidence in the WDC team to lead the entrepreneurs to success and better tap into online markets to support the sale of their products,” says Rhea Simms, Senior Programs Manager of Planeterra.

Handicraft quality training was conducted on shoe making, batik dying, candle making, crocheting, soft toy making, saree blouse making, artisanal soap making, packaging and food dehydration. All skills training activities were identified through market assessments conducted to better understand local purchasing trends. Some entrepreneurs went on to receive mentorship which allowed them to put their new skills into action and develop their very first business plans. Marketing and social media training played a large role as well, as the world becomes increasingly online. 

While COVID-19 impacted some of the sessions, the local trainers and entrepreneurs were quick to improvise using Whatsapp to communicate and participate in lessons remotely. Recordings of training sessions were completed to keep the program moving along effectively and ensure that the learnings could continue beyond the project period.

Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, the project was a success with over 160 people benefiting from the project, 149 of those being women. While it is still early to know the full impact of this project, six women entrepreneurs have developed brand new products for the domestic market – two of them related to food dehydration. Four partnerships were developed to increase sales and skills for women entrepreneurs. Lastly, three entrepreneurs were able to secure large orders through effective marketing both direct and through social media, with differentiated products based on project learnings. 

 

We are proud to have been a part of such an impactful initiative and we know that it will continue to make a difference for women entrepreneurs across Sri Lanka. 

About Planeterra

Planeterra is committed to turning travel into impact by helping local communities earn an income from tourism. It is a non-profit organization created in 2003 by G Adventures’ founder, Bruce Poon Tip and was started with the purpose of connecting underserved communities to opportunities in the travel industry. Planeterra helps local organizations and communities use tourism as a catalyst to improve people’s lives, protect their natural environments, and celebrate their culture. For more information please visit www.planeterra.org

Read more

An Interview with Amoun, Founder of Domari Society

An Interview with Domari Society Founder, Amoun

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL- Community centre in Jerusalem supporting marginalized Domari women and children, earning income through a meal and handicraft experience for travellers.

While women represent the majority of workers, they are often in lower-level positions and are earning 14.7% less than their male counterparts. A lack of education or formal training jeopardizes women’s active participation in tourism. At Planeterra we are working to close this gap.

Meet Amoun Sleem, she founded Domari Society at the age of 16 and since then has committed her life to serve her community. For International Women’s Day we at Planeterra wanted to highlight the amazing women we work with all around the world who are continually making an impact.

We had the opportunity to interview Amoun that you can read below.  

Why did you start your organization?

The Domari Society of Gypsies in Jerusalem was established in 1999, I opened the doors of my house as a shelter and a center for my community. I wanted the Dom community, especially women and children to find a space of tolerance, acceptance, and most importantly a place where they can develop new skills, get support in continuing their education, and gain empowerment tools for a better life. 

The society was a response to the loss of cultural pride, lack of education, unemployment and poverty within the community. Our Dom history begins with us migrating from India to the Middle East. We adopted the local language (Arabic) and religion (Islam) but kept our traditions. The Dom community are seen as “different” by their Arab neighbours, but as Palestinians, they face the same unequal treatment from the Israeli state. Our mission is to improve the circumstances of the Dom community. We focus on educational development, economic empowerment, and cultural preservation.  

What impacts have you seen in your community?

Our work is focused on educational development, economic empowerment, and cultural preservation. To meet these goals, we create programs especially for women and children. Firstly, we have an after-school tutoring program for Dom children. Our goal is to raise Dom children’s educational level,  to encourage parents and children to continue with education, and give Dom children better opportunities and choices of future work. 

Before COVID-19 the center had become an integral part of their everyday life. They felt safe and motivated to go to school every day, and their grades were getting better and their involvement with school activities increased. We believe that our tutoring support is helping children to stop dropping-out of school, as they get more confident with their abilities and aspirations for the future. We are happy to say that we have students who are entering high-school now. However, it has been a challenge to keep such progress with continuous lock-downs and limitations. We are focusing on helping Dom students at home to take part in the shift to online-learning; we are contacting donors and applying for grants to acquire tablets or laptops for Dom children. a few of the Dom children are using their parents’ smartphones to access their classes and the remaining have no alternatives for the physical school classrooms. 

Secondly, we are dedicated to providing Humanitarian Aid, especially during COVID-19. A lot of Dom parents have lost their jobs and their only source of income. We are focusing on maintaining our community’s will-power and continue to give the children assurance and hope during the pandemic. The Domari Society supports the Dom family with vital and necessary supplies; food packages, blankets, school supplies, and children gifts to uplift their spirits. 

Thirdly, we have a tourism program with Planeterra. Our goal is to inform people around the world about Domari history and culture, create work opportunities for Domari women and increase their independence, and receive income outside of grants. The project before COVID-19 was a great opportunity for our community, as they were able to use their skills and communicate with different people from different cultures. We believe that our mission is giving a voice to our community.

Fourthly, we offer a space for the community to meet, exchange and live out their traditions. This is essential for preserving the Domari culture, which is at risk of marginalization. One of our projects is the Domari Language Preservation. We invite elderly members of the community and record Domari language. It provides an opportunity for the children to forge a connection with their cultural, linguistic heritage in hopes that it will not disappear. Before the pandemic, the community center held a variety of activities to keep the Dom traditions alive; traditional Gypsy food dinners, live music and dance. Additionally, the Domari Society has compiled a cookbook of Gypsy recipes and a book about Domari history entitled The Dom of Jerusalem.

What impacts has your organization had on women in your community, and why is that so important?

Dom women are the pillars of our community, they are the pillars of change and achieving economic empowerment. I believe in order to build a strong independent society that has a clear future, I must provide the Dom women with the tools and skills to function independently in their communities and later transfer these mindsets and work ethics to their children, who are the future.

 One of the courses we provide is a small Business Course, in which women can learn skills necessary for starting and running an independent business. The course was geared towards individuals already working in the service industry and includes accounting, operations management, marketing, and technical expertise. We also provide catering and hairdressing courses with practical and theoretical sessions, which include psycho-social workshops, business follow-ups, income statements, and marketing sessions. We aim to increase the possibilities of Dom women finding employment or opening their own businesses, and as a result, improve the status of Dom women within their families and societies.

Dom women are always eager to participate in new learning opportunities that we provide, as they receive official certificates and real skills. Consequently, we recognized that Dom women became more confident, and the Dom community especially men are becoming more open-minded to the women’s various roles and abilities in the society. When our women find employment through the skills developed in courses, both the economy of the community and families as a whole experience positive effects. 

We also offer the center as space for Domari women to showcase their handicraft work, which is their only source of income, our goal as well is to celebrate the Dom people culture and cultivate cultural pride and self-confidence.

What actions do you take to ensure women in your workplace have equal opportunities?

At the Domari center, I make sure to give every Dom woman the chance and opportunities to develop new skills, gain experience, and find her path in life. I believe that it’s important to hear every woman’s struggle and find a program that suits her best. I always strive to be a mentor and provide guidance whether for work or for personal matters. Of course, the work environment revolves around building confidence between employees and volunteers, and where trust and cooperation are essential for progression. Therefore, we address our employees’ personal life pressures and duties, especially because I work with women. Most Dom women feel that they can’t reach their goals and mainly in their careers, because they lack childcare support, but at my center children are welcomed and we provide games and a space for them.

What are your dreams for your organization?

I have many dreams for my organization, one is to make the Domari Society Center a model for all gypsies around the world; to become an international focal point for connecting all gypsies together, and I aspire to make it a model for all gypsies -especially in the Middle-East-  where from it they can derive pride in our culture and ethnic roots. Such a dream is a journey where we have many bus-stops; end discrimination, and obtain economic, legal, and social equality. I strive to reach leaders who will advocate for our rights, promote justice, and give voice to the voiceless.

You can learn more about our work the Domari Society here. 

Read more

Panama commits to bringing travel back better with launch of PACT – Panama Alliance for Community Tourism

New initiative designed to improve well-being of residents, visitors and the environment

This week the Panama Government, in partnership with the Panamanian Foundation for Sustainable Tourism (APTSO), Fundación Natura, and non-profit Planeterra, the global leader in community tourism enterprise development, announced a joint venture to work with communities across Panama to build community tourism experiences that improve the well-being of residents, visitors, and the environment, celebrating the natural beauty and must-have cultural experiences the country offers. 

The new partnership aims to reposition Panama as a destination focused on incredible cultural immersion experiences for travellers that leave a positive footprint on the country in terms of supporting local people and businesses, and ensures traveller dollars stay in-destination. 

“The launch of the Panama Alliance for Community Tourism (PACT) is a major break-through in the implementation of Panama’s Sustainable Tourism Master Plan”, explained Ivan Eskildsen, the Panamanian Minister of Tourism. 

“In our Master Plan, we have prioritized the development of tourism experiences focused on the ‘discerning traveler’, a global trend that is demanding more and more authentic experiences that benefit local communities, and their surrounding environment. We are excited that PACT will accelerate the implementation of this strategy, with local and global partners that will help Panama consolidate world-class community tourism experiences, that showcase the extraordinary wealth of our natural and cultural heritage.”

The partners involved in the PACT initiative plan to work closely with at least 10 communities and their tourism enterprises in order to assist them with income diversification, product development, and customer service. Long-term sustainability will be a focus for the initiative’s pilot projects, which will include training local counterparts in Planeterra’s highly successful community-led tourism development methodology and local communities in all aspects of the tourism value chain, including business planning, regenerative agriculture and resiliency building in order to ensure each community is set up for success.  

“Planeterra is excited to work with APTSO, Fundación Natura and the Ministry of Tourism to launch this groundbreaking community tourism initiative,” says Jamie Sweeting, president of Planeterra. 

“We look forward to bringing Planeterra’s proven approach to empowering community-led tourism to Panama and, in the process, strengthening local partners to lead this initiative forward.”

“The PACT partners share a vision for using proven solutions to put host communities at the heart of tourism in Panama,” explained Annie Young, president of the Panamanian Foundation for Sustainable Tourism (APTSO). “Through close collaboration, we can achieve the goals of  the Tourism Vision 2025 of the Panama  Sustainable Tourism Master Plan and become globally recognized as a world-class sustainable tourism destination while supporting the wellbeing of our communities.”

For more information, please visit www.planeterra.org  and www.aptso.org.

ends

About Planeterra

Planeterra is committed to turning travel into impact by helping local communities earn an income from tourism. It is a non-profit organization created in 2003 by G Adventures’ founder, Bruce Poon Tip and was started with the purpose of connecting underserved communities to opportunities in the travel industry. Planeterra helps local organizations and communities use tourism as a catalyst to improve people’s lives, protect their natural environments, and celebrate their culture. For more information please visit www.planeterra.org

Read more

New year, New Travellers, More Impact!

2020 is the year that Planeterra is working to complete Project 100, by having 100 Planeterra Projects on travel itineraries by the end of the year.

For some of our project partners, it is their first time working with international travellers, the first time some of the project’s employees have ever had a job outside of their home, the first time they are able to have a job in the community in which they live so they don’t have to move to the bigger cities to earn an income. It’s at this moment that turning travel into impact comes to fruition!

Here is a rundown of the projects that received their very first travellers this month and how these initiatives are already making a huge impact on the community, the traveller or the project partner.

Domari Culture and Craft Experience, Israel

 

The Dom (Gypsy) community face regular discrimination as a marginalized group in Israel, and the Domari Society was created to tackle this issue and empower the community.  At the Domari Culture and Craft Experience, travellers will get to enjoy traditional Domari food as well as learn about the culture and shop at the local shop. 

“[I was] touched by her story and wish the host all the best in fulfilling her dreams of helping her community.” – Traveller

Mesilou Atamis Homestay, Malaysia

 

Mesilou Atamis Homestay (MAH), known as the “Highest and Coldest Homestay in Malaysia” also had their first travellers visit this month. This is the first time the Mesilou community is welcoming international tourists to their community, and the tourism enterprise is benefitting over 23 families.

The first group visited this project this month and thoroughly enjoyed their stay. Many of the travellers decided to add on an optional activity and did the Maragang Hill trek led by the MAH members, spreading even more income into the community.

 

Together We Earn, India

Together We Earn works to create opportunities for women in India. Ten women are employed and for many of them, it is the first time they have held a job outside of the home, and the first time they have earned their own money. Travellers will get the opportunity to eat traditional Alapphuza cuisine and get immersed in the local culture. 

Travellers visited TWE earlier this month and the travellers reported perfect (5/5) scores for their experience!

 

Libaran Island Community Tourism, Malaysia

Being a remote island, there is little economic opportunity for those who live on Libaran Island. Additionally, this community is home to the nesting site of endangered sea turtles in which the local people take great pride. It is important for the community to have the ability to earn sustainable livelihoods so they can stay on the island and steward this fragile environment.   

Visitors to Libaran Island Community Tourism have the opportunity to learn about the knowledge and culture of the island through activities such as pandanous (plant fibre) weaving, making of local snacks, demonstration of traditional fishing nets and upcycling of plastic bottles into souvenirs. 

 

Baracoa Community Tour, Cuba

 

Planeterra began working together with several family-owned micro-enterprises in the area to create Baracoa Community Tour for travellers as a way to bring economic opportunities to a rural area! 

Travellers have the opportunity to learn from local guides, participate in local living experiences and make some traditional delicacies. The day also includes a visit to a cacao farm, trying local food by women in the community, learning about a project working to preserve some of Cuba’s unique species, and having the chance to purchase unique handicrafts, all supporting women, men and youth of this community.

Lusumpuko Women’s Club, Zimbabwe

 

Lusumpuko Women’s Club was in tours last year, but because of the success of their cooking demonstration and meal with travellers, G Adventures added Lusumpuko Women’s Club to additional travel itineraries, more than doubling the number of customers for their club.  With the increase in customers, the cooperative has hired ten new members who will now receive income from the tourism industry in Victoria Falls. Travellers have enjoyed this local experience for more than a year and we can’t wait for more travellers to experience it!

Planeterra couldn’t be more excited to see travellers enjoying all of the new projects. The count down is on until Project 100 is completed and we cannot do it without you, let’s keep turning travel into impact!

Read more

HOW YOU CAN CELEBRATE THE WAY OF THE SAN

HOW YOU CAN CELEBRATE THE WAY OF THE SAN

Across Southern Africa, there are tourism experiences that promise to educate and inspire visitors about the Indigenous San – the original inhabitants of Southern Africa, and truly the original inhabitants of Planet Earth. A fascinating culture, the San are the earliest hunter-gatherers, having once lived across large areas of South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Botswana, and beyond.

As is true with most Indigenous people, their way of life, their knowledge, languages and culture have all been threatened first by colonialism, and nowadays by the legacy that colonialism has left behind – a lack of economic empowerment and opportunity, which leaves the San isolated.

Having lived in South Africa, and returning regularly in my capacity as Program Manager for Planeterra, I was well acquainted with tourism experiences – from lodges to museums – that attempted to celebrate the San.

But few have the power of Dqae Qare San Lodge. Owned freehold by the Indigenous community of D’Kar through the Kuru Development Trust, this wildlife reserve, campsite and lodge is a special and unique place. It provides full-time employment for 12 members of the D’Kar community and part-time work for over 40 more. With many in the community living on about 30 cents a day, these jobs are truly changing lives. One Dqae Qare employee is able to support a family of ten back in D’Kar.

Visiting Dqae Qare

The authenticity and power of the lodge hits visitors almost immediately. As I arrived on my first visit in February of 2018, I stepped out of my truck to find San community members bustling about the property. An employee drives past in a work vehicle filled with other employees on their way to a maintenance job near the campsite, a young San woman is setting the table under a thatched roof for dinner, and another greets me and checks me in at the lodge’s reception. I book the activities I want to partake in with her, and she happily leads me to my room. There’s a sense of purpose and passion behind every employee, and the feeling is palpable.

Later that day, I’m greeted by Dinah and Xgaiga, who take me out on a bushwalk to show me how the San have hunted, gathered food, and used the sometimes harsh Kalahari environment to their benefit. The San employees at Dqae Qare can identify more than 80 plants and their medicinal uses – it seems like every five steps we take, Xgaiga halts to point out a tree or a bush that has a practical use – this one protects you from snakes as you sleep, the bark of this tree can be boiled in water to cure colds and its leaves can be eaten to relieve a stomach ache.

In the evening, there is a storytelling and dance. Community members from nearby flood to the big bonfire in front of the lodge, and Xgaiga begins a story, told entirely in Naro. Everyone listens intently, the travellers around me lean in when Dinah starts her translation, in anticipation but also to warm ourselves by the fire. The story is about how the dog became man’s friend, while the jackal remains wild. Dancing ensues, and community members and travellers alike join in a circle around the flames.

It dawns on me how profound it is to experience the San practicing their culture, on land that they own outright themselves. Indigenous people around the world struggle to regain lands taken from them and to practice traditions that were even made illegal. It’s so important that places such as the Dqae Qare San Lodge are preserved, and helping it grow is a task Planeterra has been dedicated to since this first visit.

The prosperity of the lodge has a direct correlation with the development of the D’Kar community and the employment of its people. The more Planeterra can invest in the infrastructure of the lodge, the more profit Dqae Qare can invest straight into the community projects they’re dedicated to providing – like support for the area’s schools, churches, and even a clean water project taken on by the Kuru Development Trust. This GivingTuesday, we’re asking for support to help with upgrades to the lodge so Dqae Qare can continue to grow, employ more community members from D’Kar, and so many more travellers can enjoy learning and celebrating the way of the San.

Read more

PUESTA DEL SOL IS BACK

PUESTA DEL SOL IS BACK

We are very excited to announce that operations are restarting at Puesta del Sol, our Planeterra project in Nicaragua in November of this year. In March 2018, G Adventures cancelled operations due to the political crisis in the country.

The Puesta del Sol Community Association was founded in 2005 by 17 families, largely influenced by the women in the community. The mission of the organization is to improve the quality of life for their families and the area.

They are located in Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua, which is a beautiful island in the Nicaraguan Lake that has 2 mindblowing volcanoes. The main economic activities in this area are tourism and farming. Through the association, they have created different touristic initiatives. These new opportunities are resulting in families being able to stay together. In the past, due to the lack of jobs some members of the family had to leave to bring or send money home.

Tourism has become a meaningful source of economic development in Nicaragua, but because of the political crisis and social instability, this source of income was heavily affected. Puesta del Sol itself was impacted, they stopped receiving visitors, resulting  in job loss. Many had to leave for either safety or to be able to provide for their families.

Odalis the President of the Association, (her family founded the association) has been involved in every step of the development of the organization and is extremely proud. During my visit to Puesta del Sol in September, I stayed at her house or “homestay”, she showed me around and told me all of the exciting stories about her family and the association.  She is so happy to see how the country is recovering from the crisis, tourists are coming back and she is so thankful and happy to be welcoming G Adventures travellers into their houses.

G Adventures and Planeterra have been working with Puesta del Sol since 2012. Planeterra provided funds for the development of the tourism initiative and the related training. Travellers enjoy living the “Isleno” life for a couple of days through the homestay experience offered by Puesta del Sol, the families in the community are very welcoming, and they really make you feel at home!

The community is eager to welcome back all G Adventures groups!

Read more

Boosting a craft workshop in Kyrgyzstan

Meet Mekenbek

Mekenbek is a passionate artist that has spent his life producing traditional Kyrgyz crafts. Mekenbek started a workshop in Barksoon village that primarily produces yurts and yurt decorations. Ak Orgo’s purpose is to preserve traditional Kyrgyz handicrafts while providing employment opportunities for the town of Barskoon, a community suffering with 80% unemployment.

The Ak Orgo Workshop

Planeterra works with community organizations and nonprofits all over the world, using tourism as a catalyst for empowerment and sustainable development.

Here is one example of how we brought on our newest partner, Ak Orgo, in the small town of Barskoon in Kyrgyzstan.

Finding Ak Orgo
The Ak Orgo workshop has actually been featured in Lonely Planet, and was found by a G Adventures’ CEO in Central Asia. G Adventures’ groups started visiting Ak Orgo in 2018, but it was clear that some additional training and infrastructure development was needed to see this workshop achieve its social enterprise goals through tourism.

Infrastructure Needs Assessment

The basic structure for the workshop at Ak Orgo was already standing, but the toilet was not at a good standard, the kitchen was barely functional, and they dreamed of having a showroom where the artists could actually display their crafts for visitors.

Infrastructure Grant

A grant was provided to Ak Orgo to fully construct a building outside the workshop that would house the kitchen, handicraft display room and the bathrooms. The community pitched in to complete the construction project in time for the tourism season to begin. This new building allows Ak Orgo to greatly improve the quality of experience they can provide in their workshop.

Organizational Needs Assessment

Ak Orgo had no online presence, and struggled to find a way to capture the tourists driving by Barskoon. With the existing craft orders and partnerships the workshop was surviving, but not yet thriving or reaching its social enterprise goals of providing more employment opportunities in Barskoon. Ak Orgo looked to tourism as a launching pad that could help their workshop grow.

Capacity Building Program & Launching in Tours

To address organizational needs, a training program was developed with the Association of Social Entrepreneurs Kyrgyzstan. The training program went over a period of six months, with trainings in three key categories – social entrepreneurship, tourism & guest management, and managing their online presence. Through this process Ak Orgo was able to develop their Social Enterprise Business Plan to continue tracking business and social targets for the future.

As Planeterra works with our local partners, we also ensure that the experience is represented into the travel itineraries of G Adventures. Their first group of the 2019 season visited Ak Orgo on May 21, 2019. The group enjoyed a yurt building demonstration, a tour of the workshop and a traditional Kyrgyz lunch. The income earned through this partnership with G Adventures allows Ak Orgo to continue doing what they love, producing Kyrgyz crafts.

Constant Innovation

Mekenbek doesn’t stop at craft production in the workshop. He is an innovator and creator at heart, and is constantly building new equipment that will allow their crafts to be produced in a less labour-intensive manner than traditionally taught. These innovations mean that more people can continue to produce the items and the culture can be better passed down to the next generation.

Impact

Ak Orgo currently employs 9 community members and hopes to continue providing employment opportunities as their tourism program grows.

Planeterra couldn’t be more excited to see travellers start visiting Ak Orgo. It is our hope that tourism will allow them to continue to grow their workshop, hire more community members, and spread their unique crafts on to the next generation of artisans. Ak Orgo is a special place, and we highly encourage you to visit on your next trip to Kyrgyzstan!

Read more

Updates from Colombia

Planeterra has been working with Wiwa Tours in Colombia to set up a social enterprises owned and operated by the Wiwa community of Gotsezhy along the Lost City Trek. A series of enterprises along the trek have opened up new income generation opportunities for the community, including a training kitchen, meal and handicraft experiences. In the last months before launching the experience for G Adventures’ travellers, the community members are putting final touches on the experience. This project works to provide income opportunities for 100 community members. An investment from Planeterra and Live Out There, along with the support of G Adventures, has created a unique new opportunity for the Gotsezhy community to thrive in tourism. Check out some of the latest photos of their progress:

Read more