Indigenous People



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.

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From the Field – The Lusumpuko Women’s Club


The 20 women of the Lusumpuko Women’s Club chose this name with the hope that they would be able to lift themselves and their communities out of the harsh realities brought on by the economic situation in Zimbabwe. The ladies founded the chicken rearing co-operative as a way to create income for their households, and to help and inspire other, younger ladies to do the same.

How It Started

“It’s our dream to help more women in our community,”

says Lusumpuko president Linda Makarutse, and Merlyn Mpofu, Lusumpuko’s secretary, chimes in:

“The problem now is some of our age group and youth, they are not educated enough to get a job in the tourism industry. There is a need for hospitality training classes, and opportunities for women and youth here in Victoria Falls.”

With this in mind, Planeterra began supporting the co-operative in 2017, and the ladies of Lusumpuko got to receive basic business training. The co-operative also received a grant to help kick-start a meal service in the tourist town of Victoria Falls. This investment helped them purchase much-needed catering equipment, such as pots, a gas cooker, and serving utensils. They also got the chance to empower a different women’s co-operative by purchasing uniforms made from locally sourced chitenge fabric. The launch of their new catering business helped Lusumpuko increase their combined income of about $600 USD to more than four times as much per month, thus significantly improving their quality of life and enabling them to provide for their children while supporting other members of the community.

The meal service is a hearty buffet of traditional Zimbabwean food, as well as an enjoyable experience observing the preparation by the co-operative members. Travellers going through Victoria Falls have the opportunity to enjoy an array of home-cooked Zimbabwean delicacies. This has not only been financially beneficial for the ladies, but emotionally fulfilling for them as well. Most of the ladies will admit to finding a sense of purpose and validation as they can now depend on themselves to take care of their households.

Members of the co-operative used to do odd jobs in the community, like selling floor polish, providing cleaning services, or selling crafts across the border into Zambia or Botswana. Now, they have weekly work using their skills, practicing English, and interacting with international travellers, while many have dreams to one day expand the co-operative to provide other tourism services, like transport.

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First G Adventures travellers visit Native Grill


It’s hard to miss the flags and signs of the Native Grill, a family-owned business along Route 89, nestled on Navajo Nation’s western side. It’s lunchtime on a Tuesday and the food truck, with the caption “Navajo Soul Food,” is busy with customers wanting to taste the authentic Navajo cuisine of frybread taco, dumpling stew and grilled local lamb. The kitchen is busy, as the family’s grandmother cooks frybreads for the pending G Adventures group of 12 who are about to arrive.

Her daughter Alfreida, who’s from the area, started the family food truck in 2013 by attending the Tuba City Fair, and operated in that town until a Burger King opened and forced them out some time later. Undeterred, Alfreida and her family carried on.

“There were days where we made no sales, but we stuck it out,” says Alfreida. “I’d be up prepping at 4:30 in the morning, but as time went along I figured things out.” Eventually, she gained her business license in 2016 and set up just south of the town of Cameron.

This area of Navajo Nation is in particular need of entrepreneurs like Alfreida, as it was under the Bennett Freeze between 1966 and 2009, which outlawed any infrastructure development. This meant houses couldn’t be built, water and gas lines couldn’t be laid, and roads couldn’t be mended, to name just a few of the ways the area’s development was stifled. Still today, it’s estimated that almost 60% of houses in the area do not have electricity, and the majority do not have potable water.

Improvements To The Native Grill

Planeterra partnered with Indigenous business incubator DineHozho, who have helped oversee a grant earmarked for improvements to the Native Grill. Today’s visitors are enjoying new picnic tables, a hand-washing station, and a brand new shade structure which will be especially handy during the hot desert summers. Native Grill’s operations have also been assisted by upgrades to their solar and generator systems.

As the group of G Adventures travellers arrive, they line up at the window to confirm their order for Navajo Tacos, and decide which toppings they’d like on their frybread, as three generations of Alfreida’s family work together in unison in the kitchen.

It may be these four running the Native Grill this afternoon, but to them, the entire community is considered family, and they assist as many people as they can.

“We do what we can at a local level to help the elderly, and during Christmas and Thanksgiving we do turkey baskets and deliver it to people that live off the main road like 15-20 miles away, all the way at the base of the mountain,” explains Alfreida.

With more income from regular G Adventures groups (somewhere between 15-24 customers will be visiting twice a week during the summer months), Native Grill will be able to assist the community even more, not to mention grow the business. Although the food is delicious and the group enjoys their meal under the shade, the highlight of the afternoon is the family coming out to introduce themselves to the travellers, who eagerly ask questions in an effort to learn more about what it’s like to live on Navajo Nation. In the end, this is so much more of a meal stop – it’s an opportunity to learn about the resilience and entrepreneurship of the Diné (more commonly known as the Navajo) and how travellers should make an effort to stop at the small businesses that dot the roadsides if they’d like to learn more and give back to this community.

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Water Tanks in Thailand

Planeterra has worked closely with The Thailand Community Based Tourism Institute since 2015 to improve community tourism in the indigenous communities of Ban Pha Mon (Red Lahu) and Ban Muang Pam (Karen). These communities were connected to the G Adventures market in 2016 and hosted 600 G Adventures’ travellers that year.

Planeterra’s annual impact assessment showed that increased traveller numbers had led to positive impact on knowledge, skill development, cultural exchange and additional income for the community through tourism. However, it was also observed that the community was consuming far more resources with the new influx of travellers, with increased strain on water, food and power.

The 2016 rainy season caused flooding in both Ban Pha Mon and Ban Muang Pam that completely destroyed some of their irrigation system, which led to an insufficient amount of water to be used in the village.

In Febrary 2018, Planeterra supported these two communities to build 10 water tanks to meet increased water demand. Communities provided their labor, skills and knowledge to build the water tanks locally. Each water tank is able to contain up to 4,000 litres, increasing each village’s capacity to 20,000 litres. The water also will be used for travellers as well as  families in the community.

This community effort allows for sustained tourism activities in the two communities for years to come. Thank you to all donors that support Planeterra, helping others to uplift their quality of life, sustaining the community environment and developing community infrastructure.

Panot Pakongsup

Panot is Planeterra’s Field Manager for Asia. With vast experience working in community based tourism in Thailand, Panot is now bringing his expertise throughout the continent with Planeterra.

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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:

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Celebrating International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples 2017

August 9th marks the United Nation’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Planeterra works closely with indigenous groups across the globe to create meaningful employment and training opportunities in tourism. These programs work to conserve culture while promoting sustainable development. From Tully, Australia to Santiago de Agencha, Bolivia, take a closer look at our unique partners across the globe that are celebrating their heritage through tourism programs. Each of these initiatives has been effectively integrated into G Adventures itineraries, creating livelihood opportunities for indigenous communities. 

Cafe Chole

The Jirrbal people are descendants of a true rainforest Aboriginal culture.  As a means to preserve the Jirrbal heritage, Planeterra worked closely with Ingan Tours, an Jirrbal-owned and managed organization, to bring to life their dream of transforming an old rail station into a learning centre for youth.  This Cafe and Cultural Centre serves as a place to teach about the Jirrbal traditions, as well as a museum to celebrate and preserve artefacts of their history. With the help of a $20,000 catalyst grant from Planeterra, the old Tully railway station has been repurposed into a vocational training café, offering lunches and training workshops in painting and Aboriginal arts to travellers. 

Jukil Community Lodge

The Bolivian salt lodge in Santiago de Agencha was renovated and expanded through a major project in 2016 funded by Planeterra, with a generous donation from Live Out There. With many of the village’s younger residents migrating to nearby towns in search of economic opportunities, this lodge is seen by the community as a way to rescue their indigenous culture and provide opportunities for younger generations. Visitors learn about the local agricultural practices, eat ethically-sourced meals from local farmers , and take a guided walk with a community member to the sacred Jukil mountaintop.

Barauli Community Homestay

The Tharu are a group of indigenous people living near to Chitwan National Park. The park is a popular tourism attraction that is well known for its wildlife (such as the Bengal tiger) but less known for the cultural value that it has to offer 
travellers. Baurali is a small community in the surrounding area, home to many of the Tharu people.  Due to its distance from the typical tourism hotspots in the park, the Tharu residents have never been able to access the economic benefits of tourism. The community guesthouse program was developed by our partners, Royal Mountain Travel, to connect travellers coming for park’s wildlife with the rich culture of the Tharu people. The community guesthouse project is completely run by women with the intention to provide women with diversified income in the region. 

Wiwa Tours

In 2015, Planeterra began working in Colombia with the Wiwa of the Sierra Nevada. The Wiwa are descendants of the ancient Tayrona people, who, up until recently, remained in relative isolation. Of late, the Wiwa have had increased contact with the outside world, as they struggle to avoid conflict in the high mountainous region. Planeterra is working with community leaders directly to identify opportunities in communities along the Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) trekking route. Establishing micro-enterprises along the trek will provide opportunities for women to sell traditional bags and other handicrafts to customers from tour groups that visit the area as well as to provide meals to trekkers.

Mae Hong Son Hilltribe Trek

Planeterra worked with Community Based Tourism-Institute (CBT-I), to develop and deliver an 8-month training program that would build the capacity of the villages of Pha Mon (Red Lahu), Meung Pam (Red Karen), and Jabo (Black Lahu) in Northern Thailand to develop a tourism trekking program. Within each village, a community association was created to manage the various products and services included in this community trek — the entire trek is owned and operated by each of the hill-tribe associations. These communities had never before benefitted from a global tourism market before.

Ngadas Community Homestay

Home to 1,898 people in central Java, Indonesia, Ngadas is a small community inhabited by the Tennger tribe in the foothills of the mountains. The Tennger are the protectors of the mountain, Mount Bromo Volcano, one of the most sacred sites in the country. By working with the Tengger people, Planeterra created a homestay and community tour program owned and managed by the Tengger for G Adventures travellers. The homestay program is inside Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park and will allow for the older generation to diversify their income; as well as create opportunities to provide employment for the next generation of Tenngerese to stay in their local community to work. 

Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre

Historical events such as the flu smallpox epidemics as well as the implementation of residential schools and the fracturing of families led to the alteration or loss of much of the oral history important to the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations of the Whistler region of Canada. The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre affords youth from reserves in the region transport for classes, and the opportunity to train in the hospitality industry through on-site museum and cultural tours. Through their partnership with Planeterra and G Adventures, the centre is able to increase their visitor numbers, giving them more opportunities to expand their training base and available visitor activities.
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Tyson Travel visits the Clean Cookstoves Project

During his 14-day Tanzanian trip with G Adventures, Australian travel blogger Tyson Mayr visited the Maasai Clean Cookstoves Project in Monduli. This project partnered with Planeterra in 2014, and together we’ve seen more than 250 stoves installed across various Maasai communities. The project has trained more than 75 women to create stoves that reduce harmful air pollution in rural homes, and recently expanded to include the installation of solar panels.

Hear from Tyson himself about his experience 

“I was very lucky to have spent time with a Maasai Tribe earlier this year as I learnt about The Cookstove Project that Planeterra Foundation supports. Travelling the world has opened my eyes to a lot of different things, especially around the way we all live our lives. But the one common trait I always seem to find, is a simple smile spreads quicker amongst people, then any hate ever will!”

Watch Tyson’s video below

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Bolivia Community Project Leaders Visit Cusco, Perú

In April 2017 five community members from Jukil Community Lodge in Bolivia travelled to Cusco, Perú as part of a week-long internship program supported by Planeterra. The trip’s purpose was to contribute to the strengthening of their knowledge about social enterprise management in the tourism industry, to exchange good practices between the communities, and also to provide the necessary tools to improve their tourism program. This experience allowed unique indigenous groups from different countries to interact and learn more about one another’s culture. With many of the community tourism leaders in Bolivia never travelling before, it was an experience of a lifetime to see a new culture from a traveller’s perspective.

The intern group included one community leader, the lodge manager, two women, and a youth leader. Before travelling, the interns took part in workshops to imagine the communities that they would visit, as well as how they envisioned their own own community enterprise growing in the coming years.

The interns lived as travellers for two days to understand how tourists feel in other countries and to experience the local services. Another day was spent learning about community tourism operations, and one day spent having meetings with other community leaders to better understand how they are managing their tourism business through training modules provided by the Planeterra field team. The interns also visited the G Adventures local office in Cusco – giving them a better overview of the logistics that go behind an effective tourism program.

It was an amazing trip because some community members had never travelled before, and they were feeling nervous, shy, and excited to see and talk with their peers for first time. After the internship experience, they were able to communicate their experiences to the rest of their community: Interns presented what they learned with the help of facilitators showing photographs and videos to convey what they learned.

They worked all together on a plan to improve their community business; including a list of possible actions and needs for the community. These plans are being used to create a robust improvement plan to better the services provided at Jukil Community Lodge in the future.

The internship program provided community leaders with a space for sharing experiences and lessons learned for their community enterprises, and to reflect on challenges and opportunities. It also provided an opportunity to analyze and understand tourism dynamics and the potential impact on the social, cultural, economic and environmental dimension of community life.

As manager for the region, Joel Callanaupa stated that “Seeing their smiles and excited conversations with other communities Planeterra works with, as well as the interaction between distinct indigenous communities, was incredibly meaningful, and unforgettable.”

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Construction Underway in Colombia

Planeterra has partnered with Wiwa Tours, the only indigenous tour operator on the Lost City Trek in Colombia, to develop opportunities in tourism for the Kogui and Wiwa indigenous groups along the trek.
Check the progress that communities members are making in Sierra Nevada:

The Wiwa community has been transporting construction materials to the village by donkey.

Community members have integrated indigenous construction knowledge with modern techniques.

The architect installed a machine that allowed community members to make environmentally-friendly bricks.

Community members were trained on how to use the machine to effectively produce building materials.

The community has begun to lay the foundation for the kitchen and dining room floor.

This building will become the bathroom and showers for travellers.

This building will be a place for lounging and hammocks. It is being constructed completely with bamboo, a traditional building material in Sierra Nevada.

Wiwas traditionally use palm as roofing materials. These techniques have been deeply integrated into construction plans.

This building will become the dining area for travellers in the Wiwa community.

Community members are making great progress in laying the brick walls on the kitchen building.

This indigenous owned and operated tourism enterprise will support the livelihoods of over 100 Kogui and Wiwa people.

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Planeterra Community Projects Attend Largest Travel Show in Perú

Perú Travel Mart is the most important strategic meeting of the tourism industry in Perú. The event has brought international buyers together with local suppliers since 1987. In 2017, for the very first time, two of Planeterra’s partners were exhibitors at this international event.

Representatives from Parwa Community Restaurant were able to pay their way to attend the trade show with savings from their tourism program. They went further to also pay the way for the Ccaccaccollo Women’s Weaving Co-op to join them. Both projects are based in the Cusco region and work closely together to provide outstanding tourism experiences for international travellers.

Attending Perú Travel Mart marks a transition into the greater tourism industry for these community-owned social enterprises. Through our work with both communities, providing catalyst funding, training, market connections and ongoing support through the years, both of these programs are now in a position to diversify their markets, and seek out their own partnerships with travel industry partners beyond G Adventures.  They will be able to see an even greater impact in a communities once completely forgotten by tourism. G Adventures’ contracting manager accompanied community members at Perú Travel Mart to provide guidance and coaching as they build out their marketing skills.

Parwa Community Restaurant and Ccaccaccollo Weaving Co-op host 16,000 or more G Adventures travellers annually. The magnitude of their tourism programs have allowed them to invest significantly back into community development programs in their regions, seeing drastic improvements in education, infrastructure and access to healthcare in their communities.

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