Projects

Deepening impact alongside Canada’s Fund for Local Initiatives in Sri Lanka

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. 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. The program is directed at projects conceived and designed predominantly by local partners.

At Planeterra, we imagine a world where funds from the travel industry flow freely to individuals and their families, changing lives and entire communities in the process. As the global travel industry stood still for much of 2020, we pivoted to ensure we made an even deeper impact with our partners at the Women’s Development Centre (WDC) in Kandy, Sri Lanka through accessing Canadian government funding that has helped their artisan community diversify income sources and cater to a local market.

Planeterra first forged a partnership with the WDC in 2017, when we provided them with funding to renovate the Sthree Craft Shop & Cafe. We also connected them to travel industry partners, who started bringing tour groups for a meal at the cafe in 2018. Within the first two years of the cafe’s reopening, Sthree’s sales had increased 400%, and they were able to begin investing more funds into their network of over 170 entrepreneurs, 9 cafe workers, 5 differently-abled server trainees, and support the running cost of WDC’s shelter for abused women. 

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. Goals for the project included increasing domestic demand for artisan handicrafts by 50%, training 25 female entrepreneurs in quality control, and creating e-learning resources for product development. With the main activities of the project now complete, Sthree Project Manager, Ramona Stephen is looking back and examining the success of the endeavour. 

“Entrepreneurs who previously focused on catering to tourists, now have adjusted their products as well as their prices to match local customers through various market research and surveys carried out,” explained Ramona. “Entrepreneurs have also had the opportunity to polish their skills and acquire new skills in order to cater to this customer segment.”

Tea tasting class for local entrepreneurs.

A key component of the project was the multiple training sessions, both socially-distanced and in-person when safe, and online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Ramona, these training sessions helped “boost entrepreneur confidence” and put a focus on “marketing, pitching, costing, networking and packaging.” Perhaps one of the greatest long-term impacts of the project will be the sustainability of online training, which shall assist entrepreneurs in months and years to come, as well as the business plans developed by entrepreneurs – something they previously did not possess.

“The project has overall upskilled entrepreneurs and provided Sthree with tools to strengthen entrepreneur capacities while creating a sustainable structure to provide entrepreneurs with necessary services to economically empower women,” said Ramona. 

Planeterra’s Regional Representative based in India, Priyanka Singh, oversaw the management of this particular project, and has been overwhelmed by the positive impacts of the activities undertaken, particularly considering the timing of the program. 

“This project is special as it shows how Planeterra and its partners are adapting to the changing times,” said Priyanka. “It showed the spirit of perseverance even in times of adversity and was inspiring to see how they innovated and ensured that maximum entrepreneurs could benefit from such a program.”

Local entrepreneurs at a packaging workshop.

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

Media Enquiries

For media enquiries, please reach out to:

Alanna Wallace
Program & Communications Manager

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MIGRANTOUR: INTERCULTURAL WALKS TO DISCOVER MULTI-ETHNIC NAPLES

 

After several months of pause, Migrantour, the intercultural walks to discover multiethnic Naples, started again on September 14. Migrantour is an initiative born in Turin that arrived in Naples in 2015 and provides guided tours of the city with intercultural guides of foreign origin. 

Migrantour Naples provides 4 routes organized by Casba Social Cooperative, a Planeterra partner since 2018. In this interview, meet its President, Jomahe Solis, to learn more about Migrantour and the work done by Casba.

*This is an extract of the interview originally published in italian on the website of Impact Campania, a project which aims to promote the integration of foreign citizens in the region of Campania, Italy.

Hi Jomahe, can you tell us how the Migrantour initiative in Naples was born?

We officially started with the Migrantour Naples project in 2015 even if we did it informally in 2013. The Migrantour concept was born in Turin in 2010 thanks to Viaggi Solidali; we came into contact with them and proposed to bring it to Naples. We obtained their accreditation to be part of the network after verifying that most of the members of our Cooperative are foreigners. This is the idea, we are not tour guides, but intercultural guides. 

In 2015 we obtained funding from the Waldensian Church and entered the official Migrantour circuit which provides 200 hours of training for the intercultural guides. Nowadays, Migrantour has become an international network because, two years ago, we participated in a European funded project called “New Roots”, which extended the network to several European cities.

What are the characteristics that distinguish Migrantour?

The Migrantour is not the usual city tour, because we are not tour guides, we are intercultural companions. We bring people to the discovery of popular neighbourhoods, to see the ferment of migrant communities. Casba Social Cooperative has been working with the integration of migrants for over twenty years and we know the communities and areas of the city very well. We like to call it “a visit to the world at zero kilometres”, since we go to a place and we can imagine being abroad, encountering colours, noises, smells and flavours of other cultures. This brings an extra sensitivity to the presence of migrants in our cities.

In some way can we say that Migrantour represents a counter-narrative of migration?

In recent years there has been a negative narrative, focused on boat landings and the phobia of the foreigner who comes to take everything. Contrary, we see other realities, such as the entrepreneur who works and makes others work, perhaps Neapolitans. This type of migration narrative is the message we want to spread through the Migrantour. 

How many types of routes are there?

We currently have four routes: that of Piazza Garibaldi which is called “A thousand worlds at the station”; “In the belly of Naples” which starts from Piazza Mercato; then we have “All the faces of the exchange” which is in the area of the Courts, this path was created recently and intends to be a story about old and new slavery; finally, the last is “Next stop: Piazza Cavour” which represents a crossroads of worlds and cultures.

Now we are working on a new route, trying to establish a dialogue between different places of worship. After the lockdown, together with Viaggi Solidali, we tried to invent something new and decided to create a one-week tourist package, conceived by our Casba Cooperative which includes the historic center of Naples, as well as Pompeii, Procida and of course the Migrantour.

Who usually takes part in your tours?

To tell the truth, the public is very mixed, which is why we also try to personalize them with special stages and tastings of typical cuisine or drinks. For example, when we go to the market run by the Bengalis, we taste the mango juice and the delicious Sri Lankan biscuits created to accompany the tea, because having had the English domination they made this tradition theirs. On the other hand, when we travel with foreigners, we explain the tradition of “caffè sospeso” (leaving a coffee paid for someone that cannot afford it) and sfogliatella (typical Neapolitan pastry). However, the routes are mainly designed for Neapolitans and school children, since the idea is precisely that it is the local population who can realize with whom they share the city. It is a matter of open-mindedness that allows you to have a different look. 

The Migrantour of Naples and that of Rome have attracted the interest of the international tour operator G-Adventures, who brings groups to take part in the tours. Often those arriving from abroad have a more open vision and already know things such as multi-ethnic markets, so for them we take the itinerary “In the belly of Naples”, which is more focused on interreligious exchange and Neapolitan habits. In this walk, we visit both the mosque and the Carmine church and we try to explain the link between the different religions. In that area, there is the Black Madonna as well, to which many Neapolitans are devoted. 

Why is it important to know this multi-ethnic face of Naples?

It is important not to stop at the news that mass media transmit, both in terms of foreign communities and the city of Naples. We must go and see, get to know the positive things, things that later on we might be interested in. It is also a way to enrich your life, your culture and why not your table too! As an example, ginger, which is now so fashionable and is put all over the place, has always existed, here in Italy too. So how did this fashion come about? It was born from the knowledge of the other, the customs and habits of the other, it is always an enrichment. If during the walk you find something you like, maybe you come back, or if there is a shop where you used to pass and you didn’t even notice it, now you know it and maybe you go inside.

We must favour intercultural exchange because there is no fixed identity, we will understand that we can only get richer, becoming less vulnerable.

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Cafe Chloe

Cafe Chloe

Tully, Australia

Impact

Indigenous tour operator Ingan Tours used income from travel to ensure local Indigenous culture was celebrated and that a space was made to educate visitors about local Indigenous art, stories, and culture. Their work went a step further, setting up Cafe Chloe as a training centre where Indigenous youth in Tully could learn skills in the hospitality industry, including service and public speaking. 

* After many years of working in tourism in Australia, the owners of Ingan Tours decided to move on from the business, and as a result Cafe Chloe is no longer open to receive travellers.

Critical Need

The Jirrbal people are descendants of an Indigenous rainforest community, occupying land between Cooktown and Cardwell in Northeastern Queensland. The Jirrbal are descendants of hunter-gatherers, who made many trade routes through the forest that are still present today and are being preserved by descendants. Without access to jobs, many youth leave the region in search of other opportunities in larger cities. As a result, the traditions and stories of the Jirrbal people are being lost. Recently the land of the railway station in Tully was given back to the Jirrbal people, providing an opportunity to access jobs in tourism for the first time.

Our Involvement

With the help of Planeterra, the old Tully railway station was repurposed into a training café, offering lunches and training workshops in Aboriginal arts to international travellers. By supporting the development of the café, Planeterra helped provide at-risk Indigenous youth with an opportunity to learn skills that will help them find jobs and gain confidence, while also connecting with and preserving their own culture. The small museum located in the restaurant displayed cultural artifacts that were passed on for generations and shared Indigenous history with the public.

Related projects

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Oodles of Noodles

Oodles of Noodles

Hoi An, Vietnam

Impact

Planeterra connected the Oodles of Noodles class with one of our travel industry partners, G Adventures. This steady base of visitors allows STREETS to ensure they can provide tuition, safe housing, health care and social inclusion to current and future students of STREETS. 

Students enrolled in the STREETS program are taught everything there is to know about working and running a restaurant and graduate with top International Culinary Arts Certificates. Many have gone on to work at large five-star hotels in Da Nang and neighbouring cities. 

250
youth trained
500
community members benefitting
Oodles of Noodles

Critical Need

There are an estimated 20,000 children living on the streets across Vietnam. And unfortunately, the divide between the rich and poor, ethnic minority and majority, and the urban and rural populations of Vietnam appear to be growing. This problem is intensified by the lack of strong and effective child protection systems, professional social workers, and adequate programming and services for vulnerable children.

Our Involvement

Planeterra Foundation partnered with STREETS International (an extensive hospitality-training program that works with at-risk youth in Vietnam) to develop an exclusive Oodles of Noodles Tour and to expand their training kitchen. This tour acts as a curriculum module for the youth to practice their English language and presentation skills — two key qualities that are a necessity for success in the hospitality industry. Students lead a noodle-making class with travellers and teach them about the twenty-six different types of noodles available in Hoi An, Vietnam.

Oodles of Noodles
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Wise Greece

Wise Greece

Athens, Greece

Impact

Wise Greece is a non-profit social enterprise with a double mission: supporting small farmers and producers of Greek products across the country, and using the profits to purchase food for the homeless, children, and elderly in need. They work with the best Greek producers, to get their products into shops in Greece and abroad, raising awareness and support for the Mediterranean diet and Greek products like food, spices, and natural cosmetics. Profits from the organization are used to provide food supplies to other organizations such as the Solidarity Center of the Municipality of Athens, supporting people in need, and the Emfasis Foundation, feeding individuals experiencing homelessness. Planeterra works to introduce tour companies and travellers to Wise Greece’s stores and products.

100
Food Producers
2,500
Products

Critical Need

Homelessness is a significant social issue in Greece, which was exacerbated by the Greek Financial Crisis which started in 2009, during which an estimated 111,000 Greek companies filed for bankruptcy. There is currently no accurate record of how many Athenians are experiencing homelessness, but the official unemployment rate hit almost 28% during the economic crisis that devastated the country over the last few years. Wise Greece is a non-profit organization with a mission to support local Greek farmers and producers, all while purchasing food for those in need.

Our Involvement

Planeterra began partnering with Wise Greece in 2020, introducing products from the organization onto the sailing itineraries of their travel partner G Adventures. Through this partnership, thousands of travellers sailing the Greek Islands will enjoy Wise Greece products such as salt, honey, tea and olive oil. Stocking these small vessels will increase Wise Greece’s revenue and is also a great marketing tool, as their products are sold internationally in destinations like Sweden and the United Kingdom. It also helps travellers to Greece give back to the local community during their visit. 

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DESA

DÊSA

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Impact

The sustainable income generated by travellers will allow for DEŠA to expand the reach of its community and women’s projects. The ripple effects from visitors will be felt throughout the organization and the communities in which they work. From improving rural employment to empowering female entrepreneurs, DEŠA will be able to continue providing opportunities for those who have been left marginalized in their community.

40
members
1,200
community members benefitting

Critical Need

Founded during the homeland war, DEŠA was born when a group of locals from Dubrovnik partnered with refugees and made a small handicraft business. Now, they continue as a women’s centre which provides victim support while acting as a centre of cultural preservation. From the beginning, the founders of DEŠA knew it was important to not just provide emotional support for fellow women but to connect them to meaningful work that would make them feel empowered. In anticipation of tourism’s return to Dubrovnik, DEŠA provided computer and language courses so women could have the opportunity to take part in what was to become a booming tourist economy. Through selling handicrafts made by women across the country, and providing tourists with the opportunity to learn about traditional costumes, weaving, and cooking, DEŠA is contributing to the sustainable and inclusive development of its communities.

Our Involvement

Through our Partnership with DEŠA, Planeterra will be providing a small grant to assist in capacity building as well as training and collaboration in developing a new cultural experience for travellers. Planeterra also facilitated a partnership between G Adventures and DEŠA, which means a consistent stream of travelers gaining insight into DEŠA’s mission and experiencing traditional Croatian culture, all while providing sustainable income for the organization’s community work.

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Panauti Community Homestay

Panauti Community Homestay

Panauti, Nepal

Impact

The homestay is an opportunity for the local women of Panauti to take on a higher responsibility in the community. It has given them confidence as they portray their capabilities to each guest that visits the town. Through this program, women are learning English and speaking confidently with guests. Solar panels have been installed and community sanitation has improved. Women engaged in the homestay are earning a living for themselves and able to contribute to household expenses, as they become leaders in the community. Twenty percent of income from all bookings are placed in a fund that goes towards community projects, including scholarships and sanitation training. Today there are 20 women working as homestay hosts and welcoming travellers into their homes.

20
homestay hosts
100
community members benefitting

Critical Need

Located just outside of Kathmandu and historic sites, Panauti had been long dismissed as a tourist destination. Many youth and adults choose to leave the community for education and work as employment opportunities within the community are few. Tourism was identified as a way to bring new opportunities for women and youth, and generate income for community development in Panauti. With a UNESCO heritage site and rich culture, the community was identified to have large tourism potential by Planeterra’s local partners, Royal Mountain Travel and the Community Homestay Network.

Our Involvement

Planeterra’s corporate partner, G Adventures, provides a steady stream of travellers to the Panauti Community Homestay, including a Local Living Tour, which brings travellers to Panauti for four nights to truly experience community life. This connection to the tourism value chain boosts their business and allows the community to invest back in what matters most to them. Planeterra also provides ongoing support to the women in Panauti to help the homestay thrive.

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Maldives Plastic Project

Maldives Plastic Program

Malé, Maldives

Impact

This program directly supports local organizations as they strive to integrate sustainable solutions to plastic use in the Maldives. These programs include awareness raising, education and proper recycling. The project also allows travellers to learn more about environmental initiatives happening locally, becoming more responsible travellers.

280k
plastic bottles are discarded daily in Malé

Critical Need

The Maldives is made up of 99 percent water and one percent land. The country’s geography means that pollution to the oceans impacts the country drastically. Over 280,000 plastic bottles are discarded in the country’s capital, Malé every day. The Maldives continues to import plastic items from across the world, with limited infrastructure or awareness to allow for proper recycling. While reducing plastic use is a goal, collecting plastic thrown on the land and oceans

Our Involvement

Planeterra partnered with local travel company, Voyages, to integrate plastic pick-ups into all of G Adventures tours through the Maldives as of 2020.

The aim is to mitigate tonnes of plastic from inhabited beaches and incorporate local communities in the mission to reduce plastic waste from reaching the ocean. Planeterra provided the equipment necessary for travellers to engage in plastic clean-ups.

A local nonprofit facilitates the processing of collected plastic and sends it for upcycling in countries that have the proper infrastructure.

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Amba Chutney Cooperative

Amba Chutney Cooperative

Bandarawela, Sri Lanka

Impact

As the first community co-operative working with Amba Estate, the chutney entrepreneurs put a portion of their sales on each bottle of chutney sold into a Community Development Fund (Rs. 10 per bottle).  In the first year, they sold more than $2000 of chutney and supplemented their income by 20%. This fund is used to kick start the next community enterprise in the valley. This model can be used for years to come as tourism continues to grow in Sri Lanka. It’s intended that 20 more local women can be trained through the savings of the fund in the coming years. Income from the partnership will be invested in children’s education, nutrition and housing improvements, creating a better future for community members in the region.

6
women employed
150
community members benefitting

Critical Need

Livelihood opportunities in the valley of Bandarawela, Sri Lanka are limited for low-income community members. Many rely on agricultural work, especially in the tea plantations, which can be arduous with little financial gain. Amba Estate came to the area with the purpose of promoting economic growth through their organic tea plantation, paying fair wages, sharing their profits with their workers, and creating opportunities for growth. Having established its place in the travel market, Amba is now ready to support community cooperatives as a means of better spreading the income of tourism throughout the valley.

Our Involvement

Planeterra worked alongside Amba Estate to support the initial investment for the first community-led micro-enterprise working in partnership with Amba. Planeterra’s catalyst grant covered the equipment, training and setup costs for a group of six women to formally become a chutney co-operative. Once produced, the chutney is sold back to Amba Estate for travellers to consume and purchase. Travellers have the opportunity to eat the delicious chutneys, meet the women and see how it’s made. The “Six Stars” Chutney Cooperative is made up of women who are employed as tea pluckers with Amba Estate, and are nearing the age of retirement. All tea pluckers in Sri Lanka are required to retire at the age of 55. For this reason it is important that they begin to build up their savings and diversify their skills to continue earning after their tea plucking years are over.

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Tamarind Gardens

Tamarind Gardens Farm

Digana, Sri Lanka

Impact

Tamarind Gardens provides the community with training and employment opportunities in hospitality. The dairy cows and garden provide vital nutrition to households and an income source for the social enterprise, women in the community have formed a sewing cooperative as an additional source of income, and others have been employed doing various tasks for the farm and guesthouse. Tamarind Gardens has been working on a project to supply community members with water tanks to capture rainwater and store water during the dry season. The new garden project increases access to nutritional food, as well as increasing the supply of local food that can accommodate the influx of travellers. This 10 acre farm provides a necessary space for community development projects that move the village towards a sustainable future.

Through the Community Development Fund, tourism has directly supported environmental projects, new entrepreneurs and improvements to the tourism experience.

29
people employed
500
community members benefitting

Critical Need

Digana is a small community located outside of Kandy, Sri Lanka. The main source of income for community members here is dolomite mining. The techniques for this industry have proven unsustainable for the environment, and bad for the health of miners. With a very strict, traditional culture, there remains limited opportunities for women in leadership and productive activities for youth to pursue post-graduation. Many youth leave Digana after completing school to pursue vocational training elsewhere. Furthermore, due to the ongoing dry season, Digana annually faces the issue of water shortage which causes significant barriers for the community.

Our Involvement

Planeterra provided a small grant to Tamarind Gardens Farm to kick start a community garden project called FAITH (Food Always In The Home). A garden area was prepared, crops purchased and livestock obtained to start a food bank for rotational agriculture.

Households in the community take turns taking seeds, crops and livestock from the food bank, returning stock back once their crops have increased and livestock reproduced. This program increases household nutrition and access to food for community members with limited income.

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