Ecotourism: Sacred Valley

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Through consideration of the needs of the local population as well as the potential for tourism development, ProPeru has implemented the Ecotourism Chicon project. ProPeru´s Chicon HakuTrek aims to generate income for the community of Chicon, while working towards preserving the surrounding environment. HakuTrek endeavours to provide solutions to both economical and environmental problems by taking advantage of the growing tourist market in Cusco, encouraging visitors to engage in environmentally friendly hikes to local forests, valleys, and the Chicon glacier – areas rich in unique local flora and fauna. Treks are guided by trained local residents and pre-determined portions of the profit are either reinvested in the community or put towards future reforestation with native tree species. Volunteers of this project participate in training and educating the local community members of Chicon about environmental preservation methods, local flora and fauna, first aid, English, and computer skills, as well as implementing activities and developing materials to promote and market the business. The Chicon Ecotourism Project will directly benefit the 20 youth residents that currently participate in the weekly project activities. The entire community of Chicon, approximately 100 residents, will also benefit from the small community business venture, as a percentage of HakuTrek´s profits are channelled into various community social development projects.


Volunteer Experiences

John Mundy
Internship Dates: 5/07/2006 – 12/10/2006

Vision: Initially I was not sure what to expect from my experience. After some time I realized that Hakutrek is more about education and giving the youth of Chicón an opportunity in their lives than it is about a viable business. The paradox for Hakutrek is in order to survive it needs to be more effective as a business, but for it to be more effective in protecting the environment and in educating the community it needs to focus more on expanding the capacity of its members. Ideas for the future may be to start a fully planned set of environment classes in the community, do a promotional and an educational documentary about Hakutrek, complete an ecological catalogue of the unique environment in Chicón and to give more diverse classes to the group such as first aid or business skills.

Suggestions for Project Sustainability: The sustainability heavily relies on the will of the volunteer and the will of the Hakutrek group in equal measure. One of our current concerns is their management of money. As they get more and more tourists (summer 06 has been a record in terms of revenue) we are beginning to see the cracks of the organization. Money, in this group, has the ability to divide just has much as it has the ability to sustain. Tariff structure, receipts from journeys up to the glacier and other financial aspects are either badly dealt with on purpose or they need a lot more help with their business skills. The group really needs a responsible leader to pull them up through these problems and snap them out of a mentality of corruption that permeates the Urubamba region. Without a strong leader, a better and stricter financial policy and a more defined vision for the future I can’t see this project being sustainable. The environment cannot be forgotten in these problems, but I have seen it get omitted by the group when greater obstacles block their way and this is not a good policy for an eco-tourism organization.
Another concern for the sustainability of the project is the Hakutrek/community relations which have been strained of late. This is due to a number of factors including some problems within Hakutrek and some misunderstanding about what they do in the community.