Community-Based Ecotourism in the Brazilian Amazon: The experience of the Institute Peabiru.
Programa Ecoturismo de Base ComunitáriaCommunity-Based Ecotourism inthe Brazilian AmazonAna Gabriela da Cruz FontouraThe experience of the Institute PeabiruArtigo publicado no volume 14 da DevISSues,do Instituto internacional de Estudos Sociais –ISS da Erasmus University, Rotterdam,Holanda.2012Rua Ó de Almeida, 1083 | CEP: 66053-190 | Belém, Pará, BrasilF +55 91 3222 6000 | email@example.com | www.peabiru.org.br
Community-Based Ecotourism in the Brazilian Amazon: The experience of theInstitute PeabiruAna Gabriela da Cruz Fontoura Tourism has developed rapidly since the 1950s and has undergone someimportant transformations. The 1950s and 1960s were characterized by charterflights and package tours with the emergence of mass tourism: largeconcentrations of tourists travelling to core destinations. Increased environmental awareness in the 1970s saw a change totraditional tourism with the development of new travel expectations and theemergence of sustainable tourism as a response to the negative impacts of masstourism: tourists became more nature-oriented and in search of a better quality oflife and more personal travel experiences. Sustainable tourism encompasses three main factors: a) respect for theenvironment so that tourism does not endanger or cause irreversible damage tothe regions where it is developed, b) harmony between cultures and localcommunity social spaces, without harming or altering them, and c) the equitabledistribution of the economic benefits of tourism between the host community,tourists and business. The idea of Community-Based Ecotourism (CBE) arose in order to furtheremphasize the involvement of communities in the management, decision-makingand benefits of tourism. The concept of CBE, collectively developed during theFirst Seminar on Community-Based Ecotourism Tapajós/Arapiuns in June 2007within Jamaraquá community in Belterra, State of Pará, Brazil, is: ….a tourism based on the integration of regional development axes, communitymanagement, the experience and knowledge exchange between tourists andcommunities, cultural and environmental enhancement and broad access to thebenefits of tourism (First Seminar on Community-Based EcotourismTapajós/Arapiuns, 2007). Some of the core principles guiding the actions based on this alternativemodel of tourism are: • it is planned and developed within the community, which decides and organizes activities in the local area; • it is complementary to the local way of life, as it helps strengthen community organization and only supplement (not replace) traditional activities; • it creates opportunities for cultural sharing and learning, since the exchange of experiences between the community and the traveller guarantees that both learn from each other;
• it ensures transparency and the equitable distribution of resources among all stakeholders; • it guarantees social and environmental conservation as tourism should respect regional conservation rules and seek to generate the least possible environmental and cultural impact. The Institute Peabiru realised that its mission - social values, environmentaldiversity and support for processes of social change in the communities of theAmazon - has affinity with this emerging concept of CBE and thus uses thisapproach as a tool to strengthen the social fabric and develop human capacity inthe Amazon. The Institute’s CBE programme includes several studies and projects. Threeof these in the State of Pará are worth mentioning: a) training in CBE in thecommunities of Maxirazinho and Lages, surrounding Monte Alegre State Park,Monte Alegre; b) capacity building and strengthening of a youth group in theExtractive Reserve (Resex) Mãe Grande in the municipality of Curuçá, and c) theSustainable Almeirim project which focuses on the development of CBE in riverinecommunities along the Amazon River, with an emphasis on youth and women’sparticipation. Ecotourism as a tool for strengthening the social tissue, alternative incomegeneration and cultural appreciation of communities in the Amazon. Ana Gabrielada Cruz Fontoura Community-Based Ecotourism is the main strategy in the ValueChain of Young Ecotourism (Cadeia de Valor do EcotourismoJovem) project inMonte Alegre, Pará. The aim of this project is to improve rural communities’quality of life and conserve the biodiversity of the Cerrado (Savannah area) ofMonte Alegre. The project received funding from PPP-ECOS (UNDP and ISPN)and was set up by two communities around the State Park of Monte Alegre,Lages and Maxirazinho. An example of a training course is the CBE tour in Maxirazinho and Lageswhich offers tourists the opportunity to experience the daily lives of farmers andfishermen: their community organizations, the family farming of cassava, the setof cave paintings in the region’s mountains, typical cuisine, handcrafts and so on.Communities participate in the entire planning process of tourism in their areas. In the municipality of Curuçá, also in Pará State, Peabiru’s CBE activitiesstarted in 2006 with research, lectures and trainings. The Casa da Virada’secotourism training programme began in March 2008, with a total study load of100 hours – both practical and theoretical - and was attended by a group of 20young people. Local students were trained alongside groups of Canadian tourists. Upon completion of the Casa da Virada programme, the young peopleshowed great interest in continuing the implementation of ecotourism in themunicipality of Curuçá, resulting in the creation of a non-profit organization, the
Institute Tapiaim. The group’s motivation has contributed to Institute Peabiru,which now seeks new sources of funding. In July 2008, on the occasion of the Proclamation of Public Call for ProjectsMTUR / No. 001/2008 (a selection of projects to support CBE initiatives), InstitutePeabiru presented a successful proposal for the creation of the Cooperative ofCommunity Ecotourism in Curuçá. The project, which ran from March 2010 toSeptember 2011, had the following objectives: to establish the value chain ofsustainable CBE; to contribute to the conservation of natural resources in theregion, especially the micro-basins and mangroves in the area and extractivereserves in the vicinity of the Resex Mae Grande de Curuçá; to establish Curuçá asa national and international ecotourism destination; and to develop methodologiesand strategies that will contribute to the improvement of the socioeconomic statusof communities in the Amazon. In addition to these two remarkable experiences, in 2011 the Instituteaccepted a new challenge: to work with CBE as a value chain which is able tosupport the structuring and strengthening of other productive activities, such asacai (see the article by Pereira in this issue), Brazil nut, cocoa and cassava.Through the Almeirim Sustentavel project, in partnership with the Insituto FlorestaTropical (IFT) and supported by the Fundo Vale, this new project will make itpossible to interact directly with other chains and maximize the results of theprogramme in the region of the Calha Norte, encompassing municipalities northof Pará State. From the lessons learnt over the years – that the community is the ‘root‘ ofall work and it is necessary to understand and respect local dynamics in order todevelop activities and achieve positive results in accordance with cultural andtraditional patrimony - Institute Peabiru has identified some challenges CBE stillhas to face. These include:a) evaluating and the developing participatory indicators with the involvement ofall stakeholders;b) strengthening communities in entrepreneurship skills;c) updating the teaching methods and other key issues (safety, first aid etc.)usedin tourism training courses. These need to be increasingly adapted to thereality of local dynamics – using local and natural teaching materials, planning themeetings and making prior agreements for the classes with the participants,prioritizing practical exercises and examples above theories, visiting andinterchanging with other communities and projects to learn from their experiencesand to give them a ‘voice‘; andd) implementing effective strategies for working with the consumer market (trade)and on product and innovative services, and trying to be the ‘bridge’ connectingcommunities with travel agencies and organizations that operate on CBE and fairtrade principles. Ana Gabriela da Cruz Fontoura has a Bachelor degree in Tourism from theFederal University of Pará (UFPA) and a Bachelor degree in Environmental Studies from the Catholic University Minas Gerais (PUC - Minas). Since 2007 she has been the director of Estação Gabiraba – an operator of community based
ecotourism in the Brazilian Amazon. She has been programme coordinator of Community Based Ecotourism at th