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ecotourism

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Dear friends,
Thanks for reading this description of medo's Ngöbe Ecotourism project. The goal of this project is to promote sustainable development by providing a much needed source of income for the Ngöbe people of Soloy, Panama. The project will develop the infrastructure, facilities, and leisure activities to attract tourists to the area, as well as promote Soloy as a destination for the ecotourist.

Objective

The objective of medo's Ngöbe ecotourism project is to design and implement infrastructure, facilities, leisure activities, and advertising to bring tourists, and thus promote its sustainable development, to Soloy, a community in the Ngöbe-Buglé Comarca (Reservation), Panama.

Justification

The Ngöbe people have few resources and employment opportunities, making them one of the poorest groups in Panama. Unemployment is widespread throughout the Comarca, and the average family income is less than $200 per year. Therefore, there is little capital with which to develop infrastructure for the community. Some of the particular problems that the Ngöbe face associated with this extensive poverty are child labor, poor health care, lack of potable drinking water, ill-maintained roads and inadequate education. Thus, any source of income or employment would make a huge difference in the community by providing some capital with which to address these problems.

In addition to the financial benefits even a few visitors would bring to the community, the cultural exchange will also profit the community. As more people become aware of the problems faced by this indigenous group, there will be more and more support for other sustainable development projects.

For these reasons, this project will promote ecotourism in the Ngöbe community of Soloy.

Project Plans

The preliminary goals are to construct the facilities to receive visitors, develop leisure activities, and train local community members as staff.

The facilities will be simple; once funds are secured, construction can begin on a cinderblock building which will have sleeping areas, a kitchen, a living space, staff housing, and an area where local artisans can display and sell their work. The family of Mr. Jose Pepe Bejerano and Mrs. Ana Rios, has already pledged to donate the land needed to build the boarding house.

The leisure activities envisioned by the project include horseback riding, nature walks, bird-watching, stargazing, river rafting, swimming, and cultural activities which can include language, history, craft, and dance lessons, tours of the community, and sharing traditional meals with families. Additionally, an Ngöbe Botanical Garden is being built which will also be a visitor attraction.

The Project will promote Soloy as a destination for the adventurous traveler by sending advertising flyers to hostels and hotels in Panama and Costa Rica. The Project will also maintain a website and pursue promotion in guide books.


Current Attractions, Staff and Resources

The Ngöbe Ecotourism Project is in its early stages of development. Currently, the project's resources include:
Staff: Mr. Adán Bejerano, who founded the Ngöbe Language Center in 2002 after having studied Integrated Natural Resources Technology at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon. He is assisted in developing the ecotourism project by a volunteer from the United States, Anna Zaniewski, and a volunteer from Canada, Marie-Rose Shoucri, and Plino Bejerano, who is fluent in Spanish and German.
Website: see the visit page.
Site: At present, the project has a pledged site for the boarding house.
Attractions: The Ngöbe Botanical Garden is under construction. Visitors might also like to tour the radio station and the tops of small mountains that offer views of rivers, mountains, and the sea).
Horses: Visitors can go on a horseback tour of Soloy, to some waterfalls or through a forest road to an artisan co-op.
Camping: There are several options for camping.
River: There are beautiful spots to go swimming in the river. The project also envisions renting boating equipment to visitors.
Nature trails: There are many hiking trails already developed, leading to spectacular mountaintop views or through the forest or to waterfalls.
Stargazing: Visitors can go stargazing from atop Cerro Gato, hill that provides a view of the horizon in all directions. The sky in Soloy is unpolluted by artificial light and on a clear, moonless night the Milky Way can be seen in its entire splendor. The project would one day like to obtain binoculars or a telescope to lend to visitors.
Crafts: A local artisan group can sell their work to the visitors.

Who can volunteer for this project?

Volunteers should preferably have some experience in tourism, even if that experience is being well traveled. Volunteers should ideally speak Spanish and English and be self motivated and good with people.

Conclusion

Visitors will help in the sustainable development of Soloy by: providing a source of employment and income, being a market for the products of local artisans, engaging in cultural exchange and being aware of other development projects. Additionally, this project can be a model for other Ngöbe-Buglé communities to follow, uplifting the entire area. Volunteers are needed to come develop this project.

 

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