Indigenous Tourism in Costa Rica
In 2007, Brokenhead Ojibway Nation (BON) and the MBMF initiated a project with the Reventazon Model Forest, the Ibero-American Regional Model Forest Network and Centro Agrinomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenanza (CATIE) on ethno-cultural tourism. This partnership resulted in a project with the Cabécares indigenous communities of the Nairi Awari peoples of Costa Rica, BON and the MBMF, with funding provided by the Indigenous Peoples Partnership Program of Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
The project includes eco-tourism development in the Cabécares communities, the development of a comprehensive eco-tourism management plan and the establishment of capacity, infrastructure and technology to assist the communities in developing an eco-tourism business. Training and education of Cabécar youth and women is also included in order to provide future project leadership. Partnerships between BON and the Cabécares communities will facilitate learning from each other, technology transfer and indigenous youth exchanges.
The Cabécares Reserve lands abut up against La Amistad International Park in southern Costa Rica. The MBMF and BON partnered with the Cabécar community of Jameikari to assist in the establishment of an eco-tourism/ethno-tourism enterprise which would allow the community to provide tourism opportunities that highlight the natural tropical environment of their reserve and the community’s traditions and culture. The Jameikari community is located along the Pacuare River, which is one of the most acclaimed white water rafting rivers in the world. The project will allow the community to offer white water rafting adventure-seekers the opportunity to experience traditional community living, as part of their tour package, while providing the basic comforts and safety that tourists expect.
BON and the MBMF have worked along side Jameikari community members in constructing a river-side structure for accommodations and cooking, installing a new septic system and toilet/shower facility, creating walking paths along the river and creating a new hiking trail connecting the river-side site to the Jameikari community. Additional infrastructure work will see the construction of camping (tent) platforms and a cultural centre, scenic look out platforms, additional upgrades to hiking trails, solar power, drinking water purification and a satellite internet tower. Eco-tourism training programs for the Cabécares community members will be conducted in tourism/hospitality, first aid, nature guiding, small business administration, gender equity, handicraft production, and basic English. A cultural exchange was also conducted to allow Cabécar youth and youth from BON to visit their respective areas and learn about each other’s indigenous cultures, aspirations and to discuss opportunities for eco-tourism.
In addition to the development program with the Jameikari community, an eco-tourism management plan for the entire Nairi Awari community reserve area will be developed.