How the protection of an endangered macaw is empowering Quechua indigenous people in the Andean valleys of central Bolivia.
Tourism numbers to the Red-fronted Macaw Reserve have more than quadrupled from 2011 to 2015, bringing in much needed money to the poor and marginalized communities who manage this ecotourism project.
Armonía is supporting the Quechua indigenous communities to run the project so are delighted to announce that last year ecotourism to the Red-fronted Macaw Reserve made a US$6,954 profit (£4,935 / €6,314).
Each of the three communities who co-manage the project split the profits, receiving a quarter each, with the remaining quarter being reinvested into the maintenance of the reserve and eco-lodges so that the project works toward sustainability.
The community of San Carlos has used the funds to buy a much needed new water pump, while the other two communities will soon have a meeting to discuss how to best use the support in 2016.
Although this is great news, the team at Armonía know that the ecotourism isn’t reaching its full potential and are keen to attract more tourists to the Red-fronted Macaw Reserve. Bennett Hennessey, director of Armonía, said:
“This revenue brought in by ecotourism is significant for this rural area, as the communities are poor and benefit greatly from an additional income. But Armonía needs to develop this program to become fully sustainable. The Red-fronted Macaw lodge is popular for international birdwatchers, but it has not been marketed locally. There is the potential that with local weekend visits from the cities of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, the lodge could pay for all its administration and reserve management costs, as well as supporting the three local communities.”
Despite Bennett and the team’s ambitions for the project, its success should not be underestimated. From running the project, the Quechua indigenous communities have grown in confidence over the years and, despite being marginalized by society, have gained greater pride in their cultural heritage thanks to the interest and respect shown by tourists.
Armonía are helping the communities diversify their income, not only within ecotourism, but also through a range of enterprises – from beekeeping and honey production to papaya cultivation.
Visiting the reserve
The reserve attracts nature lovers and birders, as the spectacular sheer cliffs of the Andean valleys provide a backdrop to a unique wildlife watching experience. Flocks of charismatic Red-fronted Macaws nest in the cliffs, giving tourists the rare opportunity for a close encounter with an Endangered species that is found nowhere else on Earth.
The reserve is a haven for bird watchers as it is home to 121 bird species, including Mitred Parakeets, Yellow-chevroned Parakeets, Blue-fronted Parrots, and Cliff Parakeets, as well as frequent visits by Andean Condors and Peregrine Falcons.
For an insight into the fascinating history of Bolivia, you can explore the reserve’s archaeological site and the region’s many cave paintings. You will also discover the culture and traditions of the, who run the reserve and directly benefit from your visit.