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Community-Based Nature Tourism Strategy At Chingaza National Park – Colombia: A Tool For Conservation


Nature tourism, as an alternative for the development of rural communities of the area of influence of Chingaza National Park (NP), is a conservation tool. It can help to address deforestation pressures on the paramo ecosystem, as a result of extensive livestock and expansion of the agricultural frontier, as well as manage and conserve private lands in the buffer zone through cooperative work agreements, conservation pacts, and training. The strategy takes into account cooperation arrangements and voluntary agreements that link development plans of local governments with Chingaza NP’s management plan. In addition, participatory community work, through the use of the local knowledge of the natural surroundings and the paramo ecosystem, seeks to strengthen the associative figures that currently exist, by innovating in their organizational schemes, elaborating business plans and local proposals to manage natural attractions, linking components of the tourism value chain, and developing environmental interpretation.

Problem, challenge or context: 

In the last 10 years, the total number of visitors at Chingaza NP grew five-fold from ,000 tourists in 2004 to 15,000 in 2013. The proximity and accessibility from Bogota (10 million inhabitants) increases the tourist demand on the park, surpassing the carrying capacity in trails and in the supporting tourism infrastructure that currently exists at the park. National Natural Parks of Colombia recognizes two models for tourism management; one of them is Community-based ecotourism. Chingaza NP decided six years ago to begin with the community–based model, and, as a result, a pact with the NGO Suasie was signed (Guasca, Cundinamarca, Colombia). During the participative work to reformulate Chingaza NP’s Management Plan (2014-2019), other community ecotourism initiatives were identified that were interested in joining the program or a common strategy to operate and work with good practices and adequate business plans. In addition, close to 50 potential natural tourism attractions in the buffer zone were identified. Through cooperation between the park and community organizations, for the operation of tourism services and natural attractions, the park’s relations with its buffer zone communities are currently improving. Through all of this work, cooperation between local governance and park conservation objectives supports sustainable development strategies for communities within the park.

Specific elements of components: 

Participatory work as a tool to confront conservation problems related to the increasing tourism demand and solve them through cooperative work agreements, policies for tourism activities, and identification of alternative trails and complementary services in the park’s buffer zone.
A review of local governments’ development plans allows visualizing the park’s key role in the region, through inventory of nature tourism attractions. The articulation between local governments and the park allows to elaborate proposals for ecotourism management plans in the buffer zone and link them to the business plans of the communities’ NGOs, which, in turn, becomes an element for sustainable development.
Stimulate local organization for development, based economically on environmental services derived from the protected area, such as ecotourism, environmental education and interpretation, and investigation. This is aimed towards creating proposals to change the productive practices of the families that live in the buffer zone for more sustainable practices with the paramo ecosystem, in addition to attracting the interest of other public and private institutions to financially support these initiatives.

Key lessons learned: 

To take advantage of the opportunities harboured within the conservation problem, by viewing ecotourism in protected areas as a strategy for conservation using participatory management to create better relations with the community surrounding the park; this, in turn, promotes work agreements with its neighbours and a well-being that results in better governance and conservation practices.

Impacts and outcomes: 

The foundation of a NGO that unites different NGOs related to environment-based tourism; its main objective is ecotourism management in the protected area and its buffer zone, as a conservation strategy. Its board of directors is represented by a member from each of the municipalities in jurisdiction of Chingaza NP.

Public-private cooperation at a local and national level for the development of sustainable production practices, such as ecotourism. A joint interest between local people and public entities such as Chingaza NP and the Empresa de Acueducto y Alcantarillado de Bogota (Bogota Sewer Company) was achieved in order to relieve those areas affected by intensive livestock farming as the main economic source, and, instead, adopt a conservation and development framework based on ecotourism.

Agreements with local governments and Chingaza NP to promote management of the natural attractions inside and outside Chingaza NP, and support the operation of the protected area in places where shared interests exist. This aims to facilitate joint work between local governments, such as city councils, corporations, city governments, and National Parks, by working on development opportunities for the local communities.

Workshops for community construction of the ecotourism management plan of Chingaza NP (see photo attached by Mateo Barco Largo).

Contact details: 
Mateo Barco Largo
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