Sunday, November 29, 2009

The women of Salinas Aguada Blanca Reserve: Dedication

In mid-November, our project was visited by UNDP (United Nations Development Program) evaluators. Their job was to review how our workshops and project was proceeding, and most importantly, meet and talk with the communities involved in our project and determine what, if any, additional needs could be met.
Fortunately, turnout was very good, and the meeting was succesful. The women involved in the alpaca knitting workshops (with a artisan who comes from Ayaviri, Puno once a month) expressed their interest in continuing with their training. Some of the stories were especially moving..the interest and dedication to learning is very high, as it has been, since we started working in this National Reserve ten years ago (how time flies).
The main request was for minimal funding for bus fares for transportation to our workshops. We have some ladies from the village of Imata that were walking over five hours each way
to attend the monthly workshops.
We, at Conatura ( are continually touched by stories like these, many of which we have consistently seen and heard over the years. Whenever I get jaded by politics, huge megadevelopment projects that seem bent on contributing to the destruction of this lovely country, it is the individual stories of work and dedication that never cease to give me hope. I honestly believe that individuals coming together as communities is what will ultimately protect the wildlife and parks in this country and others.
It seems as though these ladies will get their bus fare so that they do not have to walk ten hours for a week-end class. In the end, it is a few dollars.....but a fantastic investment.
It has been a good week.
Stay tuned for the next post: The new Camelid Specialist Group newsletter of the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) has recently been released, and their is much news regarding vicuñas and guanacos in Peru and in neighboring countries. As editor of this newsletter and contributor for the past couple of years, it will be my pleasure to share it with those who are interested and also offer my viewpoints on what is happening with wild camelids.
I also, in the near future, will be including my meetings and travels with Juan Gabriel, a Q'ero mesayoq (I guess "shaman" would be the term, though it is limited) from Cusco, Peru. He is a wonderful man who speaks spanish and quechua and whose main job, it seems, is to live in gratitude to planet earth. He visits Lima occasionally and soon I will be visiting him in Cusco. More on that in future posts. I am hoping to travel with him to the United States for workshops and classes in 2010 (but first I need to study with him a little bit more....).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Community-based ecotourism, Salinas Aguada Blanca Reserve, Arequipa Peru

September 2009

This past month has been busy for Conatura. Several workshops were completed with participants in communities in the Salinas Aguada Blanca Reserve. Two main objectives of the project are working with interested people who want to serve as local tour guides as well as working with women who want to produce artesanias or souvenirs made from alpaca fiber and also, we hope, from legally shorn vicuña fiber that is not acceptable for international fiber textile factories. We are hoping that vicuña fiber can utilized more efficiently and produce greater returns.
The area we are working in has many tourists that pass through to travel to either Puno, or more commonly, the Colca Valley. Many of these tourists take pictures of vicuña, alpacas, and occassionally guanacos, as they travel through the reserve, but local residents currently perceive no income from tourism that occurs within their community. That is going to change very soon....