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Biotácora Colombia, Transcending destinations.

We are a travel company committed to the planning, impact and benefits of community-based tourism activities and projects in Colombia; we co

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

We’re a sustainable travel platform that connects people from all over the world to local communities in rural Colombia who are willing to share their knowledge with foreign/national travelers and vice versa. We’re collaboratively designing “Local Living” experiences with the Misak indigenous community. To us, generating proper cross-cultural exchanges helps to dispel race, class and political stereotypes, encouraging empathy instead. A relevant initiative to the peacebuilding framework the country is going through. Our national history is marked by landowning conflicts that led to the creation of armed groups who’ve been fighting for the last 60 years. The combination of violence and lack of opportunities heavily affected rural communities, who had to choose between leaving their lands or staying. As a result, the social inequality gap has got even deeper between people form the cities and the countryside. While 7,9 millions of displaced farmers and ethnic groups (between 1985-2018, Victims Assistance Unit) have been looking for ways to survive in urban contexts -where they end up facing poverty-, many ecosystems were left alone and threatened by excessive natural resources exploitation. After Colombia signed a peace agreement with the FARC in 2016, it has looked for ways to support people in their return to civilian life. Therefore, ecotourism has become a sustainable development strategy for areas where conflict took place -where biodiversity is outstanding. However, the current challenge is to help develop a kind of tourism that is collaborative, properly planned and respectful with nature and local populations. We design travel experiences wherever re-building processes are taking place, such as the Cauca region where the Misak live, where people are rescuing their cultural values and ways of living with nature. The “Local Living” program wants to show a more profound side of the national reality by giving voice to all these unknown stories.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Misak indigenous people (Silvia,Cauca,Andean Region,Colombia): young adults ages 16-35 (and their families) who are students at the Misak University interested in communicating their culture to others. Some medicine men and women are also open to participate. Misak people consider themselves ‘guardians of water’. They still speak their own language "wampi-misamerawam" and have led land-claimings through well organized political participation. Misaks remained in their lands throughout violent times in order to protect their territory and sacred sites. Beyond economic benefits, taking the first steps to develop tourism within the community is an opportunity to tell the world who they are and share their vision on global environmental challenges. It was actually their idea to involve the university’s students as a means of strengthening intra-cultural research and the sense of belonging among young generations.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

2 years fieldwork and sharing with Misak people. We’re close friends with spiritual leaders, which gives us a basis of trust and understanding from both sides. We’ve participated in ceremonies aimed at asking for spiritual permission to undertake this project. Misak people are good hosts: they’re a well organized, hard-working and politically proactive community. Working together in a pilot project is a good baseline for making the “Local Living” program replicable between other indigenous groups who take the Misak as an example of how to get things done. Our team of professional tour leaders knows well the Colombian context. Based on a research process, our trips undercover aspects that have been touristically undervalued (i.e. 87 ethnic groups, 68 spoken dialects). We count on a global vision and networking that helps us avoid intermediaries. We speak EN, FR, PT, SP ; are connected to some international agencies that rely on us; have work experience with foreign travelers.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Prototype: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Biotácora is an unusual travel company committed to create transcending destinations that inspire those who come to Colombia to gain new perspectives on how to live better by learning from others, from nature and from oneself.

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered social enterprise.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

We’re women who: Lorena: Throughout my anthropology studies, I used to work as tour guide for luxury tourism and with indigenous education in the Amazon at the same time. Such a contrast showed me the importance of building bridges that show how different realities are actually interconnected. Lina: Working as a teacher in the middle of the Amazon jungle, I felt inspired to share my experience with others. As a biologist, the relationship between nature and humans needs to be reshaped.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

In Colombia, native peoples have been associated with ideas of poverty and savagery. Misak people are devoted growers that face many obstacles when it comes to land-owning and commercializing their products. Production is not fairly paid and people lack decent work conditions (labor rights, health services and minimum payment). Peace is about creating access to prosperity. Since this hasn’t happened in Cauca yet, for the last years social discontent has led to tensions and prejudices across classes and opposite political positions (involving peasants, indigenous groups, big industry owners and the army). Social leaders are being persecuted. Roads have been blocked several times as an expression of public outrage because of the government’s failed promises. Climate change and aerial spraying of illicit crops have hurt agriculture cycles and water sources. In Silvia, Misak people stand for protecting their place from mining in order to protect their territory and sacred sites.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

The result of this process of engagement (Misak community & Biotácora) will be the suitable development of local tourism planning that, together with monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, will be a useful tool to track the tourism activities’ impacts in order to tackle potential negative outcomes and leverage the positive ones. Bearing this in mind reinforces indigenous self-governance tradition, self-determination, leadership and the stewardship of intangible heritage. Who? Cabildo de Wampia (Misak authority in Silvia), Misak University, group of young students, and group of traditional medicine men and women. They will choose the leaders that will make part of the project team members. More specifically, there’s a medicine man who has been our friend and advisor from the very start, and who will continue assessing the project development. Previous work: Assessed an agriculture project for recovering Misak’traditional crops. Collaboration at national network of indigenous shamans.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Young people ready to work. Hard-working people. Wide knowledge about medicine plants. Hospitality. They count with establishments such as the Medicine Plants Center, Misak University, Payán Cultural House and the Namuy Wam radio station. Group of craftswomen. Close relationship to earth through agriculture. Well organized historical information and traditional authority structures. Proactive political leaders. The Misak played a historical role as pioneers of the Colombian indigenous movement.

Geographic Focus

Misak people, Silvia, Cauca, Colombia.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

18 months.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


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