“The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least.”


Solidarity is a trend. This is the main statement that the detractors of humanity progress use. It is said that activities such as volunteering, cooperation or social tourism have been created just to make “first world” citizens feel better. It is true that some people and organizations have made profit of charity, for example, French organizations raise almost 3.000 million of Euros per year consequently, there is some cases in which we can even talk about multinational companies of charity as for example the ewll-known Projects Abroad.

Nevertheless, not every organization works the same way.  On 1st of June I had the opportunity to interview Franklin Mena who is Director of UCA Tierra y Agua, a Union of Agricultural Cooperatives in the province of Granada, Nicaragua. It comprises five different communities: La Granadilla, Aguas Agrias, Nicaragua Libre, Los Norteños and Claudia Chamorro which are surrounded by Cocibolca Lake and Mombacho volcano. The aim of this UCA is to protect and encouraged the creation of more opportunities for the local community through different activities. Nowadays, the main activity that they develop is social tourism.

The concept of social tourism has evolved continuously and more over during this century. According to Minnaert, L. 2007 (expert in tourism), social tourism is “tourism with an added moral value, of which the primary aim is to benefit either the host or the visitor in the tourism exchange’. Franklin agrees with that concept but he emphasizes the exchange of knowledge that both communities experienced during the visit.

The interviewee ensures the positives consequences that social tourism has in his region and at the same time he exposes how it would be a week of holidays with them.  In each community they have a simple shelter to sleep in or  you can sleep even in the houses of the families like for example in Aguas Agrias. The price will vary from 8$ to 20$ if it is a private room with bathroom. All of the activities are focus on showing the visitors how they life and what things they can do even without having technology. He highlights those activities:

  • Route the tank (3 Hours – U$3/per person)it consist in a journey through the crops (basic foods such as beans, rice, corn, fruit crops like papaya, mango, jocotes, among others) and houses of the cooperative, It is talked about the history of the deposit and the water tank, as well as the history of the Cooperative heroes and martyrs of Nandaime.
  • Path of the Community (3.5 hours – US$3/person).The Granadilla belongs to the region of the broom. During this tour, the guides will accompany tourist during their visit to the health center, the primary school and the church, knowing in this way the social life of the community.
  • Expedition of handmade fishing in boat (1h30, US$ 3/person)
  • The route of the centenary trees (2 hours, US$ 3/person)
  • The Ancient route The Cocoa (1h30, US$ 5/person)

 

Mombacho

Doing routes like the ones mentioned before, on the one hand. what they earn (“apart from money” Franklin said smiling) is recognition of their effort, people feel more integrated in the global society and it affects directly raising their self-esteem.  On the other hand, visitors will raise awareness about consumption, he said like an example, but mostly what they learn is gratitude and that “happiness can surprise you anytime, anywhere”.

I asked Franklin how this project began and why they choose to create a cooperative instead of being part of an ONG or creating one. He explained me that the cooperative has given answers to the political situation they were living in the past during the Nicaragua’s Revolution. It was founded in 1984 with the purpose of defending the right to the land of the peasants and promote a sustainable rural development, in an area where it is together nine cooperatives, with more than 150 associated families, and around 650 persons established in the south of the department of Granada. He said that “creating an ONG was not an option”. Supporters of ONGs just give money or even time but here, knowledge has a double direction: a visitor learns from a host and vice versa”.

Franklin is also aware of this kind of organizations that seek excessive earnings from all people of good will. However, he is pretty pragmatic and the thinks that maybe society now needs to pay vast quantities to “open a door to another world” and then, fight for equal opportunities for both worlds.

Finally, he stands for social tourism saying that we, Western societies’, need to understand that “success is contributing something to society”. Therefore, all those communities were happy and considered their selves as successful people because of their daily participation in community tasks. It is one of the richest lessons they can give us.

 

Eva Pilar Carro

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