Naranjal: Field visits to strengthen learning and contact with communities
Last Saturday, January 30, students of the seventh-semester (pilot course 2) of the school of tourism, carried out a technical visit to three territories of the Canton Naranjal. The visit took place in the framework of research-based learning, developed by the University of Cuenca and KU Leuven with the support of the VLIR-UOs programme. In this visit, the students had the opportunity to apply qualitative data collection techniques, to create the situational diagnosis of the territories that are part of the PREIT-Tour project. The students were accompanied by Byron Alvarado (project technician) and students who are working on their graduation thesis in the project pilots.
The day began with a visit to the 6 de Julio Cooperative, where the students had the opportunity to tour the mangrove swamp and learn about the crab harvesting activity that many of the cooperative's inhabitants carry out. At this point, Elvis Rodriguez explained to the students about the management mechanisms they use to utilise the mangrove resources and their conservation policies.
Afterwards, the students visited the Shuar Tsuer-Entsa Community, to gather relevant information about the territory and observe the hot springs complex, which is the main source of income for the community. In this case, the attendees were able to interview the community leaders and learn about their main strategies to face the crisis caused by the pandemic.
In the afternoon, the visit continued to the Kaluz Inn, where the employees of the complex explained to the students the strategies that the administration carries out to bond with the communities of the sector. At this point, the participants learned the importance of joining efforts between actors to create integrated products that benefit the whole canton.
The last stop was the 7 Cascadas Community, where the students made contact with the main actors of the community. In this case, Julio Urutia (Tourist Guide) and Miguel Tigre (Member of the community) explained how the community started with tourism activities and the strategies they currently have to consolidate themselves as one of the most relevant tourist sites in the canton. Also, the actors highlighted the importance of self-management to develop their territory, as they are aware that they should not depend on the government to improve their infrastructure or adopt paternalistic behaviour to obtain resources in the community.
During the visit, the students applied participant observation, interviews and participatory methodologies. The data obtained from these techniques will be used for the presentation of their final projects, which are framed within the subject of Tourism Planning taught by MSc. Karina Farfán (Co-director of the project).
Photo credits: Byron Alvarado Vanegas