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  • Writer's pictureByron Alvarado Vanegas

Thermal Water Springs in the Shuar Community of Camacho

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

Community-based ecotourism, an opportunity as a productive alternative in the Pacific basin of the Macizo del Cajas Biosphere Reserve

Description of the case study

The Cajas Massif Biosphere Area has great potential for tourism development due to its landscapes, biological and cultural diversity. However, the approach of a UNESCO-declared Biosphere Reserve demands sustainability awareness from local communities and visitors.

This is the case of a Shuar ethnic group that is native to the Amazon basin of Ecuador. However, due to the advance of deforestation and other threats, this group of indigenous Shuar migrated 50 years ago to the Pacific Basin, in the Macizo de Cajas, now a Biosphere Reserve, and founded the Camacho community in the Naranjal canton, located one and a half hours south of Guayaquil.

Since then, these indigenous people have lived in this area, which is in the middle of a tropical forest and is home to a large number of species of flora and fauna very similar to those found in the Amazon.

However, one of their most important resources is the thermal water springs of volcanic origin that they possess in their territory. Since the discovery of these sources, this community has taken advantage of this resource to initiate community tourism, but in an empirical way.

..., at the last carnival holiday there were no tourists. This showed them how fragile their livelihoods are if they depend only on tourism.

Currently the community is composed of 50 families, which have a high degree of crossbreeding, because in the surrounding areas live people from other provinces of the country.

However, this collective undertaking has had organizational problems since its inception. Among other factors, this is due to the fact that they are in an area of disputed borders between the provinces of Guayas and Azuay. Some members wish to belong to the Azuay province and others to the Guayas province, which is a strong source of internal conflict.

It is also noted that the inhabitants of the community have little interest in working in collaboration with other institutions for fear of losing their resources.

Another factor affecting the organization and technical development in this Shuar community is a still paternalistic mentality, by which they still expect the State to provide the resources and infrastructure for their operations.

Since the beginning of the resort, the families have agreed on the division of functions to obtain an equitable benefit from the resource. However, on many occasions there have been conflicts between members of the community. These include conflicts related to the legal and financial administration of the initiative. Currently, the community is constituted as a community association to carry out tourism activities.

However, the community has had problems in the technical management of its resources, since they lack greater professionalism in both organizational management and the provision of higher quality and sustainable tourism services.

In spite of this, the community has constantly received visitors thanks to the publicity that the media has given to the resort.

Nevertheless, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the last carnival holiday there were no tourists. This showed them how fragile their livelihoods are if they depend only on tourism.

Therefore, the community has expressed interest in working on their organizational strengthening and improving the management of their natural resources and facilities.

Source: initial information on the Pilot Project generated by the international team of the PREIT-Tour platform in May 2020.

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