The Eixo Forte / Juá Community-Based Tourism Project incorporates CEN’s growing experience in strengthening basic skills and mindsets with a multifaceted approach to fostering community-based ecotourism in a group of 16 small communities near the Juá Creek and the city of Santarém, in the Brazilian Amazon. The project will improve community livelihoods without abandoning unique lifestyles and culture.
The process of cultivating a strong and sustainable tourism sector in the region requires building community leadership and institutions capable of developing and managing the implementation of a community-wide agreed-upon plan that will ensure strong, equitable economic growth, while maintaining the communities' cultural and environmental strengths that make them an attractive tourist destination in the first place.
To achieve this vision, CEN has partnered with Eunice Sena and Paulo Melo, two seasoned development professionals who live in the area and together have over 50 years of experience in community-based development, as well as experience working with community leaders and other organizations.
The Eixo Forte/Juá region has strong touristic potential due to its proximity to the city of Santarém, beautiful beaches, and the town of Alter do Chão, which draws local, national and a growing number of international visitors. The main road connecting Santarém and Alter do Chão also passes through several of the communities in the region. Tourist development will most likely come to the region on its own; however, unless the communities are equipped with what they need to manage the process for themselves, residents of the area will become bystanders, realizing few economic gains for themselves and risking the loss of their unique lifestyle and culture.
The primary objective of the eight-year project is to increase family incomes through community-based tourism on a sustainable basis.
By the end of the project, we hope to accomplish the following in collaboration with our local partner team:
- Ensure that the community is able to execute its unified vision for tourism in the region
- Generate at least 50 new locally managed businesses in the region, such as lodges, trails, beaches, handicrafts, restaurants, and entertainment
- Increase family incomes among the approximately 4000 residents of the region by at least 40% through the business opportunities available in the tourism industry
- Make progress to overcome key external obstacles that would otherwise compromise the long-term social and economic sustainability of the region’s tourism initiative, such as social capital, access to credit and markets, strong local commercial value chains for their products, and infrastructure
Several years ago, Mr. Paulo “Paulinho” Melo initiated community development efforts in Cucurunã, one of the communities in the Juá region. These efforts resulted in the community coming together to repair and beautify community spaces, and to transform a festival honoring the community’s patron saint into an event that attracts visitors from around the region, including the city of Santarém. This instilled a sense of pride and stimulated a growing number of residents, including youth and women, to begin various income-producing projects year-round.
Currently, several communities in the region have scattered tourism-related activities, such as selling drinks by the side of the highway or at beaches and a growing number of festivals, but they have been sporadic and not well-integrated. Learn more about this early work (in Portuguese only, but with photos).
In 2010, Mr. Melo and Eunice Sena, another community development professional who has strong ties with the local women’s movement, began to hold meetings in each community, in which any resident interested in tourism development was invited to attend. After completing the series of meetings, Mr. Melo and Ms. Sena organized a general meeting of all the communities to share what he learned. This process was repeated several times through April 2012, until the community created a regional development plan.
In 2012 the communities in the region joined together to form a regional association to oversee and coordinate the implementation plan.
Planned Future Activities
Leadership and Capacity Development Module — Estimated to start in February 2014
We are currently in discussion with several potential funders for the next phase of the project, which will focus on the execution of the community development plan.
This module of the Eixo Forte / Juá Community-Based Ecotourism Project will last approximately 12 months and will accomplish the following:
- strengthen the operational capacity of the regional development council (FAMCEEF), its member associations, and 12 working groups, to improve their ability to coordinate and manage the Action Plan
- ensure a broad participation of the population with the execution of the Action Plan. We will evaluate our effectiveness by conducting an analysis of the social inclusion of various segments of the population identified through a comprehensive regional baseline study
- establish Community Administration Councils (CACs) in each of the 16 communities in order to augment the administrative and project management capacity of each community's core leaders
- begin the creation of local micro-enterprises that will increase local incomes; and
- maximize local benefits from expanded tourism, and begin to market the region to local, Brazilian and international visitors.
Our future involvement with the project will support implementation of the Regional Action Plan, which outlines the communities' development vision, as well as provides a road map for implementing it. The regional leadership will implement many projects outlined in the plan on their own with minimal or no direct support by us. CEN's role will be to support their effort where we can best add value. Some particular areas we anticipate future involvement include:
- PRATICAR - build basic skills of a limited number of community activists through our PRATICAR Learning Approach, similar to the approach we took with the cCLEAR Proof of Concept Project
- Entrepreneurial Development - We will continue to strengthen community leadership and entrepreneur capacity through additional training and through the establishment of an ongoing partnership with regional training organizations.
- Expand Access to Capitol - In order to provide financial capital for starting and expanding local micro-businesses, we anticipate working with local groups to establish and operate community rotating savings funds (ROSCA’s) similar to the Banco da Mulher, for which Ms. Sena was a primary architect.
- Tourism Development - As the communities develop their capacity to support increases in tourism, we will increase promotion of the region on the local, regional, national and possibly international levels and help the regional association hire a tourism marketing director.
Throughout the program implementation, we will regularly monitor progress against benchmarks and milestones and make any needed adjustments accordingly. Before we leave the community, we will conduct a thorough evaluation of the project to assess our progress toward our stated goals.
Community Mobilization — Since our partner team began work in the communities, community groups have become much more involved in leading improvements in many of the communities in the region. For example, in the community of Cucurunã, the youth in particular led efforts to repaint and landscape the church. Now every year, the youth group decides on at least one community beautification project. These efforts have increased civic pride and helped organize the community.
In another example, communities in the region have begun to hold a number of festivals that attract an increasing number of visitors from the region, and the city of Santarém, to the community. Local foods and handicrafts are now sold, games are played and local musicians perform.
Community Planning and Leadership Development — The partner team held three series of town hall-style meetings to hear from residents in each community in the region regarding their aspirations for the region. Following each tour of every community, the partner team presented its findings in a general regional meeting. This participative planning process has already resulted in the foundation of a comprehensive regional development plan. Learn more about the latest regional development plan.
Increased Economic Activity — In addition to the increased economic activity generated by the festivals in Cucurunã and smaller festivals in several other communities, the number of family-owned ventures have increased.
Environmental Stewardship — Grassroots conservation efforts have started to recover and conserve local streams and improve several local trails. In addition, Cucurunã began a campaign to clean up litter and remove trash from around the community.
Eixo Forte (Juá) Communities Regional Action Plan
Accomplishments for Eixo Forte / Juá Community-Based Tourism Project
Our Development Approach
What is community-based ecotourism?
How our tours support the regional action plan