The Achuar Indigenous Federation comprises over 50 indigenous communities distributed in an area of over 7,000 square kilometers (700,000 hectares), or approximately 1.75 million acres, of arguably the best preserved Amazon Tropical Rainforest in Ecuador.
As with many local communities located in isolated regions of the Amazon Rainforest, the Achuar face integration to the market economy and the continuous pressure from unsustainable activities such as oil exploitation, mining, logging and cattle ranching. Ecotourism represents one of the few sustainable development options for the Achuar people. Aware of the reality threatening other indigenous groups in the Amazon, since the 1990's the Achuar have been supporting the development of alternative sustainable activities to generate a source of income, preserve their ancient customs and traditions, and protect their natural resources.
The Achuar promote their tourism plan as essential in their search for sustainable development. To the Achuar tourism represents a tool put into practice as an alternative to other economic activities viewed as potential threats to the Achuar culture and biodiversity. Under this reality, tourism for the Achuar people represents not only a sustainable development option, but also a perfect instrument used to mitigate the threats to the conservation and preservation of the Achuar natural wealth and cultural heritage.
The best example of tourism in Achuar territory is Kapawi Ecolodge, which has become one of the most important elements of the Achuar development plan. This community-owned ecolodge has allowed visitors to visit the Achuar territory, winning several awards along the way; most recently being named by National Geographic Adventure Magazine one of the 50-best ecolodges in the world.
Tourism has had a positive impact for the Achuar people: ancient cultural aspects are increasingly valued because of tourism; nature is better preserved because of tourism; local entrepreneurship has grown, and overall product quality has improved because of tourism. So, there is a clear potential to develop tourism in the Achuar territory to strengthen the link between tourism, cultural preservation and natural conservation. At the same time, more local communities are interested in tourism, and the Achuar leadership has recognized this as an opportunity to develop tourism as part of a unique territorial strategy.
This is where our project enters the scene...
Makusar is the name of 11 community Associations within the Achuar territory (somewhat like an Achuar province). Makusar is formed by 7 local Achuar communities: Mashuntsa, Yutsunts, Makusar, Tiinkias, Chichirat, Iniak, and Kasuents. These seven communities have a population of just over 400 people, and arguably represent the best example of Achuar ancient life: 7 communities own over 70,000 hectares (175,000 acres) of pristine Amazon Tropical Rainforest, and still practice the Achuar ancient traditions in their day-to-day lives.
Makusar decided, back in 2004, to develop their own development project in order to try to cover the needs of the 7 local communities. Unlike other projects in the Amazon, including Kapawi Ecolodge, these 7 communities decided to develop a unique tourism project which would not resemble the typical ecolodge experience, but rather an expedition to experience the pureness of the Amazon Rainforest and the richness of an ancient culture.
And this is where the Tiinkias Ecotourism Center (TEC) started...