the past week, we have spent our time in El Silencio,
Economic Aspects of the Co-op
As a way of fighting unemployment and abandoning their lifestyle and culture to find a job in San Jose, rural communities now have a way of generating their own income (“Costa Rica,” 2002). Tourism also has grown in recent years to be a large contributor to the communities’ income. Their tourist lodging is centered on ecotourism activities in the surrounding area. Also a bar was built to accommodate tourist who come to stay in the town.
With the help from many organizations, these rural families can continue living in their original community and make a living at the same. One such organizations, COOPRENA RL, aids many rural cooperatives in promoting ecotourism and creating a self sufficient business like economy. COOPRENA is very active in Silencio.
RL, or the National Network of Cooperatives in Ecotourism, is an organization
Volunteers also bring a substantial amount of economic assistance to the community. When someone comes to volunteer for the community they pay a fee, part of which goes to the community and the other part goes to the family who the volunteer is staying with. In the case of the wildlife refuge volunteers, part of their fees goes directly to that project. Other alternative sources of income include a small lumber project that recently started up. A small egg operations run by the women of the town, they have approximately 190 chickens that produce about 750 eggs a day.
Coopesilencio is dedicated to its massive African Palm Plantation which yields an important economic staple: palm oil. The small community of roughly 400 depends mainly on their African palm plantation located on the communities 1,100 Ha landholdings. From April to November is their harvest season. Then from December to March the plantation is in reproduction mode to get ready for the new harvest. To maintain their crop, different sections of the plantation are harvested every year to ensure the sustainability of their crop. One ton of the heart of palm will earn the community 30,000 colones and with 143 African palms per Ha African palm is their largest industry.
coop is dedicated to conservation projects and education, palm oil, basic grain
crops, reforestation and sustainable ecotourism. Because of its fantastic
success and location, COOPRENA created Simbiosis
Tours, a social marketing scheme to help the community generate income by
utilizing their talents. Simbiosis is the first tour
Unfortunately last year most of the industries in the community were harmed significantly by a hurricane. They lost 30 Ha of the African palm plantation, lost wood that was drying for the lumber project and bridges and roads were destroyed which prevented any tourists from coming. In Total the community lost 500,000,000 colones across all their projects, 18,000,000 of which came from tourism.
The most visible positive aspect of Coopesilencio is the social atmosphere. The most important factor emphasized in this community is the host/visitor interaction. In order to gain a significant travel experience, Coopesilencio believes it is necessary to have a meaningful cultural exchange. Over the years, COOPRENA has successfully created a tourism market that caters to responsible and sustainable tourism. In each location, COOPRENA and the local community have developed rustic cabins to simulate an authentic and rural Costa Rican experience. The market is aimed at culturally aware travelers who respect local culture and help contribute to the community development. Throughout my time spent here in Silencio, the locals have been extremely generous and kind, always offering help or another cup of coffee. Every child I have met greets me with a smile and asks my name and where I am from. In this short week, I have made many friendships and have met many amazing people.
strong cultural exchange can also have immense negative impacts on a society. In
the case of Coopesilencio, it is quite evident that
outsiders and media have impacted the community. El Silencio
is a very isolated cooperative that is trying to keep its workers within the
community. Unfortunately, the young people have decided to look else where and
end up working in the city Quepos. In Quepos, they are exposed to mass tourism, many various
cultures, drugs, alcohol, and media. These teens and young adults bring these
drugs, ideas, and issues back into the community and share them with others.
This is also the case in tourism to Silencio. The
community strives to attract responsible and caring ecotourists
to the area who will not leave a negative impact on the people, and most
importantly the children. Tourists in Silencio may
bring negative ideas to the area and reveal unnecessary information to children
or teens. Currently, Silencio is struggling with
contemporary globalization. They are having a diffivult
time keeping their young populations within the boundaries of Silencio. When the young adults are exposed to Quepos or the
from economic and social aspects, Coopesilencio
prides itself on community wide devotion to the environment. Through the years,
it has had its up and downs with improving environmental qualities. Currently, Silencio is home to a Wildlife Refuge, which is extremely
important to the entire country. In this refuge, community members of Silencio care for injured monkeys and birds and most
importantly, the dwindling scarlet macaws.
While I was there, a member of the community, Juan Carlos, brought the
group on a tour of the refuge.
Although it was obvious that there had been considerable effort and care
put into the refuge, it is still in the early processes of development. Over the years many people in
The town members share a desire to keep their community clean and environmentally sound. Unlike Quepos, they are trying to keep tourist to a minimum and to attract only environmentally conscious tourists who also share a love for nature and learning.