At Andes EcoTours we are more than hikers with strong calves chiseled from trekking mountains. We are a passionate bunch that not only cares deeply about the natural environment around us, but also about community development. The local guides that we work with on a daily basis inspire us to gain a better understanding of the issues facing rural Colombians and to share this understanding with others.
So, let's take a brief look at rural Colombian life and at some of the work we do.
It's well-known that Colombia is one of the most urbanized nations in Latin America. This is a natural progression of economic development, of course, but it also stems from the political instability and conflict that plagued the country in past decades. This rapid urbanization has led to a vast gap between the rural and urban populations of the country. As urbanization picked up speed, the government has largely focused its attention and funding on these areas. However, this leaves 12 million Colombians, about a fourth of the total population of the country, in rural areas with the short stick. With the even shorter stick are the half of that 12 million that live in varying degrees of poverty with limited access to assets and resources (1).
With our tours, we seek to form sustainable partnerships with local communities and families to bring some much-needed tourist dollars to these rural areas. The most popular tour we offer is our coffee farm tour, that to date, has taken hundreds of tourists to see another side of Colombian living. The local guides share and explain with the greatest detail and greatest pride how they work to make their living from the land. They walk you through the entire coffee production and harvesting process from start to finish. By the end of the day, an interchange has occurred - you've gained a first-hand appreciation of coffee-growing and the locals have gained pride in knowing their skills and work are respected and admired.
In addition to tours, we aid other organizations like Interchange Colombia with educational workshops in the communities where we work. These workshops have included activities such as converting plastic bottles into colorful hanging gardens, learning to identify local bird species by their patterns and colors, as well as an introduction to classical music instruments, followed by a concert in honor of Mother's Day.
By choosing our tours, you are choosing to support these local partnerships and the empowerment of rural communities. The fresh coffee is great, but knowing your participation contributes towards a positive future, is even better!