Handicrafts and Community Tourism
The majority of those living in the villages Ak’ Tenamit serves are subsistence farmers who earn less than $2 per day selling corn, fish, beans, and produce. These crops are often the families’ only source of income and their primary source of food. A single flood or drought can quickly wipe out an entire year’s harvest and leave families without food or income. Without a source of income, families cannot meet their basic needs, much less afford education or healthcare.
Ak’ Tenamit actively supports communities’ efforts to develop alternative income projects such as
handicraft cooperatives and community tourism initiatives.
These projects increase family incomes while decreasing dependency on slash and burn agriculture, hunting, and logging associated with subsistence farming. They also improve communities’ sustainability and encourage them to realize that they are capable of creating and implementing solutions to their own problems.
Ak’ Tenamit works with more than a dozen local handicraft cooperatives, the majority of which are composed only of women, and help them sell their products at gift shops around Guatemala. Our staff and students teach cooperative members to make an array of sustainable handicrafts and, after the initial training, cooperative leaders then train new members. Products include:
- Palm-seed carvings
- Decorative calabash gourds
- An array of paper products made from recycled cornhusks, banana stalks and other kitchen waste.
Being a member of a cooperative provides much more than income for the women who are members. They develop entrepreneurial skills and being able to contribute to family finances helps them gain respect amongst males in their family.
Many communities in Rio Dulce are working to become eco-tourism or community tourism destinations but face challenges because they, themselves, have never been tourists or run a business. Ak’ Tenamit supports local efforts to develop an eco-tourism industry, and education is at the root of our approach.
- We work directly with communities that are developing themselves as tourist destinations.
- Ak’ Tenamit has helped two villages start a community lodge, which travelers visit as part of a hiking tour led by local guides.
- We organize regular workshops with communities to teach them to run a successful tourism endeavor.
- Our vocational school’s Sustainable Tourism degree program prepares students to enter the tourism industry and become leaders in their communities’ tourism efforts.
- Through our work-study program, students graduate with 3,000 hours of experience working in restaurants, hotels, as tour guides, and in administrative offices.
Community tourism destinations offer:
- Hot springs
- Walking paths through the forest
- Adventure sports (spelunking, hiking, trekking)
- Guided tours through the forest
- Cultural activities and presentations
- Typical indigenous foods