Tarpuy Yachay (“Growing Knowledge” in local Quechua language) is the name of our flagship community-based tourism project in South America. The project was originally set up in 2005 as an integral part of our Community Inca Trek, Dragoman’s unique alternative to the Classic Inca Trail.
The Community Inca Trek is a 3 day trek included as standard in all Dragoman trips which pass through Cuzco in Peru. On the trek, groups hike through spectacular scenery, on remote trails used only by local villagers and Dragoman travellers, camping as guests within the communities they pass through.
When setting up the project, our initial aim was to develop an alternative to the extremely popular “Classic” Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu – one that was grounded in the principles of responsible, sustainable and ethical travel. This is a trekking programme that seeks to genuinely benefit the host communities our groups pass through via education, income generation, and environmental initiatives, whilst protecting the communities from exploitation and giving them ownership over how their environment is used.
This area of the High Andes in Peru is characterised by extreme poverty. Communities face severely cold weather, poor hygienic conditions, malnutrition and little medical or health assistance. Infrastructure is poor, for example schools are generally very small and often need support with construction, furniture, materials and teaching staff. Villagers typically live in basic thatched-roof stone huts and cook over firewood – and because of the disproportionate supply and demand of native trees and brush, there is a great need for an effective reforestation project in the area.
The relatively recent arrival of adventure tourism (specifically trekking) has brought much needed economic development to the communities in the region, however unfortunately these benefits are not always evenly distributed. The Tarpuy Yachay project aims to readdress the balance of this situation by facilitating a trekking programme whereby the benefits of tourism are more equitably and directly disseminated.
70% of people travelling with us in Peru now choose to participate in the Community Inca Trek rather than the hugely popular classic 'Inca Trail' - which means that company and passenger donations now amount to approximately US$10,000 every year.
Achievements so far
To date, our groups donations have helped contribute to the following:
- Improving local schools: refurbishment projects including replacing windows, painting walls and re-wiring
- Providing school equipment, for example desks, chairs, books and other materials
- Recruitment and on-going employment of a full-time teacher for each community
- Creating designated camping areas with toilet facilities in order to prevent contamination and degradation of open spaces and provide an income for the communities
- Micro-projects to increase the type of crops available to local people in order to improve their diet and nutrition
- Re-introducing herds or 'hatos' of alpacas after an absence of 200yrs
- Reparation of bridges along the pathways
Also, together with the ECOAN (a local conservation non-profit organisation) the Tarpuy Yachay project has donated 5000 polylepsis (Queuna) trees to areas in danger of extinction in the Lares Valley
A new route for 2013
In 2013 it was agreed to research a new area through which to trek whilst maintaining the original ethos behind the project - that of combining benefits to both trekkers and local communities. A new route was created, travelling through an even more stunning mountainous area, thus bringing income to new communities and opening up parts of the Andes which had previously little contact with the adventure tourist. Tarpuy Yachay continues to expand.....
For each Dragoman group that participates in the Inca Community Trek, a donation of 15 USD per traveller is made to the project from the kitty. This donation is matched by a further 15 USD per passenger from Dragoman. Further financial support is provided by way of employing members of the communities to help operate the treks e.g. to work as porters / animal handlers / general assistants.
In the last 12 months, Dragoman groups have raised in excess of $10,000 USD in donations for the project.
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