20/02/2018 - Eco-tourism and protection of wetlands in Nicaragua
The “Municipal Heritage Site of La Bruja lagoon” is located in the community of El Pegador and part of the sub-basin of the Inalí River. In this mountainous region, the Inalí River is a significant tributary to the Coco River, one of the large rivers of Nicaragua. It was considered a perfect place to start up a eco-tourism project. For various reasons.
La Bruja lagoon is volcanic in nature and covers an area of 2.81 ha. It is characterised as a wetland and site for natural conservation with hydric potential. Therefore it is necessary to manage the lagoon wisely, and the project ensures to link the conservation of the lagoon with the sustainable use through community-based tourism. The local population, consisting of 138 people, benefits from the generated income, and in the mean time they take care of the maintenaince of the lagoon.
A participatory process started in 2013, applying the Integrated Risk Management approach that combines Disaster Risk Reduction with Climate Change Adaptation and Ecosystem Management and Restoration. The initiative brought together Partners for Resilience, the municipality of Las Sabanas, the local community, Community and Life Cabinet, producers cooperatives, local providers of eco-tourism services, and state institutions, including the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MARENA) and the Tourism Institute (INTUR). Implementation of the project began in 2014.
The project reached some first milestones in 2014-2015 among which the development of a local organisation process with the participation of 30 community members, representatives from MARENA, INTUR, and the municipality of Las Sabanas. Sites were geo-referenced in order to prepare a local map and to place markers around the lagoon that define its geographic boundaries. A Collaborative Management Committee was set up for overall management of the lagoon. Several regulations were put in in place regarding the organisation and responsibilities of the Committee, the management of a funding mechanism and an environmental fund, as well as on the public use and recharge capacity of the lagoon. The Collaborative Management Committee is the governing body for the implementation of project activities and ensures continuity.
A study conducted in 2014 determined the necessary equipment for eco-tourism: a floating dock for small boats, wildlife watching, and the design of a booth with tourist and environmental information, as well as a hiking trail. Indeed the required certifications were gathered to build the dock and booth, and two fiberglass rowing boats with oars and life jackets were procured. Deposits for solid organic and inorganic waste were designed. Local youth participated in activities to clean up the solid waste in the community.
Although Partners for Resilience phased out in Nicaragua in 2014, the project has been taken forward by the Nicaraguan counterparts. Training by PfR on disaster risk reduction has helped to identify community vulnerabilities and measures to improve their disaster preparedness. Active participation from the local people throughout the project process (assessment, formulation, implementation and follow-up) was key to reaching the foreseen goals. The communities contributed their time, organisation, local know-how and many person-hours to the activities. They were very motivated to ensure the project’s sustainability on the long-term, through continued reforestation, lagoon maintenance, clean up, and installation of tree nurseries.
It is great to see how the area indeed has developed into a great place for eco-tourism; the lagoon is now officially advertised by the Nicaraguan Ministry of Tourism. Click here to see a short film about La Bruja Lagoon.