Thursday, August 25, 2011

FEV Fever

In a interdisciplinary meeting with other professors this afternoon, I mentioned ecotourism as part of my discussion of an article I was writing on coffee in Belize. (The article will be short, and I am thankful to the colleague who suggested the term "the province of hobbyists.") One colleague asked if ecotourism is really a word, and then asked for a brief definition. It is a term I've been hearing for a couple of decades now, and I have even participated, but it is not yet in wide circulation, as evidenced by his question and by the red, squiggly lines that Blogger is putting under the word as I write this!

Anyway, I suggested a working definition of the concept, which was familiar to some in the group but not others -- encouraging sustainable development by using ecosystems as tourist attractions. The challenge is to attract enough visitors to provide livelihoods that are at least as remunerative as resource extraction would be, but few enough to keep the ecosystems intact.

Imagine my surprise when I got home and found an article on ecotourism in the daily mail, the cover article in our denominational magazine. Imagine my further surprise that the focus of the article is Finca Esperanza Verde, a mountain-top coffee farm that I have actually visited with Pam and with two groups of students during my Nicaragua coffee tours.

Both times I have arrived there, it has been with students who were apprehensive about a two-day stay with extremely limited electronics and only healthy food. Both times, the beauty and tranquility of the place has made them reluctant to leave! The ecological value of the reserve (whose name means Green Hope Farm) is continuously documented by my blogger friend on Coffee Habitat, who also frequents another ecotourism favorite of mine, Selva Negra. The latter is a very different model pursuing similar goals.

Photo credit: The amazing
Matt Kadey
I knew that FEV (as we like to call it) was connected to a church in North Carolina -- home to many great cafes and the indispensable Counter Culture Coffee. Only last week did I learn from a nearby UU minister that a Unitarian Church was involved, so I am delighted to have the full story now, and to know that my fellow UUs will know about this amazing place.

Incidentally, because these places -- along with my home-away-from-home, Finca Mil Flores in nearby La Corona -- also include productive farming in the balance with tourism and ecology, they are examples of agroecotourism. I am glad that a search on that term brings up the Fresh Cup article about my second journey to the region.

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