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Ecotourism Through Participatory Action Research: A Case Study of a Community-Based Project in Huatulco, MexicoEPA Grant Number: U915149
Title: Ecotourism Through Participatory Action Research: A Case Study of a Community-Based Project in Huatulco, Mexico
Investigators: Ishida, N. Loretta
Institution: Michigan State University
EPA Project Officer: Smith, Bernice
Project Period: January 1, 1997 through January 1, 1999
Project Amount: $68,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1997) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Fellowship - Ecology and Ecosystems
Invited to participate in the development of a community-based ecotourism project by a grassroots organization working in the coastal region of the Mexican state of Oaxaca, I have collaborated with three community groups in the Huatulco area. The objective of this research project is to explore how these agricultural communities can increase their economic opportunities, while conserving their natural resources. I was invited to participate in the development of a community-based ecotourism project by a grassroots organization working in the coastal region of the Mexican state of Oaxaca, and have collaborated with three community groups in the Huatulco area. I examine the project development process and consider issues of local and outsider participation. Specifically, I am considering the question: What of participation in the social, economic, and environmental context of rural Oaxaca.
Participatory action-research (PAR) provides the framework for this study. The main principles of PAR are: the valuation of local knowledge, the conceptualization of knowledge as a resource, and the use of knowledge to bring about social change. The participants, rather than the researcher alone, define the problem, and the methods, and the knowledge needed to address that problem. My participation involves planning and attending project meetings, contributing to the writing of the grant proposal writing, analysis ofanalyzing the participatory process, exploring promotional opportunities, and offering my perspectives as a potential ecotourist. To understand the context of the case, I use participant observation while living in the communities, and unstructured, open-ended interviews with the organization leaders, the project participants, and people involved in the area's tourism industry in the area. Each community is located in a different vegetation zone: the beach, the tropical dry forest ofin the foothills of the Sierra Madre del Sur, and the humid zone of the same mountain range. The current approach involvesAt present, the project is planned as simple cabins in each community. Tourists can take excursions onby foot or horseback to enjoy the area's natural attractions of the area. Interaction between the tourists and local people will be emphasized through participation in the community members' daily activities such as preparing food or harvesting the crops.