Yachana Lodge: Training Amazon Youth in Eco-tourism

One of the more impressive winners of The Geotourism Challenge, a recent competition sponsored by Ashoka's Changemakers and National Geographic, was Yachana Foundation and Lodge, an education and sustainable development project for poor youth from the Ecuadorian Amazon.

The Yachana Technical High School opened in September 2005 to meet a regional need for practical, hands-on education and is the only school in Ecuador offering a degree in Eco-tourism and Sustainable Development. The school has 128 students, 80 percent of whom are indigenous, from five provinces and four ethnic groups.

The school is linked with Yachana Lodge, a luxurious eco-tourism destination in a remote part of the Ecuadoran Amazon. The students are involved in ecological and cultural programs for the lodge guests, including an Amazon culinary tour where guests harvest and prepare Amazonian foods with students.The Geotourism competition, which selected Yachana as one of three winners, aims to find the most innovative geotourism projects in the world. What is geotourism you might ask? It's a term coined by National Geographic and defined as "tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place: its environment, heritage, culture, aesthetics, and the well-being of its residents.":: Yachana

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