Studying social enterprises and ecotourism organisations in Mexico

Between January 22 and January 29 of 2015, prof. Tomislav Rimac from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona visited Oaxaca region of Mexico. His visit was a part of an ongoing collaboration with a Mexican research team lead by prof. Maria Jose Fernandez Aldecua. Prof. Rimac and his Mexican colleagues explored a possibility of adopting the SEFORÏS research methodology for studying of social enterprises and ecotourism organisations in Mexico while accounting for idiosyncrasies of the Mexican indigenous and mestizo communities.

Lagarto Real

Lagarto Real

During his stay prof. Rimac delivered a presentation to the faculty and the students entitled "Social Entrepreneurship in European Union: Learning from SELUSI and SEFORÏS projects. Why and how Mexico should participate?" In addition, prof. Rimac visited a number of local indigenous and mestizo communities such as Barra de la Cruz, Barra de Navidad, La Escobilla, La Ventanilla and Mazunte where he interviewed members of the local communities and studied their social and community enterprises such as Cosméticos Naturales de Mazunte, Lagarto Real, PRODECO, and Red de los Humedales.

In 1990, due to international pressure to put a stop to the killing of sea turtles, government of Mexico passed a law banning the hunting of turtles. Despite having been recognised worldwide as an ecological victory, this act caused devastating effects among indigenous and mestizo communities in the coastal region of Oaxaca whose livelihoods depended on turtle hunting. Almost overnight local population lost their main source of income and faced bleak employment prospects.

However, through various community initiatives and participation of Ecosolar, an NGO from Mexico City, a new development plan emerged that involved environmental education, reforestation, and ecotourism. Within few years, local communities assumed their new role of the custodians of their natural resources and got organized in community enterprises, cooperatives, and social enterprises.

Some of organizations focused on ecotourism activities providing the tours of the estuaries, and participating in crocodile and turtle re-population. Others focused on provision of microfinancing to local communities and farmers (e.g., PRODECO) and production and marketing of cosmetic products (e.g., Cosméticos Naturales de Mazunte founded in 1993 with the help of Ecolosar and Anita Roddick, the founder of Body Shop).

Despite numerous problems such as climate changes and destructive hurricanes, social disintegration of local communities, and changing economic reality of Mexico, most of the organisations still exist, admitably with a varying degree of success. Irrespective of their varying degree of success, what they have in common is that they have influenced and changed many lives.

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