Unique Adventures with the Ricancie Project

The Ricancie project, founded in 1993, is an initiative developed by the authorities of Ecuador, which involves a group of ten Quichua (or Kichwa) communities situated within the Grand Sumaco National Park Biosphere Reserve in the Upper Napo region of Ecuador. Based on respect for their environment and cultural heritage, these communities have established a unique ecotourism program that encourages responsible and sustainable development of their communities for present and future generations.

The Amazon region of Ecuador is renowned for its biodiversity, which includes thousands of animals and birds, as well as innumerable insects, plants and other life forms. In the interests of preserving the complex ecosystem of the forest, and at the same time creating a source of employment and income, the Ricancie community members offer holiday adventures which focus on participation in the local way of life. Participants will be accompanied by guides who have been certified by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism and will be included in the daily life of the community with regard to handicrafts, working in the communal agricultural plots and observing demonstrations of traditional dancing and hunting. They are invited to attend healing sessions, where the yachac (traditional healer) makes use of medicinal plants. The qualified guide will take visitors on hikes to the most scenic places in the area, including caves, waterfalls and overlooks, as well as enjoying trips on the river in dugout canoes.

The proceeds from the Ricancie tourism program go toward improving the lives of families. It also offers young people a bright future within their own communities, rather than for them to move to the large cities or even emigrate. Ricancie also encourages the entire community – young and old, men and women – to actively play a role in the ecotourism program. One of the most significant achievements of the project is the preservation of the rainforest, which is what most tourists want to see. If one member of the community decides to cut down some trees to sell to a logging company, other members of the community will remind him that visiting tourists want to see the forest in its natural state, with all its trees. The effectiveness of the Ricancie program was acknowledged on an international scale when the organization was invited to Hannover, Germany, to participate in EXPO 2000, in an exhibition entitled “Indigenous Communities”.

Some community leaders involved in the Ricancie project were at first concerned that they may be selling out their culture for the sake of financial gain. They have discovered, however, that the tourists who visit Ecuador and participate in their ecotourism programs don’t want the Quichas to change any part of their traditional way of life to accommodate them. They are genuinely there to experience traditional community life in every aspect. This interest by outsiders has resulted in young and old in the Ricancie communities discovering a new sense of pride in their cultural heritage and a respect for the people who visit them.