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Yipee for GIFEE!
Strengthening Ecotourism in Ecuador
by Ron Mader

Publication date: 2003



Between November, 2002 and March 2003 participated in a private online dialogue with a group of professionals supporting ecotourism in Ecuador.

The GRUPO INTERNET EN FAVOR DE ECOTURISMO ECUATORIANO manifests what is best about the Internet. It allows people with similar interests to share their thoughts with others ... regardless of distance.

GIFEE members -- Susana Andrade, Ximena Gabriela Andrade, Diego Falconi and Betti Sachs, Mary Finn, Michelle Kirby and Andrew Hammerman, Ron Mader and Antonis B. Petropoulos -- have experience in community and grassroots work, and we took this approach online.

The word does not exist, but GIFEE could be defined as a "cyberroots" initiative. We have never been in the same physical room. We work in Ecuador, Greece, Mexico and the United States. GIFEE identified seven, interdependent sectors for action: the Internet, Education, Conservation, Waste Management, Financing, Promotion, and Cooperation in a documented titled Strengthening Ecotourism In Ecuador: Seven Recommendations (Siete Recomendacions para el Fortalecimiento del ecoturismo en Ecuador).


It's not just the document that's important -- the process was an integral means to the end.

GIFEE formed as the result of online chats and discussions well-publicized on the and ECOCLUB websites. A transcript of the initial chat was published almost immediately. We also solicited feedback from colleagues who are not wired to the Web.

We recognized that though we might "compete" with one another, we actually stand to gain more by sharing information and helping each other. These are conflictive times, and the GIFEE work shines an example of peacemaking. I am not saying it was easy!

Creating any collective document requires a great deal of time and patience. Many of the participants live in rural areas which do not have reliable access to the Web. There was also an advantage to going slow.

I was motivated by a quote from author and lecturer Harrison Owen who created the "Open Space Technology" event methodology and whose article on Peacemaking was published on at the top of the year.

Harrison writes:

"Peace itself is not the far off, someday to be realized phenomenon which we desperately seek when there seems to be no other alternative. Rather, Peace is what life is all about. Just as chaos, confusion and conflict are the constant, integral, and necessary elements of this thing we call living, so also is the Practice of Peace -- that task of enabling the conditions under which they may weave themselves together, creating the fabric of life."


For those who took part in GIFEE, the experience was remarkable. We acknowledged that 'If you don't like the way things are, you have to change the way you are doing things.' Siete Recomendaciones is a recipe book for ecotourism. It acknowledges the diversity of stakeholders and presents a number of options (with instructions!) about what is needed and doable NOW.

And now that the document has been prepared, edited and delivered to Ecuador's Ministry of Tourism, we are confident that the dialogue will be richer and more satisfying, and that this process will have expanded our options and opportunities for success.



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