The Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest is disappearing at a rate three times faster than any other country in South America, and six times faster than the global average. Every year, 342,500 acres of the rainforest are destroyed as a result of unmanaged logging, oil exploitation, unsustainable agriculture and a growing population. And deforestation now contributes as much to global warming as all the carbon emitted by the United States.
That’s why places like the Yachana (meaning “place of learning”) Lodge, Reserve, Foundation and Technical School are fighting to turn the tide back to nature –along with the indigenous young people who will ultimately decide the fate of the forest. Thanks to the efforts of Ashoka Fellow & intrepid Geotourism Guru, Douglas McMeekin, a 67 year-old businessman from Kentucky, Yachana has evolved over 20 years into a multi-faceted hybrid profit/nonprofit that’s focused on achieving sustainability through education.Yachana Lodge is a world-class ecotourism destination that’s been lauded by Nicholas Kristof, National Georgaphic and hosts of other travel writers (I am totally dying to go!), bringing adventure travelers to the banks of the Napo River (a tributary of the Amazon) to learn, loll, and be enlightened. Yachana Lodge income supports the excellent Yachana Technical High School and Institute that teach indigenous young Ecuadorians practical, hands-on skills, valuable English, and sustainable agricultural skills, with the ultimate goal to provide economic opportunity for communities and develop visionary indigenous leaders. McMeekin also brings American students to the Lodge to gain knowledge of the rainforest with indigenous guides and develop relationships with the local students. The Institute also showcases the latest in clean energy technology, “green” building and other sustainability initiatives –while employing and involving local people every step of the way.Because ultimately, the people who are going to save the forest are the people who live in the forest. To that end, the Yachana Foundation (also supported by the Lodge) distributes high quality cacao seedlings that will provide income for families on small plots of land without clear-cutting forests. It holds courses in family planning, and continuously teaches the value of the environment. And since 1994, the Foundation has purchased and protected over 4,300 acres of primary and secondary rainforest.I got some idea of the radical nature of McMeekin’s commitment to this place and its people when he informed me that actually, there were no roads into Yachana. Everything that is there came in by canoe. And that’s exactly the way he likes it. He’s as dedicated to preserving local traditions, culture, and customs as he is to preserving the forest. And for that alone, he gets my $100 today & my request to kindly hold a room for me until I can get down there (but I’m not eating any worms). Just so you know.
To donate to the Foundation that contributes 90% of the cost of educating each student at the Yachana Technical High School & Institute, join the EcoTribe here!