We've launched women-owned businesses in tourism that help support nature.
We've launched women-owned businesses in tourism that help support nature.
The proprietors of the Catalina Inn
Over the past three years, Paso Pacifico’s Environmental Leadership and Entrepreneurship for Geotourism Project—the ELLAS Initiative—has strengthened female business owners and improved the management of natural resources in communities surrounding La Flor Wildlife Refuge. This project was originally conceived as part of the National Geographic Geotourism Challenge, which was supported by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Ashoka Changemakers. The project idea won the challenge and went on to receive $883,116 in funding support from IDB's Multilateral Investment Fund (FOMIN).
The multifaceted ELLAS Initiative provided training to twenty-three female entrepreneurs seeking to establish or improve small businesses in tourism. Many of these include women-owned hostels and restaurants that are already experiencing an increase in visitors thanks to their improved capacity to provide tourism services. The project also helped to establish geotourism programs that range from snorkel tours and mountain biking to archaeological site visits and ox-cart rides. These tours increase appreciation for the biodiversity around La Flor Wildlife Refuge while providing direct economic benefit to families and cooperatives from nearby communities.
The ELLAS Initiative has changed lives as well as significantly increasing local attitudes of conservation. A hostel owner, Sonia, said this after participating in the project: “I feel empowered, and now I look at myself as an entrepreneur. We went from informality to having vision . . . Aspiring is not only believing in dreams, it is changing one’s attitude to see the changes.”
Paso Pacifico — Environmental Learning, Leadership, Adventure, and Stewardship Initiative (ELLAS)
This short video summarizes the mission of the ELLAS Initiative and shows the work of one "enviropreneur."

In addition to supporting local economic development, the ELLAS Initiave supported a range of activities that, over time, will improve the health of La Flor Wildlife Refuge. For example, the project helped reactivate the collaborative management committee at the wildlife refuge, enabling greater participation from communities within the buffer zone of the reserve. It also brought in experts to help design new interpretive signs for the reserve, recommend ways to reduce human impact on sea turtle nesting habitat, and monitor waterways and reefs to track environmental quality.
Some project activities spurred innovation in conservation, including the design of a financing mechanism for sea turtle conservation that relies on ecosystem markets and allows for greater accountability through third-party audits of conservation impact. Another exciting contribution was the technical assistance provided to the Ostional oyster cooperative, which is now supported through The Waitt Foundation but which received matching technical assistance from FOMIN that enabled the women to form a cooperative for their shellfish business.
Paso Pacifico expects to see local geotourism continue to increase and benefit local economies. We also hope to see biodiversity increase; we expect the number of turtle hatchlings increase by fifty percent in the long term. When geotourism is a major component of local household incomes, community members are more invested in protecting wildlife. With our partners, we will continue working to educate youth, support conservation, and support the community.
Yellow-naped amazon parrot Baby sea turtle Squirrel in tree
Smiling woman with child The Ranchotere Restaurant & Hostel, part of the ELLAS Initiative
New community-based tours in the area near the La Flor Wildlife Refuge were recently profiled by Nicaragua Turismo e Inversión, a bilingual magazine on tourism and investment in Nicaragua. Click here for a text-only version of the article or click here to view the article in spreads. These tours were developed or improved by Paso Pacifico through the ELLAS Initiative. 
This article, which is in the magazine's latest issue, briefly describes the ELLAS Initiative and praises the variety of experiences in “The South Route: Forests & Turtles,” also called the Ruta del Sur. Among other activities, tourists can snorkel with turtles, visit an archaeological site, witness nesting sea turtles, and hike, bike, and horseback ride with local guides on the area’s scenic trails. 
FOMIN (Multilateral Investment Fund), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank Group, has been a vital partner to the ELLAS Initiative. FOMIN is a development bank that works very closely with partner agencies to help reduce poverty and increase environmental sustainability in Latin America and the Caribbean. They have contributed to more than 1750 projects in these regions.
We are very grateful to have been able to work with FOMIN. As our partner, they provided the bulk of the funding for the ELLAS Initiative and appointed staff to help coordinate its execution Together, we hired local consultants to train and assist local female business owners in improving the quality and efficiency of their services. The technical assistance that FOMIN made available has been invaluable to the women involved in the ELLAS Initiative. 
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Maritza Rivera is a Nicaraguan ecologist who is passionate about supporting the sustainable economic development of her country. Since late 2013, she has been the coordinator for the ELLAS Initiative. In this capacity, she has coordinated closely with the Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism, the Ministry of the Enviornment, and the San Juan del Sur municipal government to promote rural tourism and sound environmental management at the La Flor Wildlife refuge and surrounding communities. 
For over 25 years, Maritza has worked in the planning and management of natural resources, economic development, and social equity. She has a bachelors degree in ecology and natural resources and a masters degree in economics with an emphasis on investment projects. Before coming to Paso Pacifico, she worked for USAID, MARENA, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. We have been fortunate to have her expertise and passion at the helm of the ELLAS Initiative during the past three years! 
Hugging baby sea turtles
We are looking for new or used books in Spanish to share with the schools and libraries in Nicaragua.
Paso Pacifico is seeking office space in Los Angeles for one to three people. We are aiming for a rent-free or low-rent space. 
Email for more info: alice@pasopacifico.org
We would like to extend a special thanks to Griselda Soto Bravo, who has served as a specialist to the ELLAS Initiative representing FOMIN. Throughout the project, Griselda has lent her expertise in international development and project administration to Paso Pacifico, contributing to the project's success. We are very grateful to her and to the other team members at FOMIN's Nicaragua office! Thank you.
Wild yellow-naped amazon parrot with artificial nest
Junior ranger with baby sea turtle
Turtle ranger carrying trash on a pristine beach