How to support local communities and economies in Peru
Traveling to Peru is an enjoyable experience that can be incredibly rewarding, but how do we make sure that our time spent in the country gives back to the local people that help make our trip so special?
Peru’s economy is developing and many indigenous communities still live challenging lives in areas that tourism touches. Their economic instability along with a heavy dependence on tourism leaves many Peruvians in vulnerable positions. However, there is plenty you can do to help their situation during your time in Peru.
Try buying Peruvian when in Peru. Make the most of your time in this foreign country and try the local cuisine rather than sticking to home favorites. Patronize independent, local establishments rather than ‘go safe’ in familiar chains. By doing this, you’ll be putting your money into local hands rather than distant global companies.
Same goes for when you’re shopping for souvenirs – much better to take home a genuine memento of the country, handcrafted in the place you visited, rather than a mass-produced item from China. Just doublecheck that what you’re buying isn’t plundered from the jungle or made from an endangered species.
When you’re booking a trek or tour, ask the right questions to make sure the company treats its guides and porters fairly and looks out for their welfare. Check that they are paid fair wages; ask if they follow the legal weight limits for porters to carry, see that they are given the right equipment, clothing and shoes for a trek, and find out how they respect the cultures and environments the tour will take you into.
Eco-lodges and hotels are cropping up more and more in Peru, so stay in one when you can! Eco-friendly hotels focus on providing sustainable accommodation for guests therefore creating the least impact on the local environment and consequently the people that live there. It might also mean that they utilize local resources, such as wood for furniture or foods from nearby permaculture farms.
Ecotourism is most developed in Peru in the tourist hotspots of the Amazon and Andes regions.
Homestays are also a great way to ensure your money is going directly to local people – and you’ll have a warm experience staying with a family while getting to know their life and culture.
By joining community-based tourism projects, you’ll increase the demand for this type of vacation in Peru, so where you can, get involved! Whether it’s tilling the land, feeding the animals or learning how to dye sheep’s wool, it will be an experience that you’ll be able to dine out on for years to come, and you’ll feel reassured that your vacation activity has really helped a local family.
Into the wild
The same goes for wildlife-watching tours and visits to national parks and nature reserves: you will be reinforcing to local powers-that-be that preserving the natural environment and indigenous flora and fauna is important for their economy. The more tourists that want to see nature at its best, the more it will be conserved, and the more money will come into the community that looks after it.