At Climbing South America we believe that tourism should be sustainable to as large a degree as possible. By sustainable tourism we mean:
- Tourism that is beneficial to local communities and not just tour operators
- Tourism that helps tourists to understand the social and political reality of the places we visit as well as enjoying the nature
- Tourism that leaves as little negative impact on the natural environment as possible
Climbing South America is based in Bolivia which is both the continent’s poorest country and it’s most rapidly developing. On top of this, it is the nation most affected by global warming – the glaciers whose melt water irrigates many of the Andean valleys are disappearing faster than anywhere else. So we can see first hand the negative effects of rapid local and global development. Most of us at Climbing South America are parents and want to ensure that we do our bit to hand down a socially just and environmentally safe world to our children.
- To achieve these goals in the day-to-day running of Climbing South America we undertake the following:
- Ensure our guides and all sub contractors are paid a fair local wage for their work
- We source all of our equipment and supplies from local suppliers where possible
- We use locally owned and run accommodation for our clients where available
- We take away with us all waste from remote locations and ensure it is properly disposed of
- We recycle materials from our offices and trips where possible especially PET bottles, aluminium cans and glass
- We assist with training and career development of our staff
Climbing South America started it’s life in the mountain town of Sorata in Northern Bolivia where Jeff lived for five years. We decided to focus our community efforts there because it’s a poor and remote area where lots of work is needed. And as we visit Sorata regularly as a base camp for expeditions, we have the connection with the community. We run three different projects in the area together with or led by our associates Stefan Anders (of Café LLampu), Petra Huber and Amy O Toole.
Rubbish Clean Up
We had two issues with rubbish in Sorata. Firstly the locals through lack of education and badly organized rubbish collection services, were dumping much of their waste by the river and elsewhere. We decided to target this problem by putting in more rubbish bins around the town and ensuring they were emptied by the existing rubbish collection service. Secondly we started a program of recycling plastic bottles, aluminium and glass by having it sent to the city. And lastly we organized regular cleanup days with children and neighbours. The kids have now become very enthusiastic about the project and as a thank you we raise funds every year to take them on camping trips to different parts of Bolivia.
The second issue with rubbish is on the trails themselves. A combination of local guides who don’t know better and irresponsible tourists meant that some of the pristine mountain trails were beginning to look more like rubbish dumps: cans and plastic strewn about the path or left in piles by camp fires. We decided something had to be done so we got together 22 people – mainly kids from Sorata – and supplied all the equipment and supplies for two nights on the mountain. In two days our team and these incredibly energetic kids had cleaned the entire trail and we carried 60 kilos of rubbish back down by mule to be disposed of correctly.
In the past 10 years we have raised money to bring crucial water supplies to two remote villages near Sorata. Many families had no running water in their homes so we bought and installed the necessary pipes and connected them up to the mains. Running water is a basic need especially when you have children or elderly people in the home.
Health and Education
In Sorata we run a project to take care of ill neighbours. If necessary, we accompany them to hospital and pay their expenses as many cannot afford the fees and there is often no available state health care. This project is now developing further with the help of Amy O Toole in La Paz. She makes it possible that people from Sorata can see specialists in La Paz, while she also provides accommodation and support during their visit. This allows us to provide help in more complicated and specialist cases.
We also have a small project supporting the education of local children in Sorata. At the beginning of school, we help children to buy materials and school supplies. School supplies and books are expensive here relative to family income and especially for those with a lot of children.