Follow the Frog, Follow the Impacts: Costa Rica Hotel Improves the Lives of Local Women21/09/2012
When it comes to the well-being of children and women, Rainforest Alliance certification leads the way, even in comparison with other respected certification programmes. A 2010 study looked at more than 300 Nicaraguan coffee farms that were certified under three different schemes, and found that Rainforest Alliance Certified farms showed the greatest involvement of women in production and household decision-making. And in a separate study, also conducted on Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee farms in Nicaragua, farmers said that after certification, children had more opportunity to go to university and women learned more about farm management.
Read on to find out how one mother and her daughter are making a difference to the lives of many women in their community…
In the shadow of Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano sits the Hotel Las Colinas Arenal, a small ecofriendly hotel that has been Rainforest Alliance Verified since 2010. To earn the verification, the mother-and-daughter team that owns and manages the hotel, have made a host of changes, including reducing water and energy use and remodelling the property with an eye toward sustainable design. But owners Flor Fernández and Ivette López wanted to do more than run an environmentally responsible and economically successful hotel, so they also began working to nurture the financial stability and leadership capacity of women in their community.
Of the hotel’s seven employees, five are women who are heads of their own households. In 2012, an enormous part of the business’ commitment to sustainable tourism now involves training designed to enhance employees’ skills, raise awareness about environmental and social responsibility, and improve the hotel’s procedures. Even more notable, the hotel’s frequent training sessions are also open to local women who are not employed by the business.
Since the hotel became verified, its neighbours have come to see it as more than just another travel enterprise. And for López and Fernández, the verification has earned them legitimacy, particularly among women who are now participating and taking leadership roles in their community— activities that were traditionally handled and shaped by men. Describing the transformation, López says, “I have come to meetings where I was the only woman. At first it was not easy, but things are different now; people recognise the name of the hotel and our names as individuals, and they pay attention to us.”
Not content to help only women, López and her mother also collaborate with schools and other community organisations on a variety of volunteering initiatives. They helped connect one local school to Canadian and American students who travelled to the community to paint classrooms and plant a garden, and the women have donated hundreds of dollars’ worth of educational materials to area children.