Slash-and-burn agriculture has long been a way of life for farmers living in forested areas of the Dominican Republic. Maltiano Moreta, president of the Ecological Society, noticed that the steady destruction of forests near Cachote was also eradicating habitat for endemic bird species such as the Hispaniolan parakeet, parrot, and trogon.
He persuaded local farmers that a forest reserve would attract tourists and create economic opportunities. With the cooperation of landowners, Moreta established a 5,000-acre community forest reserve. A grant from the Global Environment Facility helped villagers develop tourist facilities and promote their forest attractions. While thousands of tourists flock to the Dominican Republic’s beach resorts, only recently have they begun to venture into the forests of some of country’s poorest regions for hikes and ecotours.
Another small community, Los Calabazos, used grant money to build a small restaurant and rustic bungalows. Now, those bungalows are booked by tourists who hike the trails and swim in the cool, clean waters of the nearby Yaque River.
Moreta expects that Cachote will have similar success with its ecotourism venture, improving living conditions and encouraging local people to protect their natural resources.