Yachana Lodge

Poverty Reduction

Mondaña Community, Francisco de Orellana Province, Amazon Region, Ecuador

It is important to point out that the community of Mondaña has an enviable natural setting, which makes the notion of poverty itself a relative one. However, at the time when FUNEDESIN came into the picture, there were no medical brigades, or worse yet, even a health clinic. Neither was there river transport. There was only a single one-teacher school with facilities in very bad condition. The only activity was subsistence farming, providing only for the own consumption of families. 

Tourism project
Yachana is a Quechua word meaning "a place to learn". The hotel is located on a property of over 405 hectares in the community of Mondaña, situated on the banks of the Napo River between Puerto Misahuallí and Coca, in the midst of a tropical rainforest (the average temperature is 80°F (27°C)). This is one of the most renowned ecotourism projects in Ecuador, due to its experience in the handling of community and social matters. Moreover, the archaeological attractions of the area constitute one of the strengths of Yachana.

Project initiation and its author/s : 

The man behind Yachana and FUNEDESIN, a non-profit foundation whose objective is to protect the rainforest through the education and empowerment of its population is Mr. Douglas McMeekin.

In 1995, Funedesin built the Yachana Lodge, ecotourism being of vital importance for the improvement of the living standards of the local people and the conservation of the Amazon rainforest.

Finance, funding, technical assistance: 

All the projects are based on mixed income (donations by visitors, etc.) and inter-institutional cooperation (USAID, UNICEF, CIDA Canada, KFW Germany, Rainforest Concern England, Rotary Club, churches in general, schools, among others).

FUNEDESIN invested 3.5 million US dollars and YACHANA LODGE 1.8 million dollars.

The strategic alliances used in the projects maintained by Funedesin are self-run, and moreover, because it is a non-profit foundation, everything is the result of direct reinvestment.

Contribution of the tourism project/company to reduce poverty: 

1. Employment of the poor in tourism businesses

In the Yachana Lodge project, we employ community members as workers (20 persons) as direct employees of the company, and an additional 20 as occasional support.

We have specialized personnel trained through FUNEDESIN in the different operational and administrative areas.

Our social approach is linked to the development of tourism activities, community development and environmental quality. For example, all the guides of Yachana (3 full-time guides) are from the community. They speak their native languages (Quechua and Shuar) and know English and Spanish.

2. Supply of goods and services to tourism enterprises by the poor or by enterprises employing the poor

The people of the community mostly work in Yachana and in projects of Funedesin, such as Yachana Gourmet where local residents sell their cocoa production under fair-price agreements.

Yachana Gourmet generates products for export (200,000 dollars in 2004), and additionally produces certain products for Yachana Lodge.

3. Direct sales of goods and services to visitors by the poor

In Yachana Lodge and its area of influence, this is not applicable because the community (2600 families with 10 members each) is part of the project and the tourism work is jointly carried out.

4. Establishment and running of tourism enterprises by the poor: e.g. micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs), or community based enterprises (formal economy)

Labour or services engaged by Yachana under contract generate microbusinesses that can be extended to provide various services that may or may not be connected with Yachana.

The production force consists of families that provide cacao under international fair price laws, and also provide food products from the area, such as yucca, bananas and fruits. Labour is provided 100% by members trained by Yachana.

5. Tax or levy on tourism income or profits with proceeds benefiting the poor.


6. Voluntary giving/support by tourism enterprises and tourists.

Depending on the type of donation, donations in kind are equitably distributed among the community members, and in the case of cash donations, productive projects are sought, which would improve the quality of life of the communities.

7. Investment in infrastructure, stimulated by tourism, which also benefits the poor of the locality, directly or through support of other sectors.

All profits generated by tourism are channelled to Funedesin have been reinvested in the following manner:

  • Ozone-treated water
  • Electric power from solar energy
  • Providing canoes
  • Telecommunications through the implementation of VHF and UHF radios
  • Installing a national telecommunications network in the community of Mondaña
  • Financing health programmes

Building and maintaining a clinic in Mondaña, which has been operating since 1997

Economic sustainability of the tourism project/business: 

Yachana Lodge achieves the sustainability of its project through the improvement of the quality of life of the communities, creating healthy environments, and encouraging productive projects that help conserve natural and cultural tourism resources.

Yachana publicizes its project using new technologies (e-mail, internet, website), printed materials, participation in international tourism fairs, the use of promotional tools such as national and international travel agencies, travel books, and mass communications media.

Regulation and legislation: 

Based on principles of sustainability, a basic requirement to be in the Yachana group, thus ensuring the rational contribution of personnel working in this organization.

Yachana respects and complies with the law on tourism activities, including the Ecotourism and Sustainability Regulations on which the Ecotourism Standards were created, which establishes the need to create codes of conduct, organizational policies, among others, in a voluntary manner.

Problems and their solution: 

Logistics and promotion:
Yachana is located within a geographically isolated perimeter, which makes it necessary to organize logistics in such a way as to avoid mishaps during the execution of tourism activities.

The need for adequate multi-level promotion is being met better each day, thanks to the development of techniques that make it possible to position the product in the national and international tourism market.

  • In 2004, 1700 visitors and in 2005, 2000 visitors. 8000 since its creation, this reflects the growth over the years.
  • The revenue flowing to the community directly and indirectly (through the actions of Funedesin financed by Yachana Lodge), amount to 1.8 million USD through YACHANA LODGE and 3.5 million through FUNEDESIN.
  • Improvement of the quality of life of the local communities (health, employment, development): the social support provided to the community includes the creation of a medical centre, and of a headquarters school with 8 professors and 5 administrative workers, with two carpentry and mechanics shops, and moreover we are starting a project for technical secondary education.
  • Yachana has been recognized for its active participation in teaching new alternative energy options.
  • Communities that know about clean technologies.
  • Communities that act responsibly with regard to their environment and are proud of their culture.
  • Profitable productive projects.
  • National and international recognition (Yachana Lodge won the “Condé Nast 2004 Ecotourism Award” and was a finalist for the ALCAN prize for the best example of sustainable development in the world.
Lessons Learned: 

At the community level, there is an organization that is becoming more confident in what it does with each passing day, a society that is more committed to the activities of the enterprise, generating a large socio-environmental commitment.

With our visitors, the lessons go beyond this: it is inter-relating with different persons, customs, ideologies and systems, opening a very wide window to a multi-cultural Ecuador.

Implementation Partners: 

Yachana is a member of the Ecuadorian Ecotourism Association ASEC, which along with the Ministry of Tourism chose Yachana Lodge as a pilot project and as an example of responsible tourism in Ecuador.

As a foundation, it has formed multidisciplinary development alliances: YACHANA provides training and consulting in the Lodge, in the projects and in the communities, and to other projects that require technical assistance in all processes such as operations, logistics and technology transfer.

Monitoring and follow up activities: 
  • The projects undertaken by Yachana and Funedesin are monitored daily by technical personnel specializing in different areas.
  • Social aspects are measured through the level of formal education acquired in the community school established by Funedesin.
  • Environmental aspects are measured through plans for territorial management and growth, land use, and impact minimization techniques.
  • Economic aspects are measured through indices of economic growth of the community and of the Yachana enterprise.
  • Persons interested in the project can obtain further details through the website, which contains up-to-date information on each project.

FUNEDESIN (Foundation for Integrated Education and Development) - YACHANA LODGE

Vicente Solano
E 12-61 y Avenida Oriental
Tel.: (5932)-2503-275
Fax: (5932)-2523-777

Iván Martínez Burbano
Director of Operations, Sales and Marketing