Alpacas return to an Inca Trail after 200 years

Community Inca Trail Achosocha CommunityDragoman, a Member of Tourism Concern’s Ethical Tour Operator Group (ETOG) has good news to pass on:

An award winning responsible travel initiative has not only seen native alpacas return to an ancient Inca trail after an absence of 200 years but has also enabled a local Quechua Indian community to regain ‘skills lost for generations’.

For the last decade, Dragoman, has pioneered ‘Tarpuy Yachay’*, a project in which by using an alternative Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, has helped redistribute the tourist dollar in the region (an average of US$10,000 per year through passenger donations) and facilitated environmental and educational projects such as tree-planting and running a school with its own teacher, eventually allowing a local community to become self-sufficient.

In 2013, after realising that objective, Dragoman decided the time was right to transfer their support to another community, the Ancascocha, again, by using a route exclusive to Dragoman and indigenous people.

One of the first initiatives, on the request of the local community, was to spend passenger donations on purchasing a herd of alpacas.

In May 2014, alpacas were reintroduced to the Ancascocha community in an area around the Sacred Valley for the first time in over 200 years, followed by a second herd in August and a third in November. Since then, the alpacas have not only bred but have just produced their first bales of wool.

“However, because the local community had not tended alpacas for so long, the people had lost husbandry skills such as shearing and spinning the yarn”, says Anki.  Members of the original Tarpuy Yachay project helped bridge the skills gap, teaching the Ancascocha people skills which, assuming the survival of the now 60 strong herd (and growing), will be passed down to future generations.

Ultimately, the communities goal is to have at least 4 herds (or ‘hatos’) of alpacas so that the community becomes self-sustaining, selling the wool and woollen products to tourists, as well as introducing llamas for portering purposes both for the local communities’ use and for transporting tourist luggage on the trail to Machu Picchu.

Reintroducing indigenous animals to the region and rediscovering lost skills isn’t the only success story since the launch of the new project. Reforestation is also a major part of the agenda and, with passengers’ help, the community are on track to plant at least 1,000 queñua / polylepis trees by the end of 2015, with 1,500 planned for next year.

Speaking about the new initiative, Anki Nordin, Destinations Manager for the Americas says: “We are thrilled that in the space of a year, the new project is on track to replicate the success of Tarpuy Yachay, a project which has won the AITO Sustainable Tourism Award.”

 “By providing the local community with financial and practical support, again, by refurbishing a local school and helping with a full-time local teacher, as well as facilitating regular donations from our travellers, we’re enabling the community to become self-sustainable. “

Feedback from leaders of the local community also indicates that the Ancascocha inhabitants have been buoyed by the early success of the initiatives. “Now the communities are more enthusiastic to participate in other initiatives, such as repairing bridges nearby,” adds Anki.

75% of Dragoman passengers have chosen to travel the alternative Inca Trail. It is anticipated that, due to its exclusivity, even more travellers will choose to take the new Inca Trail alternative, relieving overcrowding on the traditional Inca Trail and its infrastructure (500 tourists per day) as well as redistributing wealth to help support neighbouring communities, communities who so far have received little or no benefit in the growing numbers of trekkers in the area.

Travellers wanting to support the project can do so by booking any Dragoman Peru trip which offers the alternative Inca Trail.


Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith is the editor and co-founder of Travindy. He is a writer and communications consultant working for a more responsible and sustainable tourism industry. He is the author of two books, writes a fortnightly blog on responsible tourism for World Travel Market, and provides consultancy to a wide range of companies and organisations, ranging from National Parks to individual hotels and tour operators.

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