Lima, PERU – Kurt Holle, the co-founder of Peru’s visionary leader in sustainable tourism, Rainforest Expeditions (RFE), has been named a Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2013 by the World Economic Forum and The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.
The Foundation made the announcement Feb. 15, 2013. Holle is among a distinguished international group of entrepreneurs singled out this year to receive the honor.
The award recognizes Holle’s leadership and sustainable tourism vision in the Tambopata region of southeastern Peru. The private tourism company that he founded with Eduardo Nycander in 1992 became the first company in Peru and the second in South America to partner directly with native communities to engage in tourism initiatives that add value to the Amazon Forest by fostering conservation activities. The focus is to mitigate deforestation through partnership with local communities.
Today RFE runs three eco-lodges (one of which is a world-renowned research center). One of the lodges, Posada Amazonas, is entirely owned by the native community (180 families) of Infierno and is co-managed by RFE. The community and RFE share the profits generated by guest revenues. By including the community as a partner in the business, RFE generates a commitment to the conservation of forests, including enforcement of no hunting zones. The reserves around RFE lodges act as “shields” for the state-protected areas farther east, as well as nuclei from which other similar conservation efforts spread.
The Amazon rainforest faces numerous threats including illegal timber extraction, gold mining, hunting and agricultural expansion. Rainforest inhabitants historically have little leverage to protect the forest and deal with encroaching threats. Limited market access for indigenous communities often means the only income-generating activities available are resource intense.
By 2005 large scale changes in land use driven by market economics and infrastructure projects led to a 17 percent loss of virgin forest (equivalent to the country of Venezuela) in theAmazonBasin. Locally this results in an increase of malaria and dengue fever, increased costs for traditional economies (fishing, hunting, etc), more conflicts and increased vulnerability to climate change.
RFE and its community partners in Isuyama, Infierno, Condenado, Baltimore and Palma Real help protect an area of more than 1 million hectares of primary forest from illegal timber extraction and gold mining. RFE’s decision-making partnerships with communities
help forest families learn how to deal directly with companies who may be seeking to purchase carbon credits, with government agencies who may be seeking to invest in local infrastructure and with land traffickers who may be seeking to invade communal lands.
The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship was co-founded by Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, and his wife, Hilde. Since its inception in 2000, the Foundation has been identifying the world’s leading social entrepreneurs and involves the community of 200 award winners in advancing the field of social innovation in collaboration with corporate, government and academic stakeholders. Selected social entrepreneurs of the Schwab Foundation network participate in World Economic Forum events, thus providing unique opportunities for them to connect with business, political and media leaders.