Strategic Actor: Ifigenia Garita Canet
Ifigenia Garita Canet believes the future is bright and full of opportunities for the Osa region. As a local entrepreneur, business owner, tropical biologist, promoter of human- and ecology-centered development, and resident of Puerto Jiménez for more than 10 years, much can be learned working alongside such local talent.
Her work in the Osa Peninsula as the current President and Director of the National and Environmental Community Service Association (ASCONA in Spanish) includes numerous community projects in art, environmental education, and social action. “We’ve been able to establish the first art and culture program in the region (PICA),” Ifi explains, “whose mission is to promote and expand – through art and culture – expression, participation possibilities, and the development of different towns that makeup the Osa Peninsula to create positive changes and improve their quality of life.”
Founder and owner of Osa Wild, a tourism operator that promotes rural ecotourism, Ifigenia has firm roots and experience “working in parallel with people and nature” in Osa, the success of which comes from “studying and clearly understanding the socio-economic context and needs of the region and its people.” Working with local people and environmental conservation is, in her words, “not possible if we do not believe in one another, and that’s what we’ve been able to do, which for me is so surprising and magical at the same time.”
For Ifigenia, her entrepreneurial passion of business for people and nature is evident not only in the amount of rural tourism projects undertaken, which currently stands at 10, but in her simple philosophy: “the evolution of the traveler based on the authentic and simple experience of meeting people.”
Other projects that she is currently implementing around the Osa Peninsula are:
- “In favor of the flow”, an advanced English program (ESL) taught by a professional in the Saturnino Cedeño School.
- Establish a Center of Culture and Art in Puerto Jimenez to offer healthy alternatives such as art, handicrafts, music lessons, yoga, painting, workshops, and artistic events to teenagers in the region.
- The installation of trash bins in the community of Puerto Jiménez to promote proper waste management.
- “Recreo Azul”: On January 28, in alliance with the Red Cross, firefighters the “Crece Club,” 75 backpacks were given to low-income children to attend school in 2014.
- Donation of shoes to all boys and girls in the Riyito School, which is near the Guymi Indigenous Reserve.
- An alliance of Rustic Pathways, Costa Rica Expeditions, and the community of Urba (Puerto Jiménez) constructed two concrete slabs, bought tables, painted, and planted flowers for the new park in town.
When asked about the work being done by INOGO, she says “It is important to have organizations such as INOGO that can forecast development possibilities and the threats that certain areas [such as Osa] can have. The Osa Peninsula is in the sights of everyone, but here they [developers] cannot come to do as they please. We must continue with a balanced sustainable development model, without letting foreign investment overshadow the goods and property of the community. There should be more investment in education for youth in the Osa with this development model. [It is also] fundamental to work towards creating conservation categories that prohibit the development of mega ecotourism projects in fragile areas of the Osa Peninsula.”
Reflecting on the success of her ecotourism business with regards to the development of wellbeing and the environment in Osa, Ifigenia explains, “In the end this is business that goes hand-in-hand with conservation, because if people are able to do something on their lands, they are not going to sell it, they are going to protect it for many years to come.”