Los Altos de Ocotal is a tourism cooperative based in the remote mountain community of Ocotal—about 12 miles from the town of El Sauce. Situated high above the valley where El Sauce is located, Ocotal offers breath-taking views, a cooler climate, and close contact with nature. Trails weave between pine and deciduous forests, which are unique in the region, and the local houses.
The cooperative provides stays in host families, coffee plantation tours, farm tours, artisan product workshops, country cooking classes, hiking trails, horseback riding, guide service, and a rancho-style restaurant. The cooperative is an economic alternative to small-scale farming, which has traditionally been the only economic activity that they have had. The average annual income for the area is below $1,000, and therefore the cooperative has been a way for the rural farmers to diversify their income while still being able to continue farming like their ancestors have in the past. There are 25 active members, and about 10-12 of the members are women.
Service learning students with Juan, a member of the Ocotal tourism cooperative.
Enlace Project was instrumental in helping the cooperative obtain a $10,000 grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation in 2008 in order to develop its infrastructure. Additionally, Enlace Project guided the cooperative’s construction of a guest center and kitchen, as well as the certification and furnishing of accommodations for tourists in residents’ homes. In 2014, Enlace Project assisted the cooperative in building cabins where guests can also choose to stay.
With the objective of ultimately achieving self-sustainability, Enlace Project and its partners currently provide a range of services to the cooperative, including tourism and business training, client response system design, construction management, financial consulting and oversight, fundraising, and promotion. Enlace Project also recruits volunteers to work on trail-building and other physical improvements.