Agrotourism Creates Income for Panamanian Farmers

Carnegie Mellon University

Panama’s cities, businesses and major ports point to a flourishing population, but the reality is not all citizens share the same level of prosperity. As the Enactus team at Carnegie Mellon University learned, nearly all the farmers of Barrigon, Panama, have no steady source of income and live in abject poverty. Wanting to address this income disparity and seeing the potential to create additional opportunities from the existing farms, the team developed a business model that would turn the village farms into agrotourism destinations. By appealing to vacationers and tourists who want to participate and learn about farming activities, these farmers could capitalize on the resources they already had to create a supplemental source of income, increase jobs and improve village infrastructure. The team started by developing a business plan and timeline, as well as marketing strategies. They brought the entire community together and ran workshops on business operations and finance, and provided general information related to hospitality management. The farmers now collaborate with the local tourism industry and a Barrigon Agrotourism brochure is currently circulated in 12 hotels and four tourism agencies in Panama. One farmer has generated $1,500 from agrotourism and others are using their newly acquired knowledge to create related income opportunities. In addition to bringing Barrigon farmers out of poverty, this venture has the added benefit of engaging visitors and the community in environmental conservation and awareness.