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Washington University in St. Louis

Publication Date

Spring 2012

Program Name

Panama: Tropical Ecology, Marine Ecosystems, and Biodiversity Conservation

Abstract

In 2008, Panama formulated a long-term tourism plan for the country, and agritourism was a main element that was being introduced. There are requirements and qualifications for a farm to be considered an agritourism farm by the Panamanian government and these farms are increasing in number each year. A farm must be accredited by both the Ministerio de Desarrollo Agropecuario (MIDA), which evaluates the agricultural practices for “buenas practicas,” and by the Autoridad de Turismo de Panama, which determines if the farm’s infrastructure is compatible with visitors. Since it is such a new form of tourism in Panama it is especially relevant to study, to see immediate impacts it has on the farms and the economy. Agritourism is supposed to increase the competitiveness and the productivity of current businesses in a sustainable manner, to support rural and traditional forms of business and to aid in environmental practices, according to MIDA. Both accredited farms and those still in the process were visited and observed first hand in the province of Herrera. Herrera, the smallest province in Panama, is already the host to nine accredited agritoursim farms, with eight more presently in the process. Interviews with farmers and with employees at MIDA who work directly with the agritourism accreditation process supplied more information about the accreditation process and the presence of agritourism on the farms. While a majority of the current physical practices and the main sources of income for the farm remained stable with the addition of agritourism, there are plenty of noticeable changes because of the new system. The farms now have easy access to the wealth of information that MIDA possess about agriculture. In addition to the new sources of education, the farms are also now being more closely monitored and held accountable for their practices. The new and constant presence of the government through the formalized process, the regulations and the requirements give a new level of responsibility to the farmers, which has the potential to lead to more sustainable farming practices and the appreciation for their traditional form of business, thereby achieve the ultimate goals of the new system. The potential is there, but a lot needs to happen in the ways of government interactions and regulations, and the actual presence of tourists, before that happens.

Disciplines

Agribusiness | Rural Sociology | Tourism

 

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