Formed in 1997 by a group of valiant ladies from the remote community of Biolley, the Association aims to improve their families’ lives as well as those of communities in the buffer zone of La Amistad International Park. In order to achieve that, we worked to strengthen our productive and management capacities, earning a regional reputation as successful business women and providing a model for the community. Starting with 19 women, today we are 31 partners sharing the same vision and mission.
Thanks to the sacrifice, determination, and dedication of our members, we have received financial and technical support from local and international donors who have believed in and trusted our team’s leadership, and productivity. The women who work within ASOMOBI always look to benefit community families. In order to achieve this goal, our business endeavors are governed by the following guidelines:
- Prevent loss of income for the community by avoiding the use of intermediaries in processing our coffee. We and our husbands and children harvest and process the coffee we grow.
- Provide Coffee Roasting, with capacity of processing up to 1000 bushels.
- Promote Rural Community Tourism around coffee production and La Amistad International Park’s outstanding natural beauty.
ASOMOBI is located in Biolley, the eighth district of Buenos Aires county, in the province of Puntarenas. With more than 2460 inhabitants (according to 2011 census), Biolley is the home of 12 communities: Bajo Coto, Guayacán, Los Naranjos, La Puna and Biolley, nested on the western and northern parts of the district; and Colorado, El Campo, El Carmen, Sábalo, Linda Vista, Altamira and San Isidro in the central and southern parts of the district. Biolley shares about 45% of its area with La Amistad International Park (PILA).
Communities closest to the PILA rely on a number of subsistence activities, such as coffee production, grass-fed cattle, vegetable gardening, and tree farming. All the communities have basic water services derived from springs in the Park, enjoy power supplied by the Costa Rican Bureau of Electricity, and are interconnected by a network of passable roads. The district hosts eleven elementary schools and one high school that offers school bus service to all its students.
Given the advantages offered by the region, its proximity to the PILA, its outstanding landscapes, its people with their deep commitment to both a healthy coexistence with Nature, and the community’s economic development, ASOMOBI advances its Rural Community Tourism initiative alongside coffee brokerage.
Subsequently, in 2002, we applied for a grant to build a visitors’ center, aiming to offer gathering and shelter facilities for those visitors who want to learn about the ASOMOBI experience, enjoy the beauties of PILA, experience the community lifestyle, and benefit from the enrichment of cultural exchange.
Once the Visitors Center was complete, it was set up as a lodge of 100 square meters, suitable to accommodate visitors from far away. We offered hospitality for groups up to 24 people and carried out workshops in various subject areas. Groups of women, youth, community and regional producers participated in these workshops, talks and lectures. Over time, volunteers from faith groups began to attend to some infrastructure needs in Biolley and neighboring communities, and at the same time, brought support by purchasing our coffee.
Gradually, the community and the region experienced positive changes as the PILA attracted more visitors, triggering the demand for tourist services at different levels.
During this period, pioneered by groups who supported the construction of the Visitors Center, our partners became more aware of the quality of services that should be offered to our new customers, and we applied for another grant to transform the facility into a lodge that meets the government standards for hospitality. At the same time, another facility was built next door to operate as a training center and ASOMOBI’s office.
After concerted effort, the endorsement of Costa Rica Tourism Bureau had been granted and we were just steps away from obtaining the Certification for Sustainable Tourism, when on the night of July 8th, 2012, a fire destroyed the work of many years. The lodge Posada Rural Cerro Biolley was gone along with all the investment made with the support of groups and donors.
This has not only affected ASOMOBI as an organization; its impact
- Decreased revenue generated by tourism by more than 50%;
- Joblessness for the people who counted on the income that was lost;
- Reduced operational capacity, because we do not have enough income to pay minimum operating expenses;
- Weakened production resulted in fallen linkages to tourism services.
ASOMOBI was not the only organization offering accommodation and food services through the lodge, as many of its partners and community members also offered hospitality. When the lodge disappeared, fewer tourists came and the sale of related services also declined. We are determined to overcome these reversals by establishing an alliance with the Hotel Palo Alto and strengthening of our partners’ enterprises to continue providing the service and Training Center as an office, living room and kitchen.
This is our struggle. In less than 15 minutes, a voracious fire extinguished 15 years of dreams, but we are still standing with the determination to keep moving forward for our families and for the people who still believe in us.