The Naso live in small communities along the Teribe River beside the La Amistad International Park and the Palo Seco Forest Reserve. These two protected areas, along with the Comarca Naso (or Naso indigenous reservation), form part of the larger Biosphere Reserve.
For hundreds of years, the Naso have enjoyed living in the forest - hunting, fishing, cutting trees and extracting plants. With a population of around 3,500, they have, until recently, been able to sustain themselves well.
However, in the mid-1990s, encroaching commercialism started to impact on their lives. So the Organización para el Desarrollo Ecotursitico Naso (ODESEN, or the Organization for the Sustainable Development of Naso Ecotourism) was set up in 1995 to develop community-based ecotourism and improve the lives of the Naso people. ODESEN found an ecotourism site in the former Pana Jungla training camp, abandoned when the military regime ended in Panama. With the help of Conservation International (CI) they built a rustic lodge and received training in tourism operations and environmental education.
Today their Wekso Ecolodge offers ecotourists an opportunity to visit the inland rain forest and to contribute to its conservation. It is on the border of La Amistad Biosphere Reserve near Bocas del Toro. The Wekso Ecolodge generates income for 20 Naso community families, providing them with income and allowing them maintain their cultural values. Wekso has helped increase the awareness among the Naso of the importance of protecting the ecosystems as well as the plants and animals.
The Naso Indians have retained their own language, and are taking steps to preserve their disappearing traditions. The Shaman's Apprentice Program now encourages Naso to preserve the knowledge of traditional medicine. Handicrafts are made by local community members. ASOMETRAN has established medicinal plant gardens in three Naso communities and established a small herbarium of dried plants. Wekso Ecolodge plan to produce a book on medicinal plants and Naso culture and establish a 10-hectare medicinal plant forest.
ODESEN has been improving its tourism infrastructure. A new water system is in place, the kitchen is being enlarged, sleeping quarters are expanding and a new dugout canoe for transporting visitors has been launched. With these new facilities the Naso will be better able to generate income from the forest while also conserving it.
Wekso Web Site
Indigenous Indians in Panama