PaM Background: About Máncora, Peru

Máncora is a small fishing town of around 8,000 people, located in northern Peru on the Pacific coast, just south of the Ecuadorian border.

Once one of Peru's most important fishing communities, the town has faced economic hardship in the last 15 years, in part associated with the collapse of the fish stocks. For example, Máncora once had Peru's largest fish-processing plant: this now works at only 10% capacity, most of the building unused, most of its former workers unemployed.

The collapse in fish stocks has been in part due to over-fishing, especially by foreign-owned mega-trawlers, which practice the ocean equivalent of what clear-cutting is to forests, and often come closer to shore than international and local fishing-rights and environmental protection agreements allow.

As well, the region suffered from devastating El Niños in 1983 and 1998 which caused such extensive mudslides that they reshaped the coastline and changed coastal sea currents. Following the fishing boom, intensive local land-use has degraded the environment (particularly goat farming and the cutting of trees for fuel and material) to the point where massive erosion adds enormous volumes of silt and sand into the water washed down these flood plains during irregular weather phenomena like the heavy rains associated with El Niño years.

In addition to the human toll of such catastrophes (people were killed as part of the town was burried in mud, and the bridges into and out of town were washed away, cutting the town off from outside contact for 15 days), the sediment degrades the underwater environment, further reducing populations of fish and sea-life.

The combined effects have had a catastrophic impact on the basis of the local economy: the collapse of the fishing industry has lead to a sharp rise in unemployment and social problems, such as family violence, alcoholism & drug dependance, and has slowed the pace of development.

On the positive side, Máncora and the surrounding region have more recently begun to benefit from the rise of tourism, as they are blessed with a spectacular beach and one of the best surfing spots in South America. Peru in general has seen an increase in tourists over the last few decades, with adventurous travelers lured by the country's amazingly diverse history, geography and culture. Tourism is growing rapidly in the Máncora region, with national and international travellers drawn by the spectacular beach and surf.

Para el Mundo (PaM) hopes to help by jump-starting some of the basic community infrastructure in the town, supporting small businesses, and placing the townspeople in a better position to take direct advantage of this emerging industry. As well, Para el Mundo hopes to assist local communities to develop sustainable and environmentally-conscious micro-economic and micro-financed projects, local economic trading, and innovative collaborative & educational projects that bring diverse groups within the community together.