The first installment of our Tour Operators That Give Back series meets an outfitter who believes adventure and entrepreneurship go hand in hand.
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WWhat keeps the best adventure travel experiences in our memories for years to come? Maybe it’s a combination of the challenge of pushing ourselves into the great outdoors and the connections we make with people along the way. With the aim of investing in the local population while inviting its guests to explore the world, OneSeed Expeditions not only seeks to provide the best trekking, hiking, biking, rafting and kayaking experiences around the world, but also to partner with local businesses to maximize the benefits of tourism.
OneSeed offers group and personalized trips of varying difficulty levels to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Ecuador, Georgia, Nepal, Peru and Tanzania. On the easy side, you can take day hikes to explore the salt marshes of Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, or hike the Greater Caucasus mountain range in Georgia. Or you can plan your excursion to the fullest by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania or through Hindu and Tibetan villages and forests on the Manaslu Circuit in Nepal. During the COVID-19 pandemic, OneSeed expanded its travel offering to include adventures inside the United States, such as dog sledding in Maine, hiking in Glacier National Park, and kayaking in the San Juan Islands.
What makes a trip with OneSeed special is that the organization partners with communities to ensure that tourism directly supports local guides and local entrepreneurs. When you travel with OneSeed, 10% of the cost of your trip is invested in local microfinance institutions (MFIs). In turn, they lend seed capital to small entrepreneurs in the form of a microcredit which is repaid over the life of the loan when the entrepreneur starts or expands his business. Take Judith, founder of Malau Bakery in Tanzania, who used a series of small business loans to develop her bakery. She was able to employ 69 people in the bakery itself and 200 people indirectly, for deliveries and other tasks.
A seed of an idea
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OneSeed founder Chris Baker started visiting Nepal as an 18-year-old backpacker, and has returned several times. In 2007, he lived there for a long time while working with the Kiva microfinance platform to facilitate his partnership with a local microfinance institution that provided loans to small businesses in the Kathmandu Valley.
“One day, I was in the Khumbu region watching the stream of hikers coming up to Everest base camp with the equivalent of the per capita income of the average Nepalese citizen carried by each hiker,” says- he. “There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this. I just saw this amazing opportunity and then the gap between that and the entrepreneurs I was working with on the microfinance side who were doing so much with relatively low capital, but the barriers to that capital are so high.
In Nepal, these barriers range from inheritance laws to limitations on access and banking services for women, and they set the bar high on being able to get something akin to a traditional loan. “We have seen entrepreneurship development as a way to have a significant impact in places like Nepal, where a lot of tourism benefits can take place in the valley where the trail is located, but not in the neighboring valley. “says Baker.
OneSeed started out working in Nepal, then spread to South America and grew from there. In 2020, the company celebrated its 10th year of operation, with a team of 65 guides speaking 13 languages and organizing more than 30 different expeditions.
How OneSeed gives back
OneSeed is a Certified B Company, a company that meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance purpose and profit. B Corps uses profits and growth as a means to a greater end, delivering a positive impact for communities, employees and the environment.
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“It’s important to understand that, just like in the United States, if you give someone a loan, that doesn’t guarantee the success of the business,” says Baker. “It doesn’t always work. And we have to be careful with that, so we don’t just waste money on a situation and then everything is fine. I think when we recognize this it changes the perception of the borrower. He is not an aid recipient, he is an entrepreneur who uses a tool. We don’t just offer them a solution. They are the ones who make things work.
OneSeed shares data such as number of loans distributed (836 so far), total amount invested to date ($ 374,335), average loan size ($ 448) and how this loan might compare to a percentage of per capita income there. About 90 percent of the loans went to women entrepreneurs. Although 10 percent of the cost of each traveller’s trip is donated to local entrepreneurs, the organization does not include visits to these borrowers on excursions, to avoid adding the wait that borrowers have to tell their story. story for a flow of visitors.
When selecting its suppliers, OneSeed has several priorities: and meet or exceed industry standards for energy supply and procurement. From its very first trips, OneSeed has practiced Leave No Trace principles and in 2020 began offsetting all emissions from shipping and business operations to achieve carbon neutrality.
“We want to see the value of our work as an outfitter and create value for communities every step of the way,” said Baker. “We have to be very good at the adventure travel side of the business, but we also try to communicate what entrepreneurship looks like in this country, what the opportunities and challenges are for these entrepreneurs. “
Through local guides, OneSeed offers travelers the opportunity to have a deeper and more meaningful experience, bringing different voices and perspectives where even in simple moments, such as conversations around the table, guests learn what is to live in that particular area. place.
“We often get comments from travelers like, ‘I came to see Machu Picchu and it was wonderful, but the best part of my trip was playing cards with the guides in the evening and talking about being parents’ , explains Baker. “This connection is really powerful.”
Learn more about OneSeed shipments and sign up to get 10% off any group travel.
>> Next: Epic journeys that give back
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