Fellow Since 1996
Fundación Vida para el Desarrollo Integral
This profile was prepared when Carmenza Morales was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Along Colombia's coast, Carmenza Morales is giving people who would ordinarily be pushed aside by an expanding tourism industry a chance to stake their own claim to tourism's profits through the exercise of their legal rights. She capitalizes on a new Colombian law that establishes a mechanism for indigenous and ethnic communities to secure title to collective lands that their ancestors have inhabited continuously over time. Then she organizes the community of "new" property owners to plan and generate together a form of development that benefits the local people and enhances the community. Carmenza's work grows out of her concept that the law can empower people to be active citizens if they understand how to exercise their legal rights and are organized to work together. Her idea, Carmenza believes, is especially applicable to indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities with tourist potential along the Colombian coast. As a test case, she is applying her ideas to the 605 families of Bocachica on an island near Cartagena, blocking government plans to give land to private developers while the courts confirm the community's historical property rights. Carmenza's goal is to extend this unique community empowerment and development program to other poor people in tourist areas and in areas with collectively held land, such as San Andrés, Colombia's Pacific Coast, La Ciénaga, Santa Marta and Cartagena.