In 1999 a new paved highway opened along Mexico's formally isolated coastal fishing villages in Nayarit State to tourists, and consequently, to large developers. The result was a dramatic shift in the local economy from fishing and agriculture to tourism and infrastructure development. The shift displaced local residents, most of whom are poorly educated peasants and lack the know-how and capital to capture the changing market.
In response, Cambiando Vidas--"Changing Lives," an educational organization, launched a comprehensive, multifaceted rural development program with complementary enterprise and social service components to preserve the local community and provide new livelihoods for its residents.
Cambiando Vidas built a "tool lending library" where residents can borrow hand and power tools and use them as implements in economic activities tied to tourism and construction. The second social component is a vocational training program that teaches construction skills--masonry, electric, plumbing, and carpentry--to unemployed youth and adults in the community. The library supplies tools for the vocational training program.
On the enterprise side, Cambiando Vidas has initiated a B&B project and built (so far) six comfortable tourist rooms above residents' homes. Income from room rental is divided between owners as family income and a revolving loan fund to build more B&B rooms. Apprentices from the vocational training program provide the labor to build the B&Bs and gain work experience in the process.
Next, Cambiando Vidas will create local employment by launching a construction business and bidding directly on small building contracts, where it has identified a viable niche, as well as subcontracting to large developers. Profit from the construction business will be used to fund the secondary education and vocational training program.