The village of Gigante lies on the southwestern Pacific coast of Nicaragua. It is an exceptionally scenic and very isolated village inhabited by a few dozen families. Fishing remains the community’s main source of income, and most families make between $4 and $7 a day, depending on fishing yield.
A sleepy village, Gigante is quickly becoming a destination for foreign surfers who want to surf empty, world-class waves. The surrounding waters are teeming with beach breaks, point breaks, and outer reef breaks. In other words, there is exceptional surf potential in the area. Surfers are also attracted to Gigante because of its seemingly timeless feel. The lack of paved roads, reliable electricity, commercial development, and the scarcity of other foreigners attracts surfers who wish to ‘get off the beaten track’.
Ironically, these qualities are adding to the growing presence of surf tourism in this small town. There are already three upscale foreign-owned surf hotels in Gigante that cater to international surfers. There are also several land development projects in the immediate area that are rapidly changing the cultural and physical landscape of the region. It is becoming more common to see rented SUV’s with surfboards roll through town looking for a place to stay or a bite to eat. Local community members and foreigners alike see this potential for growth and are beginning to actively promote it.
Gigante has yet to develop into a full-blown surf destination, but it is creeping in that direction. Project WOO launched our pilot program in Gigante precisely because it sits in the crosshairs of growing surf tourism and land development. We are organizing with the people of Gigante – as they are increasingly inundated by outside influences – to ensure that they have greater control over the growth of their community.
For more information about the community of Gigante and its people, please view the2007 Gigante Community Profile, 2007 Gigante SWOT Analysis andthe 2008 Gigante Census.
Our Work on the ground in Gigante
In January 2007 WOO Director of Operations Adam Monaghan moved to Gigante full time and began implementing our strategic model in earnest with the villagers. He spent the first half of the year making friends, promoting cross-cultural relations, and cultivating a reputation among the locals as a foreigner who is genuinely interested in creating opportunities for locally led development.
For two months in June and July 2007 he facilitated the Project Selection process where the villagers came together to discuss the past, present and future of Gigante in diverse forums such as open town meetings, individual house visits, and impromptu chats at the fish market, corner store or baseball field. During this course of events the Gigante citizens created a list of ten possible projects they desired to carry out with Project WOO’s help; the list included micro-loans to fishermen, teaching English, building a clinic, and public transportation, among others.
By the end of July that year he and his local counterparts were already taking steps in the right direction with these achievements.
They completed the following:
1. Produced two key community diagnostic documents (2007 Gigante Community Profile, 2007 Gigante SWOT Analysis)
2. Identified local development goals
3. Created a comprehensive list of potential projects
4. Hosted an open town meeting with fully ten percent of the village population in attendance to democratically elect the town’s priority development project.
Coming out of the initial Community Entry, Diagnostics & Needs Assessment, and Project Selection phases of our program in Gigante it was clear that the community members had chosen to focus our joint development efforts in two key areas: transportation and education. Since that time the Project WOO staff has been working closely with local Gigante citizens, business leaders, students, teachers, government officials, development organizations, and donors to design, fund and implement our three current projects in Gigante: 1. Transportation and Economic Development 2. Elementary School Support and Teacher Training 3. WOO Afterschool Club