PUCARA COMMUNITY CLOUD FOREST RESERVE
Please take a minute to watch our video! https://vimeo.com/63207860
In 2008, the government of Ecuador amended their constitution, to become the first country in the world to recognize the rights of nature. They would manage their natural resources in a non-traditional way to promote “Buen Vivir” or good living. This approach strives to obtain communities that embrace nature; as changing humans relationship with nature could only benefit their country in the long run.
Pucará is located in Íntag, a region characterized by small farms, subsistence agriculture, poor communities, and the environmental pressures that a lack of economic development always brings. It is a rural community of 200 people and is situated at 2100 meters on the western slope of the Andes at the center of one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems: the Tropical Andes. The Tropical Andes ecosystem is one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in the world, home to 15-17 percent of the world’s plant species and nearly 20 percent of the world’s bird diversity.
Intag is also rich in mineral deposits of untouched copper and gold. After years of fighting off external threats of mining from such companies as Ascendant Copper in Canada and Mitsubishi in Japan, the government has begun reactivating mining efforts. A joint agreement to explore these untapped resources has been signed between the Ecuadorian Government and the Chilean state owned mining company Codelco.
The short-term economic gain for Eucador and Chile will leave lasting environment devastation and unnecessary social strain on these farming communities.
Documented impacts from large scale open pit mines can include:
Deforestation leading to climate changes and desertification
Production of Tailings/ Toxic Waste from the mining processes
Introduction of toxins into the food chain
Inflation, reducing benefits from job creation
Uprooting and relocation of local people
Source: Earth Economics | December 2011 | http://www.eartheconomics.org
The planned copper pit mine is a direct threat to Pucará. The lack of employment opportunities in Pucará and Íntag has led to out-migration while the impending issue of mining threatens the food and water security of the region.
For the past 18 months I have been working in conjunction with this community to help preserve a huge swath of the cloud forest as a community forest reserve.
I have created mapping products that identify land use within Pucará including primary forest, secondary forest and agriculture.
The next step in this initiative is to purchase 600 hectares of existing forested land, as well as abandoned agricultural land, for reforestation. The Reserve will also help to stimulate the economy and prevent labor migration of young adults to the cities. Young people from Pucará will be trained to manage the reserve and the reforestation process.
Through a Land Trust, land owners in Pucará will be given the option of selling their land to the Reserve at a discounted rate. In exchange, they will maintain title to their land while agreeing to follow sustainable agricultural and development practices to be monitored by the Reserve managers. The land sold to the Land Trust cannot be privately sold in the future, only deeded to family members. This process will provide revenue to the local economy, create employment, conserve the unique biodiversity of the forests, and prevent the expropriation of land for unsustainable real estate development. It will also serve as a model for sustainable economic practices and act as an alternative to economic development based on large-scale mining
The Pucará Community Cloud Forest Reserve will establish an important Habitat Corridor between La Florida reserve, to the South, and the Alto Chocó, Arbol Lindo, and Siempre Verde reserves to the East. This protected corridor then extends further East and North to connect with the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve managed by Ecuador’s Environmental Ministry. This contiguous Habitat Corridor is extremely important to the survival and reproductive prospects of the endangered Andean Spectacled Bear and its gene pool, as well as the bird diversity that is responsible for the constant reseeding and health of the forest.
I see the $25,000 being divided up in the following ways:
$20,000 – Will go towards completing the legal framework for a land based reserve system in Pucara, outlining details of how the reserve will be managed, a fundraising plan and an implementation strategy for a trust board. Any remaining funds will go towards purchase of part of the total hectarage for the reserve.
$2,500 – Will go to a local organization in Apuela Ecuador in support of their Life Stories initiative. With such an imminent threat to the local communities, they are documenting the voices and stories of Íntag’s older generation, including those residing in Pucará
$2,500 – Will go towards strengthening Pucará's online presence. Including:
• Training for the local Spanish school teachers on how to provide Spanish lessons over the internet
• Creation of a community website, bringing together existing blogs into a centralized location. This would include domain fees and a nominal fee to individuals in the community for providing website content
• Training for local youth on maintaining the website using website builders such as Yola
The establishment of the Pucará Community cloud forest reserve will:
• Preserve hundreds of hectares of primary cloud forest
• Preserve hundreds of hectares of secondary cloud forest
• Reforest hundreds of hectares with native tree species
• Increase water and food security
• Establish a community development and scholarship fund
• Provide an economic counter-proposal to mining and non-renewable resource extraction
• Create employment through eco-tourism and conservation
• Provide ecosystems services worth millions of dollars
• Connect an important cloud forest Habitat Corridor necessary for the survival of the endangered Andean Spectacled Bear
Strengthening Pucará’s online presence will:
• Provide current information to volunteers and travellers on the community; including how to arrange homestays, ecotourism activities and Spanish classes
• Allow Spanish school teachers to reach a broader number of students
• Provide a forum to create awareness of the issues facing rural communities in Íntag
• Serve as a location to deliver updates on the Pucará Community Cloud Forest Reserve project
• Present contribution campaigns designed to assist the community
One of the main drivers that will make this initiative a success are the people in Pucará. There is a strong anti-mining presence and many of the people understand the impacts the mining industry will have on their land, health and livelihoods.
Already in Pucará, alternative economic development projects like the Íntag Spanish School and the Rio Íntag organic coffee cooperative are creating sustainable jobs that are in harmony with the forest.
Through the use of mingas, Pucará is already demonstrating their strong communal atmosphere, a trait that is crucial for the success of the Community Cloud Forest Reserve. A minga is when the entire community comes together to work on a project that can benefit them as a whole or assist an individual in need. Examples of this can include cutting the grass in the local soccer field with machetes, collecting seeds in the forest for their tree nursery or doing repairs on a home. After working hard together they celebrate their efforts together by enjoying a meal.
This money and assistance from existing non for profits in the area will contribute to the success. There are already dedicated individuals working on making this a reality right now. This money can only propel their efforts.
The legal structure for the Pucarà Community Cloud Forest Reserve is estimated to take 8-10 months.
The life stories project can materialize almost immediately. Local community journalists will be utilized to interview and transcribe. The stories will be broadcasted on La Radio Intag and uploaded to a blog for the world to listen in on. There is a lot of future potential with this one, including leveraging online mapping tools to additionally present the material.
The community website requires collecting relevant information and photography. Once a cost effective hosting platform has been chosen a site could be launched within 3 months.
I will offer my time and know-how from a technical prospective. This could Include researching web solutions, Skype training for the Spanish teachers, and taking the Life Stories initiative to the web.
Take a minute to watch this video on the Pucara Community Cloud Forest Reserve!
We have a new FACEBOOK Group! Search for “Team Intag” on Facebook and join us!
Read what Famous Ecologist E.O. Wilson has to say about the biodiversity in Intag!
DID YOU KNOW??
Did you Know?...The Pucara Community Forest Reserve Proposal fits under all 4 G Project categories. Here’s how…
Beauty (this one is easy!)
Only 2.5% of the world’s remaining tropical forests are cloud forests. The biodiversity of the Tropical Andean cloud forests is stunning:
- 45,000 plants species, 20,000 of which are endemic
- 6.7% of the world´s endemic plants species
- 3,389 vertebte species, 1,567 of which are endemic
- 5.7% of the world´s endemic vertebrate species
- 1,666 bird species/677 endemic
- 830 amphibian species/644 endemic
- 3,389 total vertebrate species7/1,567 endemic
Source: NATURE |VOL 403 | 24 FEBRUARY 2000 |www.nature.com
These are world records in terms of biodiversity. This is the largest remaining stand of western slope tropical Cloud Forest in the world. Can we really afford to let this disappear?
Through the creation of this Cloud Forest Reserve we want to empower the people of Pucara. By learning to see the forests as a viable commodity we can protect them while boosting local economy. Let’s take a look at the math!
The economic field of Ecosystems Services quantifies the economic value provided by a healthy ecosystem in terms of the services it provides: filtering of water, sequestration of carbon dioxide, prevention of erosion, wildlife habitat, etc.
A recent Earth Economics study provides high and low estimates for ecosystems services value per hectare for the Íntag region. The Cloud Forests were found to be the most valuable land cover type, providing between $708.65 and $12,413.57 of services per hectare, per year. The Cloud Forests comprise 60,965 hectares of the 151,171 hectares that make up the Íntag Region. The study concluded that the annual ecosystem service value of the Íntag Region as a whole is at least $62,165.384.53. The annual ecosystem services value of Íntag’s Cloud Forests is at least $43,203,021.44.
Therefore, the Cloud Forest covers 40.3% of the Íntag Region, yet accounts for 69.5% of the monetary value of its ecosystem services. This means that over a hundred year period the ecosystem services of Íntag’s cloud forests will generate $6 billion worth of services.
After reforestation the annual ecosystem services value of the Pucará Community Cloud Forest Reserve will exceed $425,190: a much better alternative than an economy centered on open pit copper mining and the destruction of the cloud forest
The majority of families in Pucará sustain themselves through agriculture, growing almost all of the food that they eat. This lifestyle has been shifting recently as many of the people in the younger generations have chosen to leave the community after they have completed school in search of employment in the cities. This outmigration has created a large age-gap. The community is now mainly comprised of school age children and older adults. Consequently the size of the community has also decreased by almost half since the 1980s. We want to invest in the youth by providing opportunity! This reserve will provide education and employment through reforestation, ecotourism and reserve management. Investing in adolescents is the best way to accelerate the fight against poverty!
The struggles this region faces are not well known, often lost in the shadows of high profile conservation campaigns like Yusani. We need the world to understand how a loss in Intag affects us all at a global level. By documenting the stories of the older generation and sharing them, we hope to bridge this gap. Only through knowledge and awareness can we begin to understand what we could potentially lose. Thanks G Project for giving us a medium for sharing our story and our struggles!
Did you know?... the area of Intag "...is part of two of the world’s most important biotic regions, the Tropical Andes, and the Chocó-Darien Western-Ecuadorian Biological Hotpots. Many threatened species roam this area, from Jaguars and Spectacled Bears, to Mountain Tapirs, Mantled Howler Monkey, the critically endangered Brown-headed Spider Monkey, Pacaranas, and the spectacular Plate-billed Mountain Toucan; to mention just a few of the approximately 28 species of mammals and birds facing extinction."
This according to a local organization in Intag DECOIN
Did you know?... by establishing a Cloud Forest Reserve we can protect tree species like the Sangre de Drago (Dragon Blood Tree). The "blood" from this wonder tree can stop bleeding and speed healing of external cuts by forming a flexible bandage when applied over the wound. It can also be used as a mouthwash to treat gum infections and prevent cavities.
Did you know?... "the tropical vegetation of the mountain ranges in Intag hold substantial amounts of water throughout the entire year, especially during peak rainy months of December to April. On average, the annual rainfall in Intag ranges between 1,000 and 3,000 mm, and often exceeds this range during exceptionally wet rainy seasons, for example, an El Niño event. The vegetative system in these mountains is vital to downstream communities. Without the existence of the tropical cloud forests of Intag, a substantial amount of the rainfall would overflow the rivers and flood several regions at the base of the river system." this according to EarthEconomics
Did you know?... renewable raw materials such as Cabuya, Loofah and Tagua are all grown in the Intag Region of Ecuador. The strong leaf fibers of the Agave plant (also known as Cabuya) can be used to make rugs, baskets and articles of clothing. The Tagua nut has become an important substitute for elephant ivory and can be carved into jewelry and hair accessories. Loofah created from the pulp of a zucchini looking vegetable can be used to make bath accessories, shoes and even lamp shades. These handicrafts can generate employment while helping local communities maintain their traditional way of life.
Did you Know?…For every 3-4 pounds of copper extracted from an open-pit mine it requires one ton of rock/soil to be excavated and deposited elsewhere. As the soil is unearthed it increases in volume, so the size of the pit mine does not actually reflect the amount of material requiring disposal. The discard of this overburden has a significant effect on both the flow of surface and ground water. Water pollution driven by mining is a serious concern for the communities in Intag. Polluted water is unsafe to drink, can lead to health problems and is extremely costly to clean up. To learn more about the struggle these communities are facing to resist an open copper pit mine click here: http://codelcoecuador.com/resistance/
Did you know?....Protecting forest habitat is essential for small scale farmers in this region. Not only does it prevent erosion of farmland but it is essential to have forest habitat adjacent to croplands to protect wildlife and insect pollinators. (Earth Economics 2011) All people depend on pollinators for the food they eat every day. The AACRI coffee coop is working with farmers to support sustainable farming practises such as growing coffee plants under shade trees. Not only does this microclimate regulate growth and increase humidity, but the organic waste produced reduces the need to purchase fertilizer as the soil fertility is maintained. Creation of this reserve will educate farmers on sustainable farming practises and ensure they are followed. Read more about AACRI efforts here: http://aacri.com/desarrollo.html
Did you Know?...Forests play an important role in regulating air quality and climate. Gases such as CO2 contribute to poor air quality and in turn a variety of respiratory diseases in humans. The layer of greenhouse gases has thickened from years of burning coal, oil and natural gas. As the sun warms these molecules suspended in the atmosphere, it is creating a greenhouse effect and warming the planet. The importance of protecting this cloud forest is twofold. First forests are essential for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere ensuring a stable climate and prosperous economy. Second, forests are reserves of CO2. Deforestation releases large quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing significantly to global climate change. To read more on the effects of deforestation click here: http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation-overview/
Did you Know?...The Andean Bear or Spectacled Bear is the only native bear species in South America. With meat only compromising 5% of its diet, it is the largest land carnivore on the continent. As an arboreal species it has adapted to living, eating and moving about in trees. Though docile, the Andean Bear is listed as a threatened species on the IUCN Red List. Intense logging and farming has resulted in a loss of habitat for this tree loving species across South America. Educating farmers on the bear’s diet is essential, as it often viewed as a threat to livestock. This reserve will help prevent further forest fragmentation, securing a habitat corridor essential to the future success of this species. Click here to read more about the Andean Bear: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22066/0
Did you Know?...A previous Environmental Impact Assessment completed in Intag, stated “that a mine would contaminate various rivers and water sources with heavy metals. These are the water sources of communities downstream. The levels of cadmium in the water would increase by 4000%, levels of chrome by 1600%. The copper in Intag is found in conjunction with lead, arsenic, cadmium and chrome. Cadmium causes kidney, lung and intestinal damage. Arsenic causes cancer of the skin, bladder, liver and lungs, lead destroys brain and nerve cells. These toxins can pass from mothers to children through breastfeeding. Once rock is dug up and exposed to air and water these toxins leach out into the environment. When it rains they run into the water supply. “ (Source: coldelcoecuador.com) To read more about other types of contamination associated with copper mining click here: http://codelcoecuador.com/why-no/#contaminationInfo
Did you know? … Intag is full of cultural history. Though to the untrained eye it may appear to be a rolling hill, there’s a chance you are looking at a burial mound. There is archaeological evidence that Intag was inhabited by both the Yombo people and the Incas. The gold figurines often found within these mounds speak of a complex prehistoric presence. Much of this areas ancient history is still unknown and a mine threatens to destroy the undiscovered culture, behaviour and cultural change of past people. Today the local culture is evident in the parades, festivals, celebrations and sporting events that happen regularly in these rural communities. As Intag is under treat of rapid development, we hope to document the lifestories of the older generation. Only through awareness and understanding can we really appreciate what we have to lose.
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1674.4 on Apr 7, 2013