Empower Local Communities
Two initiatives of recent years merit special mention: the creation of a community park guard association, and a consultation with the Huangra community regarding their needs, in conjunction with the opening of an ecological roadway to their isolated community within Sangay National Park.
Civic celebrations are opportunities to reaffirm the common sentiments that bind communities together.
Community Environmental Promoters
FCT conceptualized and established in 2009 a program of “community environmental promoters,” originally designated as “community park guards.” These were local young residents of the southern Sangay National Park region who were given training in biological monitoring, environmental education, and community development. Their mission was to establish a presence for the Ministry of the Environment in areas beyond the reach of roads, but where legal in-holders in Sangay NP practiced agriculture and grazing. Their techniques were outreach and education, and because they were members of the local community, their enthusiasm for the natural environment and its conservation were more easily communicated to their peers.
CUTIN members prepare a presentation on animal tracking for schoolchildren.
The program was so successful that, in 2011, the national electric company, CELEC (via its local unit, HidroPaute) organized the promoters as a formal enterprise called CUTIN (taking the name of a local frog species) and assumed the operational costs. CELEC supports watershed conservation because it safeguards the quality and volume of the water received downstream and used in hydroelectric production. CUTIN scaled up its activities to include reforestation, camera trapping, erosion control, silvopastoral programs, and a variety of environmental education initiatives in local primary schools. The formation of community promoters essentially seeks to replace external conservation advocates with advocates from within the community. And CUTIN is also explicitly an effort to incorporate conservation into the family’s array of income sources.
CUTIN environmental promoters and a representative from the Ministry of the Environment were invited by CELEC to visit the Paute River hydroelectric facility.
Support for the Ecological Roadway to the Community of Huangra
A Quichua-speaking community located in the mountains of southern Sangay National Park had sought the construction of a road between their isolated village and the nearest road network—about a seven-hour horse ride away. But the Ministry of the Environment (MAE), which issues environmental licenses for infrastructure projects, denied the request in compliance with standing national park policy. In the community, meanwhile, MAE and Sangay authorities were cast as the enemy, and relations soured.
Huangra community members, outside their church, attend a planning session for the new road.
After a decade of entreaties from the community, and subject to pressure from political forces of other institutions of the government, in 2017 MAE acquiesced and issued the required environmental license. But this license was given on one condition: that the road be “green” and, specifically, that it not be used to exploit forest and other natural resources, but rather serve the community’s development.
The Huangra road under construction.
Given Huangra’s strained relation with MAE, FCT offered to mediate and develop a management plan that would systematize the community’s requirements for health services, education, basic services, and agricultural extension. A native-born Ecuadorian, Edwin García, who had graduated from the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale, was chosen to consult the community and create the plan. For its part, MAE contracted a study of the environmental protections needed for the new road. Combining the FCT report on the collective needs of Huangra with the conservation agreement accepted by the community, construction of the road proceeded, and a shared future was forged.