LIVING IN PROTECT ED!
Location of the con
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Production & Design:
Susan V. Poats and Paulina Arroyo of Grupo Randi Randi,
a non-profit organization based in Quito, Ecuador that
specializes in participatory conservation with a gender focus.
Grupo Randi Randi
Wellington Cuichan (09-9846376)
Color Express (02-256-5520)
Ecuador is one of the few countries in the world that has been qualified as
"megadiverse", since it harbors a more concentrated variety of living
species than any other nation in South America. In little over 200,000
square kilometers, it is home to virtually all types of climates: from the
steamy jungle to the perennial glacial volcanoes. More than 2,400
vertebrate land animals, including more than 1,500 bird species, almost
twice as many recorded in the entire continental United States, and
20,000 or so vascular plant species, exceeding the 17,000 known for all of
North America, have been identified in this Colorado-sized nation.
Despite its small size, the protected areas in Ecuador cover
more than 20 percent of its territory; a major investment for an
economically poor nation.
dif-almost all these reserves and they depend on the
Grupo Randi Randi
Production & Design:
Susan V. Poats and Paulina Arroyo of Grupo Randi Randi,
a non-profit organization based in Quito, Ecuador that
specializes in participatory conservation with a gender focus.
Grupo Randi Randi
Wellington Cuichan (09-9846376)
Color Express (02-256-5520)
LIVING INA NATURAL HERITAGE FOR
Few places in the world have such a fragile ecosystem as
the Galapagos Islands. When Charles Darwin arrived
here in the 19th century, he found large extensions of
solid lava where dozens of different animal species exist-
ed that had not been seen anywhere else before. Darwin
was amazed by their exceptional tameness and, even
today, there are many sea lions fearlessly ambling around
the towns. Located about one thousand kilometers
(about 600 miles) from continental Ecuador, humans
began inhabiting the islands more than 200 years ago.
It is 7 p.m. in the Enchanted Islands. In
Puerto Ayora, the last group of European
tourists is walking back to their ship.
Tired but happy, they talk about the
natural wonders they have seen dur-
ing their long journey. They pass
three women who are carrying a box
and several plastic bags. Vendors
from one of the last shops still open
offer them souvenirs such as toy sea
lions, turtles, and blue footed boobies.
recycled paper and decorated with wild <
flowers, trinkets, and keychain. T
Three women, Carmen, Geoconda and Lucrecia, are
also happy. It has been a good day for them because
they managed to sell all the handicrafts they brought
from San Cristobal Island. They arrived the night
before, after travelling more than five hours in very
A short distance away, the first meeting of the
Galapagos women's organization has just taken place
at the Charles Darwin Scientific Station. Thirty women
from the three main islands shared their experiences
about productive projects and agreed to coordinate
their work, despite being separated by miles of water.
They are all wives of small-scale fishermen who live off
lobster and sea cucumber fishing, two species that the
park authorities allow them to sell during certain times
of the year. With what they earn from fishing during the
next four months, they must maintain their families for
the whole year.
Women's Participation in the Sustainable Use of the
Galapagos Marine Reserve, Ecuador
Galapagos Province;San Cristobal, Isabela and Santa Cruz
municipalities,and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Puerto
Villamil, and Puerto Ayora parishes
Number of Families Benefited
80 women (30from San Cristobal, 30from Isabela and 20
from Santa Cruz) who are the wives offishermen affiliated
with four cooperatives. Forty of these fishermen will be
trained as part of the Participatory Management component
of the project.
Total Project Amount
United States Agency for International Development,
Frankfurt Zoological Society, and Lindblad
Charles Darwin Scientific Station
More than half of the island's popu-
lation makes a living exclusively from
fishing. The small scale fishermen add up
to a little over a tounsand amongst the most pop-
ulated islands. Today, most of them can be found in
the rough seas, taking advantage of the fact that it is
lobster season. Their work is difficult and risky: they
must dive more than 20 meters to find the adult ani-
mals. They use only a mask and a compressor that
provides them with air through an thin hose. Fatal
accidents occur all too frequently.
On land, the wives help their husbands with some of
the fishing work. In Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the
small provincial capital, Tania Cobos is well known
because of her singular occupation: she smelts lead
weights that the fishermen use to dive. "Their work is
very risky, she affirms, Before, our husbands used to
go to the shore and catch lobsters. Not anymore.
They have to go further out to sea and when they find
them, they try to take as much as possible so that they
can bring home some money. Sometimes they invest
too much and they only earn enough to cover their
expenses, and then they have to work harder and risk
themselves even more."
The fishermen's income varies depending on the season's condi-
tions, on the restriction periods, and on the fishing limits imposed by
the Park. They recognize that the fishing has decreased in the past
few years, but they have no other alternative but to continue the work
they have always done.
Since 1959, when the
National Park was cre-
ated, there have been
ermen, and tourists.
There have been peri-
ods when the conflicts
between the large eco-
nomic interests of the
continent, the extreme
the demagogy of the local politicians became very accute, bringing
about violent demonstrations from the islanders. Continental
Ecuador is very far away and so is the central government, which
understands very little about the islands, and its policies do not
always respond to the local population's needs
There are more than 500 endemic marine species in Galapagos.
Ecuador makes a big effort to protect this natural wonder but not
everyone agrees with this: some people argue that conservation is
a luxury that a poor
country cannot afford.
The tuna industry
exercises strong pres-
sure for rights to fish
within the marine
reserve, which has
recently been stretched
to forty nautical miles.
These large commer-
cial fishermen insist
that the wealth of the
Galapagos seas is
inexhaustible. Huge travel agencies in Quito, Ecuador's capital, also
complain that the tourist quota is too small and demand that larger
cruiseships be allowed to enter.
The Park authorities live in almost permanent conflict with locals.
The scientific station is responsible for monitoring the fishing
resources and making recommendations to the Park authorities
about prohibition seasons and quotas for each species.
ALFONSO LOZADA YAGUAL
President of the Fishing Cooperative
(COPESPROMAR), San Cristobal
We know that you have collaborated so that
women may hold this meeting...
Yes, Copespromar provided the transportation for
the women from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz and
Why did you decide to help them?
Because I think it is necessary for them to receive
training Because of the economic situation we
find ourselves in, we must value their work so
that they may help support our homes.
Has there been much resistance against this
type of organization?
As far as we men, we have not been opposed to
this, but, you know, there are always conflicts
What problems do the small-scale fishermen
The major problem is the restrictions that the
conservation foundations impose on us. Not the
National Park directly, but the international
organizations that profit with the name
Galapagos. They impose regulations on us for-
getting the human aspect, the human population
of the Galapagos. The fishermen have been the
guardians of these islands for many years. The
first inhabitants if these islands were fishermen
and we will live and die here as guardians of the
Do you agree that the fishermen also have to try
to take care of the resources?
Yes, of course, I agree with conservation. We
have to conserve for the future generations. We
think we must give the shores a chance to rest and
dedicate ourselves to deep-sea fishing, but unfor-
tunately we are restricted against deep -sea fish-
ing. If we were allowed, many people would for-
get about the sea cucumber and lobster, resources
which are in danger of disappearing. When the
reserve was extended, we were told those 40 miles
were for the artisan fishermen, but unfortunately
even we cannot fish within those 40 miles.
What perspectives do you see in the work of the
Very good ones and I will continue to support
them, just as we did now transporting them in the
boat, because our women have to be prepared so
that they may head our homes in the future, in
case we should disappear
S Fishermen in general do
S not agree with these
and the relations
r. "We face many
Caiza, a Santa
Share always on top
Sof us, trying to
restrain us. And we
constitute only a mole-
cule, the smallest of the whole
fishing industry. What an industrial fishing boat can catch
in one month, we fish during our entire lives."
But in the end, a delicate balance between protection and
people's subsistence is being tested.
The national government tried to solve the conflicts when
it passed a special law for the islands, which created a
Participatory Board. This is a consensus entity that
involves scientific and environmental organizations, the
tourist sector, and artisan fishermen. The board defines
the policies for the marine reserve which is about to be
declared a Natural Heritage for Humanity by UNESCO.
The Galapagos ecosystems would not be able to survive
without the protection of the marine ecosystem. A man-
agement plan was approved for the reserve two years ago,
which, among other aspects, encourages the strengthen-
ing of the organizations involved and also includes a gen-
This last component is the basis for the work with
the small-scale fishermen's wives who are
organized in three cooperatives. The aim of
the project: Women is participation in the
Sustainable Management of the
Galapagos Marine Reserve is to involve
women in the production and organiza-
tion of the fishing sector. The project
promotes the creation of micro enter-
prises as an economic alternative for -
families in order to try to buffer the
impact of small-scale fishing on the
Marine Reserve. If the wives have a
source of income, the men may fish less
intensively. Patricia Moreno, a psychologist
who works for the Darwin Station, organized
meetings with some of the San Cristobal women.
Nubia Ricaurte was one of the women who supported the
idea. "In the beginning we tried to unify a group of women
to work together for the families' benefit. We called our
friends for meetings, started to chat, and from there came
up with the idea of training."
Galapagos Association of Productive Women of
How did you comeup with the idea for this work?
We had the idea of helping our husbands, based on our
needs. Then go fishing and it is the most unsteady job, you
never know whether it is going to go well or not. Your hus-
band goes out to sea for eight, ten, twelve, even up to 15 days,
and we stay home to face all the economic and financial situ-
ations: the home, the kids, their schools, everything.
Sometimes we do not have any money and so we decided we
had to do something to solve these problems. From the begin-
ning we thought we would open a fish market because our
husbands are small-scale fishermen and we could open our
own business in our homes, so we thought we would sell fresh
fish, lobster, and octopus. I already have a fish market at
home, a small freezer, and a scale.
To whom would you sell?
Locally and, if possible, in the continent, to the tourist boats,
or we would try to get our product out and sell it overseas,
because we have excellent fish here and going deep-sea fish-
ing we can catch tuna and other large fish. There are 13
women and we want to open our own fish market, instead of
selling from our homes, centered in just one place so all the
families would benefit. We would like the science and tourist
sectors to allow our husbands to go deep-sea fishing so that
they may supply us with more fish
Is the project financed?
We have requested support from the Canadian Fund for Local
Initiatives; we filled out the forms and complied with their
conditions, and they have given us their word that they are
going to finance us with US$15,000 for the fish market and
to import all the necessary materials. We trust that this will
become a reality, we have submitted our project, and they told
us it has been approved, that the money is coming, that
they will give us all the necessary equipment,
uin luding technical assistance...
Do youfeel something has changed in
your life since the project started?
Yes, a little. We have received lots
of training, much more than before,
in marketing, projects design,
writing them up in the comput-
er...I never did that before.
How do your husbands react to all
Some of them approve of it, there are
others, who are still very "machista"
w ho are always saying that women should
not h ave their homes, that they should take
care of the kids, wash the clothes, cook, but I, per-
sonally, have overcome these problems. My husband is sup-
portive, he says he may not live forever and if anything hap-
pens to him and he is missing, I will be alone, and must be pre-
pared to face all kinds of situations.
With support from the local municipalities, training
courses on microenterprise management, toy making,
paper recycling, T-shirt printing, and others subjects
were organized. More than a hundred women partici-
pated in these courses, even though only some of them
decided to form production groups.
Rosa Yandun and four other fishermen wives meet
every afternoon to paint postcards made out of recycled
paper. "Out of a group often women who took the train-
ing courses, I am the only one working in this activity.
The others didn't find it profitable.
At first, my husband didn't like the idea either, he is not
very communicative but I could see he was upset when
I left. He used to tell me why do I have to take a course, nothing will come out of
it, but I said that in view of our dire economic situation I would not stop, and that if
I got new skills, I was going to use them, make products, and sell them, and then
he didn't say anything else."
In the town's church, another seven women are meeting: they sew and attach
beaks, feet, and ears to stuffed toys. In another corner, Maria is designing a new
box for cigarrete lighters. "Now I get up earlier, I get home at night, and I check my
kids' homework ... I am perfectly on time and manage to do my domestic duties.
have changed, I feel more useful, more knowledgeable, meet more people. We are
working for the good of the community and I feel good because of it.".
A similar process is taking place in the other islands. On Isabela, an association
was formed to produce marmelades and to stamp T-shirts. In Santa Cruz, a proj-
ect was started to open a fish market and to freeze fish.
The women's is work at the Darwin Station opens communication with the fisher-
men and their families and that is slowly, but surely,
helping to overcome mutual distrust.
Carmen, Gioconda, and Lucrecia are finishing their
day's work. They have sold all their crafts and have
to hurry back to make more because they have more
Anxious to see their children, they will go back to
their islands tomorrow to give the good news to their
.- -. h
B Galapagos Islands
Coordinator, Gender and Biodiversity Project of the Charles
- What are the most serious problems of the small-scale fishing sector?
I think that the most serious problem is the lack of communication
among all the users of the marine reserve. Perhaps it is the lack of
good will from one another to get involved and place themselves in the
other's shoes. It is true that the fishing sector has been discriminated
against or perhaps it was harmed because they are the ones taking out
of the sea more, which is different from those who only survey or
Do the fishermen want to exploit the resources excessively?
No. The people in Galapagos are always talking about sustainable fishing, they always tell you that they are the ones who
want to conserve the resources because it is convenientfor them... Although not everyone is like that, there are some who do
pirating, especially some of the new fishermen. I am not saying that, they themselves say it. And sometimes there are con-
frontations with the Park people who do the monitoring.
Do you think there is resistance by the environmental sectors towards social development projects?
I think that at the beginning even the Station was afraid to become too involved, but that has changed. However, some con-
servationists in the Continent believe that there should be nofishermen in Galapagos. Fortunately, they are a minority...
In what manner are the women's organizations contributing to conservation? Is it indirectly?
IIndirectly, yes. I think that if the women can disseminate information, they can communicate will to their husbands, if they
can be better informed and transmit to their homes, how to be within the reserve, then they know what they can or cannot do.
But there is an economic factor...
Yes, but on the other side are the women's proposals within the Gender and Biodiversity Project to start sustainable microen-
terprises that will support the family economy. We are talking about people who have no fixed fishing schedule because they
create their own calendars every year There should also be deep sea fishing which the sector has proposed. Studies have
been done and should be implemented much faster
What is the key that has made the project advance so much in just one year?
It is only by giving people a chance to organize themselves. I think that the key point to achieve it is absolute respect for what
they (the women) want to do. The project is totally participatory: no impositions, no pressures...
What was the initial capital of the San Cristobal projects?
In San Cristobal, the Station invested some money in the training
plan to find out what the women wanted. When the money was
gone, the women said they wanted to start an arts and crafts k
microenterprise of Galapagos. They made a design and even gave
it a trademark: Native. Now they have applied for a fund of
With the income that women may bring to their homes, does it
really mean that the men may fish less?
They are fishing less even now because there are no longer that
many resources. Therefore, the idea would be to support the econ-
omy in such a way that they may continue to fish in a sustainable
manner and help their wives sell the fish in the microenterprise.
We would also have to support deep-sea fishing if it is carried out
with a good management system. We are not saying they should
not fish: the fishermen must continue fishing because it is what they
like to do and what they know how to do best.
"NOT FOR US BUT FOR THE FUTURE"
Water determines the
social relations along
the El Angel river. It
is the origin of con-
with very different
located in the upper
and lower reaches of
the watershed; and
between rich and poor.
It is the end of a long summer in the northern highlands
of Ecuador. In the lowest part of the watershed lies a
warm valley, where hardly any water can be found in
this very dry season. The green sugarcane plants grow
alongside the canals, where women wash their dishes
and bathe their children.
The AfroEcuadorian community of Mascarilla is located
between two hills so dry that even the hardy "cabuya"
or "(hemp)" fights to survive. This community was
famous in the past for its great papaya crops, but the
crop was wiped out three years ago by a virus. In the
past, papaya was the crop that provided women with
cash to contribute to their household economies. "It
used to be so nice before, recalls Paquita, we used to
harvest the papayas, get them to ripen, and sell them
at the market. We all had enough to live well, and had
enough for everything. Not now, the papaya is gone
and we have nothing left...."
Since then, many young women have left the commu-
nity and gone to work in the cities as maids. Those
who stayed behind are trying to make a living by
means of small enterprises, all of which have some-
thing in common: they hardly use any water at all.
Financing and training for these small enterprises is
provided in part by MANRECUR, a project that pro-
motes sustainable resource management in the El
Angel watershed, a region of more than 50,000
hectares located on the conflictive border with
Its aim is to improve the lives of the watershed inhab-
itants, increasing the land productivity and protecting
Collective Project of Managament and the Propely use of
Natural resources in the Eco-region from El Angel river.
Carch(MA nrecur Project), Quito. Ecuador
Carchi Province; Espejo, Mira and Bolivar municipalities.
Extension of the work area
Approximately 100,000 hectdreas
Number offamilies benefited
The population from the lower watershed and it's buffer zones
is almost 22,000 people.
Total Project Amount
463 thousand dollarsfor three years during the second phase
International Development and Research Center (IDRC) from
Fundaci6n para el Desarrollo Agropecuario (FUNDAGRO) in
collaboration with Consorcio Carchi
First phase, January 1996 to December 1998 and the second
phase started in 1999
manrecu2 @ impsat.net.ec
The project treats the watershed as an integral sys-
tem and supports participatory resource management,
while strengthening the capacities of local people to
seek alternatives for their problems and needs.
In a small shop, five women knead clay to give life to
masks with very definite African features. Anita Lara is
giving the final touches to an Angolan face with a very
serious expression."The masks come out according to
my mood; if I am sad, I create sad masks, if I am happy,
I get happy masks.....
S, Seven women and five men
work together in this group
t r and earn about 20 dollars per
month. At another house,
some young men and
women make ecological
paper using hemp and plan-
tain leaves, but their greatest
hopes lie in raising guinea
pigs which, in this hot, dry cli-
mate, reproduce quite fast.
These are the only alterna-
tives they have left to avoid
migrating to the cities,
because it is very likely that the sugar cane crops will be
lost this year due to drought.
Up river, a few kilometers from Mascarilla, the land-
scape changes abruptly. The rocky mountains change
into gently sloping hills where cows and sheep graze. A
complicated and unplanned network of irrigation canals
cross the small parcels belonging to mestizo potato
farmers. The water comes from the highlands or
"paramo" at the top of the El Angel watershed, and then
crosses the populated regions of the upper reaches,
which diminishes the volume due to theft and filtrations
as it reaches the lowlands. The lower people live, the
poorer they tend to be.
-In San Jos6 de Tinajillas,
Amparito Salcedo measures
--a the depth of the water in the
N;. local creek with a plastic
SA ruler. Her family must plant
their crops as soon as possi-
S-- ble but the rains do not
come. The irrigation is not
well distributed. "The water
is only eight centimeters
j deep now. It was 35 cen-
timeters last year... It is
because the people up river
steal the water: the large landowners, the flower grow-
ers ... they take it, and we do not get enough."
For over a year, Amparito and her husband have been
measuring the water depth for the natural resources
vigilance council. With the data that she and other
peasants are collecting, MANRECUR will be able to
design the rehabilitation of the old resevoirs and canal
systems in order to improve the efficiency and equity of
the irrigation system.
President of the Mascarilla community
Bolivar, how do you explain being such a young president in the
I am 26 years old and I have been president of the community for
two years. It is the first time that a young person has been elect-
ed as such. I think it is because people needed to try something
different after the loss of the papaya crops. I have always been
very dynamic in my community.
Talk to us about the projects you have started in the community ?
Well, we have three groups: women are in the mask making proj-
ect; we, the young men and women, were involved in investigating
the possibility offarming papaya again but we found out that it is
almost impossible to eliminate the virus; so, we got involved in a
local committee that is looking into raising guinea pigs, and
another group of young men and women are investigating how to
make paper out of cabuya fiber. We work two days a week manu-
facturing paper and to care for guinea pigs, we take shifts daily.
Is the cabuya paper sustainable?
- At present, the production is not so great but we started to real-
ize the damage we may cause the environment if we finish off the
entire cabuya population, so we are now using plantain rejects,
called "bdtamo" which is also good to make fiber paper
Where do the funds come from ?
Well, part of the funds come from us, some from MANRECUR and
some from a foundation in Quito. Initially, we bought ten guinea
pigs, two of which were male, and a month later we had our first
litter. At present we have 85 guinea pigs and we are waiting to
double that number before we start selling them in big quantities.
How did you come up with idea of diversifying your work and
We, the young people, want to stay here and help our community
to progress. We have to do something different, otherwise we will
have to migrate. And we do not want to do that.
In the meantime, it will try to negotiate a larger volume
of water with the farmers and communities in the high-
lands. About once a month, a meeting of the
Consorcio Carchi is held and is attended by the munic-
ipalities, other community and government organiza-
tions, and NGOs working in the region. Negotiations
are difficult but in general they manage to avoid major
During these meetings, men and women farmers play
an important leadership role, because they have gone
through a process of training to strengthen their organ-
ization. Teresa Carlosama from San Isidro and Cecilia
Cabascango from La Libertad (both are highland vil-
lages) joined the technical team of MANRECUR and
they now lead the process of community resource
i'i l .
La Libertad is located on the border of the El Angel Ecological
Reserve. When this reserve was created in 1992, the government
did not recognize neither the private nor the community properties
that were inside the reserve. Therefore, it never compensated any-
one for the almost 3,000 hectares of "paramo" where women tradi-
tionally took their animals to graze; nor did it clearly mark the borders.
It was the women who complained the most and who decided to
organize a committee that would investigate the traditional bound-
There is no shortage of water in the highlands, but there is still pres-
sure to penetrate the reserve, where the headwaters are. "When the reserve was first created, Cecilia
explains, there was a great conflict. We did not want to recognize the boundaries because the community
lands were inside the reserve and many people were upset because not all of them had been informed."
Slowly and with patience, MANRECUR formed a community technical team with local men and women
trained to lead the local planning process. This team explained to the farmers the importance of preserv-
ing the protected area, involved them in the design of management plans and identified the kinds of train-
ing they required in order to use and manage their lands in a more efficient manner. Teresa recalls the
process: "Most of us wanted to learn more about organic agriculture and how to improve animal production
in our fields below the reserve. We asked for cattle raising training and that is how we learned about vac-
cinations, better fodder mixtures, balanced meals, mineral salts... especially in this aspect, more women
participated, because they are the ones who take care of the animals every day."
The formation of a technical team was one of the keys to involve the po-pulation in conservation and the
management of the buffer area. Cecilia continues: "I, because of the way I am, because I am a woman,
and because of my experience working in the community, have managed to penetrate deeper, I dare say,
into people's hearts, so that they may talk to me sincerely, frankly. They let me know how they feel; it is
easier to work with them knowing how they really think and feel."
Cecilia also thinks that what made more of an impact was the fact that women integrated themselves into
the organizations: "It is hard for a woman to abandon her usual tasks and make room for attending meet-
ings, listening, learning, sharing... It is a area we are slowly winning. During the first meetings, it was only
the men who participated in the discussions and very few women even attended. But now, the meetings
are different: we have meetings where the majority of the participants are women and less men; so I think
that now we have reached the point of truely becoming involved in the process."
Local policies are now being developed from the bottom up and community participation is growing along
with women's leadership. It has taken some time to convince the population of La Libertad about the
advantages of taking care of the grassy Andean highlands or "paramo", but now they know that the best
way to have water and increase their income is with better use of the resources they
have traditionally been exploiting.
Luis Ordoiez, a member of the La Libertad parish board acknowledges that: "I don't
want to leave my children degraded lands at 3,700 meters; I want to leave them, as well
as my children's children, a very well organized reserve, with sufficient water so that the
lowlands may reap higher profits. People are still in the process of learning; they (park
guards) used to tell us, 'this is the law, do not burn, do not destroy it,' but without any
training as to why or what for. Quite the contrary now, people are being trained. I know
that it is a long and hard process and that it is going to take some time. Once we under-
stand it, this is fantastic, it is good to declare it a protected reserve, because it is pro-
tecting life, not for us but for the future."
Association of Women Struggling for Progress, La
Around the community of La Libertad, there exists other
small communities. They have organized into groups
that are investigating alternatives to increase their pro-
ductivity and decrease the pressures on the natural
resources. Inds Trujillo is head of one of these groups and we find her working
with two of her colleagues in a mill belonging to the community.
What projects is the Association working on?
We are developing vegetable gardens and family guinea pig breeders and,
through loans and grants, we started this mill, where twelve of us make flour
from the grains produced in the region.
What was your work before the women were organized?
Every morning, when my husband left to work in the fields, I had to carry our
lunch and our children and follow him. That is the traditional custom of our
community. But now I work four days for the mill: on Monday, selling, on
Tuesday and Wednesdays in the production process, and on Thursdays, market-
How did you start?
The Association of Women was initiated in
1991, when someone burned the house of
one of our colleagues. Five of us
women started to build her another
house by means of "mingas" (col-
laborative community work where
everyone lends a hand). It was
not easy because during the time
that we were beginning to organ-
ize ourselves, women had low
self-esteem. Some authorities such
as the "Teniente Politico" (highest
authority in small communities) and
the mayors started to take reprisals
against us and to tell us that women could never
get organized, that we would never make any progress. But we have achieved a
clearer vision that we women are capable of accomplishing many things.
Have men changed?
Yes, we have had to struggle hard, but it is not the fault of the men because they
live in a system where they learned otherwise: that is what they inherited, and
they had no freedom to change. But we have
.. i marched on, endeavoring to make our projects
work, learning to assert ourselves, without fight-
ing but rather trying to become more united as
couples. The men have also changed because we
have learned to explain ourselves to them and tell
them: Listen, we are together in a situation
where we are trying to change a life system not
only for our families but for the whole society.'
PETROLEUM, WOOD...AND FIBER
From a bird's eye view, the Amazon jungle resembles
a vast green sea, losing itself into the horizon. But the
view is misleading. Upon closer scrutiny, deep wounds
come into focus creating red islands surrounded by
small villages and oil company campsites.
Coca is an oil-producing city that had an anarchical
growth in the last twenty years. Ironically, few of its
streets are paved and public services are scarce. It is
as if someone purposely created the town as a large oil
camp, which can be easily disassembled when the
sources of oil diminish. Yet, on the contrary, the black
gold does not diminish, it continues to spring up in var-
ious areas of the Amazon.
The oil pipeline plunges into the jungle's depth, reach-
ing Yasuni National Park, one of the richest places for
biological diversity found in the world.
The Auca highway, which is basically a two-way dirt
road, accompanies the main oil pipeline for 90 kilome-
ters. As far as the eye can see, young trees and exten-
sive pasturelands line both sides of the road, where
only a few meager cattle graze.
Every now and then, women and children peek outside
their wood and tin-roofed homes to greet the passer-
byers. Men can be seen taking sacs of coffee on their
mules or working in the oil camps. These are basical-
ly the only sources of family income in the area.
Until recently, the Ecuadorian government considered
the Amazon as wasteland that had to be colonized.
Roads were opened and newly arrived families from
the coast and highlands were given large extensions of
jungle. The policy turned out to be disastrous since the
families that arrived to occupy the land were not famil-
iar with how to cultivate on this land and they did not
have access to credit. Their only alternative was to sell
timber in order to survive. Extensive crops barely pro-
duced enough to subsist. Yet, in time, some families
had deforested their farms and were forced to abandon
them, obligating them to return to their hometowns.
However there were people inhabiting these lands long
before the colonist families arrived. The town of
Tiguano is just on the border of the Yasuni National
Park, one of Ecuador's largest parks with close to a
Gender and biodiversity in three Amazon communities,
Francisco de Orellana Province
Rodrigo Borja, Rio Tiputini y Tiguano communities, Orellana
Approximately 15 thousand hectares
Number of Families Benefited
30 (ten in each community)
Total Project Amount
26 thousand dollars
Fund from the Netherlands Embassy via the Fondo Ecuatoriano
Populorum Progressio (FEPP) y Training and Natural
Resource Management Center IAMOE
EcoCiencia and IAMOE
Tiguano is a Shuar indigenous community that migrated
to the area in the late 80's from the South. Rosa
Pinshupa remembers how life was before, "We came
from the Morona province where we did not have any-
where to plant crops. When we arrived here, there were
so many fish and animals like wild hogs and monkeys.
There was everything. Hunting was done nearby, but
now with the roads and the oil companies, nothing can be
Rosa is one of the women who learned to make woven handicrafts from natu-
ral fibers in a training course organized by EcoCiencia, an Ecuadorian con-
Sservation organization. She traveled all over the country to meet with
other indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian women to exchange know-how
about the weaving. They make baskets and the famous Panama
SHat, which is originally from Ecuador. The money she earns from
the sale of handicrafts helps educate her six children.
Intrigued by the area's biodiversity, EcoCiencia first went to Tiguano
g in 1996. Their intention was to study the biological resources
S found, to understand how they were managed, and how men and
women related to them. Their goal was to highlight each species'
use and recuperate lost knowledge on its use. This helped them
identify non-timber species that could be used by local people, repre-
senting an economic alternative to deforestation.
They found 634 plant species of
which an astounding 467 could be used
for specific purposes. Research was also conducted in the Quichua
indigenous community of Rio Tiputini and the "mestizo" or non-indige-
nous community of Rodrigo Borja. The researchers learned that there
are significant differences in knowledge and plant use among the dif-
ferent indigenous groups and between women and men.
In all the indigenous groups, the forest is where men cut timber when
needed it is customary that. Women are not obligated to constantly
enter the forest but they work exclusively in the family gardens close
to their homes. Therefore, they recognize more plants useful for fam-
When the research was completed, EcoCiencia and the women's
group designed projects to improve family diets by diversifying farms
and domesticating certain wild plants.
Lucia Rivera is mestizaa" and
arrived in the Rodrigo Borja
community after the road
p .. expansion. She is origi-
e "c i nally from the coast and
came to the area looking
for new opportunities.
Initially, it was difficult
for her to adapt to the
lifestyle typical of the
jungle. Yet, she was one
of the first persons to
adopt a new management
system on her farm.
Gradually she was able to pro-
duce more and at the same time
prevent the loss of soil fertility. She declares that, "We are working
with a Brazilian agronomist who works for EcoCiencia. The technique
we employ depends on the plants we choose because they have to
complement each other. I have a variety of fruit trees and palms that
are useful for family consumption and the rest I sell. Before, we
worked the land as how we saw fit but now we are trying not to
destroy the natural resources and we do not use chemicals."
Rio Tiputini Community
Why is there so much deforestation in the area?
People began extracting timber as soon as the
road was opened. Outsiders arrived and showed
us how to change our way of doing things. Now
the problem is that there are no sources of work
here. For instance, we now have problems with
the coffee sales because the amount we receive is
useless. We spend more on transportation.
Colonists and quichuas alike, we are all poor.
This was the only thing that kept us alive and now
people have opted for extracting timber to cover
basic needs like education, health, or food.
Another problem we had was when the govern-
ment started prohibiting timber extraction, there
were deaths and even more extraction. If the
government does not provide us with a solution,
why do they prohibit our activities?
What has been your experience with the train-
The training in handicrafts was very useful. At
first we started weaving hats and this was a bit
difficult for all of us, for quichuas and colonists
alike. But in the second course, a fellow woman
farmer showed us how to weave baskets and this
was much easier We later showed others in the
community and to the women's organization.
Before we had the material on hand, but we only
knew how to weave the fiber to make the roofs
for our homes. Now we can use it for other pur-
poses. The problem is that in this area the plant
does not grow easily because there are too many
floods. We tried but the plant did not grow. But
we are going to try again because we want to
continue making handicrafts. Maybe we will
have luck next time...
She has learned a
great deal by proper-
ly managing her land
and by participating
in a local woman's
group called "Virgen
Guadalupe." "I have
48 hectares. I use
about three or four
hectares that are
divided in different
plots. But if I work
say 20 hectares of
land, it is no use to me. Because when I
work on the plots closer to home, the
underbrush grows in the farther plots and
I can't produce very much. Yet, when I
work four hectares with proper tech-
niques, not a great amount is produced
but I can work better and
earn more." Quite a few a
have come to come to visit
her plot, hoping to learn
One of the most useful
plants identified was the
"paja toquilla," a natural fiber
found in a cactus-like plant. .
After they learned how to
process the fiber to make
handicrafts, Rosa and Lucia
trained dozens of other
women and men in the area.
Now, EcoCiencia promotes
the plants in other areas by
providing it to interested
families in the three commu-
nities. In two years time, the plant will be
ready to harvest and processed to make
more baskets and hats.
This is an example that illustrates how
research and natural resources use can
complement each other. One of the most
important lessons learned from this experi-
ence is that knowledge about biodiversity
determines access and control of natural
resource management. By integrating
men's and women's visions and knowl-
edge, biodiversity conservation and sus-
tainable development are united intimately.
Field researcher with EcoCiencia
Did the indigenous people that migrated here lose their culture?
In general, no. Although they have changed their way of dressing, they generally have
maintained their culture and knowledge. When we interviewed them for the study, they
knew what each plant was used for, be it medicinal, consumption, ceremonies, etc.
They said that in Morona or Pastaza, where they used to live, they used that plant for
this or that. They brought all that knowledge with them.
But in the communities where they lived before, didn't they deforest as much as they
Yes, in part I think that they changed because they have been integrated in the market
economy. They did not have access to roads where they lived before
and they did not need cash. They have changed here and have set
their eyes on the forest. They realized that there are diverse species,
important for timber and could be sold. According to the interviews,
men cut trees when they have dire needs such as when their child is
about to start school or when their wife is sick. At these times the
pressures on the forest is highest. But when the oil companies enter
the demand grows even more. Sometimes they need trees to place
landmarks or to open new roads or for the campsites. People see this
as easy and significant income
How will this help to diminish the impacts on the Yasuni National
We think that if we can offer a better alternative by improving no-
ntimber resource management, and engaging in agroforestry and
training, then people will have a better income. This way they will
stop from cutting the forest and in less space they will be able to diver-
sify their crops. Because they will not need to depredate their
resources in order to live.
Let's talk about the lessons learned...
The exchange knowledge amongst the people, their valorization of natural resources,
and the recuperation of knowledge on behalf of the younger generation have been the
most positive aspects of this project. The elderly knew things that the younger people
did not know how to value. Men and women's participation in the project was another
positive aspect. We could see that both men and women work in the forest, know it, and
depend on it to survive.
Unfortunately we thought that the plant for the fiber was easily adaptable and easy to
manage. We started working with this plant because it was easy to manipulate but later
we had to change to agroforestry techniques because the plant does not grow in the
area. People will have to learn to manage it within their farms because it is useful not
just for handicrafts. The Quichua indians use it for the roofs on their home and we
know that the heart of the plant can be used to make paper If people have so many
resources, why not manage them?
PLANTING GRASS AT HEAVEN'S GATE
The morning fog has not yet cleared when Delia
Soldado puts on a shawl and goes out to milk her four
cows. She has already prepared breakfast for her
husband who is taking the cattle to the "paramo" or
grassy highlands at 4,000 meters above sea level.
By mid morning, when the milk truck passes, Delia
will sell the milk for a couple of dollars. This is the
only fixed income the family has.
Life in her home village, Atillo, is not easy. The only
crops that grow in the frozen soil are potatoes and
sad little fava beans, barely enough for daily meals.
The men migrate seasonally to the cities to work as
bricklayers. Cattle raising is their only source of some
Once or twice a year, when they have to pay for their
children's education or something unexpected occurs,
they sell some of their animals in a local market.
They hardly get a good price for them since in such
highlands, the cattle are weak and lose weight easily.
Every morning the men lead their animals to the
"paramo." It is the end of the summer or dry season,
and some of the steep hills surrounding the village
have been burnt. "The fires explains Delia are set
for the cattle grazing. We bur the grass because in
these parts it is very scarce, the dry straw is not good
for the cows or horses or sheep. We have to bur it
so that when it sprouts again, the tender grass is bet-
ter for all kinds of animals."
Conservation of Paramo Ecosyrrems Project in Ecuador
Carchi, Loja, Azuay and Chimborazo Provinces. The Atillo com-
munity is located in Chimborazo, in the Cebadas Parrish Espejo
Approximately 35 thousand hectares for the project, and 10,829
Number of Families Benefited
1,363 in the entire project and 148families in Atillo
Total Project Amount
Approximately one million dollars.
The Netherlands Embassy
EcoCiencia, University of Amsterdam, and The Mountain
November 15, 1998
Three years and six months
Burning is the traditional method of providing food for
the cattle, but some of these fires get out of control
and burn large extensions of the "paramo" and nearby
forests. Water begins in the high "paramo" areas.
Small streams unite to provide water to thousands of
farmers and villages down river.
Atillo is also the entrance to the Sangay National Park,
one of Ecuador's largest protected areas.; it's exten-
sion is so large that it starts in the frozen glacier of the
Sangay volcano and ends in the tropical Amazon
plains. It harbors a large diversity of flora and fauna
species, which are subject to great threats. Almost
one hundred thousand people live in the areas sur-
rounding the park.
About two years ago, park staff visited the community, try-
ing to convince them to stop burning the grasslands, but
they could find no one to talk to.
The people were divided and the town council, the only
community organization, had stopped functioning about a
decade ago. Back then, the approximately 150 families of
Atillo had agreed on only one thing: to divide the commu-
nity lands amongst themselves. "The community was
divided because we had parceled the land out, recalls
Alberto Paltan, the council's former president. "We were
not all the same, some had fifty or even 80 cattle and oth-
ers only two or three. Since we decided to divide the co-
mmunal lands, there is now more equality, but the disunity
continues. There are now two groups in the community:
the Catholics and the Evangelists."
Even though the land distribution among the families
decreased social inequalities and burning of the grass-
lands, a new problem arose: the "minifundios" or very
small plots of land that resulted when the children inheri-
ted land from their parents. And this is only the first gene-
The Atillo population did not enthusiastically approve of the
Sangay National Park's creation in 1979. Nobody both-
ered to consult with them and the boundaries were set
without their prior knowledge. The community's resen-
tment was so deep that the Park staff could not get them
to collaborate in a study of the community problems.
Eventually, with the support of Fundaci6n Natura, an
Ecuadorian conservation organization, and with the su-
pport of the P6ramo Project, the relationships between
both parties improved and led the way to an agreement
with the community to manage the "paramo".
The study was carried out and recommended the creation
of working groups composed of both men and women.
However, only the women's group continued to operate.
The women were interested in improving food sources for
their cows that grazed in the wetlands close to the co-
Constant overgrazing had degraded the soils and in turn
decreased milk production. The animals have to be
moved constantly and the women do not have enough
time to tend to the animals and take care of their domestic
chores. "At home, we work minding the children and the
cattle. During the summer, the cattle get very thirsty; at six
a.m. we have to go out to herd the cattle and milk the
cows. At nine a.m. we come back home to make break-
fast, then lunch and at two p.m. we go out again to herd
and water the cattle."
President, Women's Association "La Dolorosa"
How was the organization started?
Fundaci6n Natura started us on this, and is giving us
support. We got organized in about a year and now
we are united. In the beginning, there were few of us
because we were divided, like the rest of the commu-
nity. At the time, some of us wanted to be there and
others did not. But we did not pressure anyone, it
was each woman's decision to join. Little by little
they understood and joined us. There are 32 of us
Why did you organize yourselves as women and not
as a community?
The community did not support us. They are very
individualistic, divided, and some do not want to get
organized. Because there was no understanding
within the community, we, the women, decided to
form a group ourselves.
Now that the organization has been given legal
recognition, how do you feel?
We are happy, at least now that we have received
legal recognition, which is what we were waiting for
And although the community did not support us as a
whole, at least we have ourfamilies'suppor
Eight women formed an association called "La
Dolorosa" and held regular meetings. "We, women,
were forgotten here. It seemed as if we were not
even human beings. Even our own husbands did
not value us at all, we were only good for cooking
and nothing else." The men started to complain
about the meetings: "My husband used to tell me:
'you are wasting your time in those meetings, the
cattle is being neglected,'but I would explain to him what we had talked about and how what we were
doing would help us." (Mercedes A.) During one of those meetings, the women decided to form a
local participatory committee to research how to improve the pastures for their cows. They assigned
three plots for the research and with help from the Technical University of Chimborazo they started
to experiment on which kind of pasture could endure the harsh "paramo" climate. They planted se-
veral types of seeds and, for months, they let three or four animals step on the soil and feed near the
fence. They found out that one local variety, oat grass, is the most resistant and, as soon as the rains
start, they will plant it more extensively.
Little by little, more women have joined the organization, thus forming a new unity in the community.
Nowadays, there are more than 30 women who take training courses and talk about what projects
they can start. They have played a key role in the preparation of a participatory "paramo" manage-
ment plan and have promised to decrease grass burning, protect the wetlands, and take their cattle
to the places assigned by the management plan.
Now that they feel capable of doing many more things, with the technical support of Fundaci6n
Natural, the women are preparing a feasibility study for creating a community cheese factory, which
will generate better profits by processing the milk produced locally. But their great ambition is to
develop an ecotourism project in the Ozogoche "paramo", a fabulous complex of lakes, where hu-
ndreds of migrating birds arrive each year only to die from exhaustion in the frozen waters.
Atillo men complain less than before, because they see that their wives are more determined than
before and they have begun to value the results of the women's initiatives. "I feel satisfied because
the women are very well organized. We have never had anything like this before, and it may be use-
ful," cautiously recognizes Alberto Paltan. The rugged farmers clapped warmly when, one cold mor-
ning, the president of the "La Dolorosa" association received a document from the National Council
of Women, a government entity, legally recognizing the women's group. Such recognition will allow
the group to apply for credit and may encourage
other women to join the organization.
Atillo women are beginning to overcome individ-
ualism and local prejudices or "machismo" in
order to improve their lives and those of their
families. And even though they are doing it little
by little, they are brimming with initiatives and
Responsible for Fundaci4n Naturas Sangay Project
What role did you play in the women's initiative to organize themselves?
The women's organization started because of their need to share their inter-
ests, their worries, and together plan their development. It was their idea,
and we have only supported them, and tried to empower them to do a better job.
How have they benefited by organizing themselves?
1 think that basically in discovering what they are capable of doing and in achieving
a change in local attitudes. At the beginning, it was believed that women could not do
things, that they were incapable of developing projects. Now the women feel that they do have that capacity. In other
words, their self-esteem has been strengthened and they are now working, proposing alternatives, developing other
proposals, which we, of course, support.
Why did the women organize and not the men?
Here, within the community, there is a men's organization. InfactAtillo has been a traditional community for decades.
It does have an organization, which is the town council, but due to various circumstances it has weakened in the past
few years. It is not that the women's group is an alternative organization within the community, but rather that it will
strengthen the community organization.
What other projects are being implemented?
Cattle ranching is the main activity in Atillo. A substantial amount of milk is produced here and sold to local businesses
for processing. We think that it would be convenient to create local alternatives that would bring better benefits from
the work done by the women. The cheese factory may turn out to be a good alternative which will provide an opportu-
nity to increase the value of the milk by transforming it into cheese, and thus bring better economic possibilities and
benefits than what they are receiving now.
How will Sangay National Park benefit?
The plans to improve the pastures in the lowlands and to create new productive activities, such as cheese making, will
decrease the threats to the Sangay National Park. If the women have better productive possibilities in the lowlands,
they will not have to go to the Park's highlands. This way, we will contribute to improve the women's quality of life
because we will optimize their current productive activities, and also conserve the Park's resources.
Moreno Bellido 127 y Av. Amazonas Edificio Fundagro, Planta Baja
Telephone: (593-2) 2238-155 E-mail: email@example.com