Tropic Journeys in Nature - Ecuador

Tropic Journeys in Nature - Ecuador
Ecuador Ecotours

Friday, July 31, 2009

I like this one, from our friend Guy:

Paradise or time bomb?

On the 20th November Guy Edwards spoke about his visit to a community of the Huaorani people of Ecuador at the Anglo-Ecuadorian Society in Canning House, London. This post provides a brief summary.

Spread out around a small airstrip in the Ecuadorian Amazon, the Huaorani community of Quehueri’Ono is a leading light in a country where eco-tourism destinations are some of the world’s best. Having won three awards, the Huaorani eco-tourism operation, in partnership with the operator Tropic, is proving an excellent way to protect their land and culture while providing a source of income.

This story is even more successful given the predicament that the Huaorani finds themselves in. Vulnerable, heavily outgunned and with few if any rights to the oil beneath their land, they are often forced to deal with the invasion of progress epitomised by the dirty and toxic politics of the oil industry.

Back of the envelope calculations suggest that eco-tourism is worth $200 million per year to Ecuador’s economy. Although oil sales dwarf this figure, the tribe are challenging the oil industry’s development credibility. By offering sustainable alternatives, they are harnessing new green markets which represent essential building block for the area’s future.

Eco-tourism is a crucial means in which the Huaorani can connect with the outside world at a pace they can control. Gaining experience in marketing and as guides is invaluable training and is laying the foundations for the tribe to be in full control of the eco-tourism operation within a decade or so.

The eco-tourism association, representing five Huaorani communities, is also working on a participatory mapping project in the North-West of their territory that will provide cutting edge data about their land. If the map is accepted by the political organization representing the tribe, an agreement could be reached to pay the Huaorani for their role in conserving the forest in their territory. This mapping project is part of a broader forestry initiative launched in September this year by the Ecuadorian government called Plan Socio Bosque. A voluntary scheme aimed at rewarding farmers and indigenous communities for protecting their forest, successful participants could be paid up to 30 dollars per hectare per year.

This pioneering forestry initiative reflects the growing awareness that tackling deforestation is a key part of dealing with climate change. Emerging strategies seeking to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) are seen as not only good for the climate and conserving biodiversity, but as an important source of finance for developing countries with populations dependent on forests for their livelihoods. The basic principle is to sufficiently compensate countries with tropical forests and high rates of deforestation to not cut down their forests. For that reason the Government of Ecuador will present Plan Socio Bosque as a national REDD initiative at the international climate change conference in Poland starting next week.

Like many Amazonian tribes, the Huaorani are experts at sustainable forest management. Not only is deforestation bad for their health and culture but within the new eco-tourism and climate change era, it is also bad for business. The Huaorani are therefore a vital asset to new initiatives like Socio Bosque and the Ecuadorian economy through their knowledge and expertise in looking after forests. With the correct support and respect for their rights, the Huaorani and other indigenous peoples’ in the Ecuadorian Amazon have the potential to becoming key players in the region’s future.

This article was first posted on Latino Cambio

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