What We Do
Over the last 31 years we have focused our attention on conserving the remaining unprotected forests in Ecuador’s most biodiverse regions through strategic land purchases and by helping local communities find economic alternatives to thrive in harmony with nature.
Local people play an integral role in conservation, hence setting up protected areas in isolation is insufficient to protect biodiversity. Therefore, where we have worked, we have developed a complex, multiscale, multifaceted conservation plan that integrates research, education, local community development, sustainable ecotourism and policy making.
The Chocó Andean Corridor is located on Northwest Ecuador at the ecotone of Chocó and Tropical Andean forests, which constitutes the earth's top biodiversity hotspot. Since 2007, Fundación Maquipucuna made the strategic decision of focusing its efforts entirely on the conservation of this region, which has the least protected and most endangered forests of Ecuador.
Maquipucuna was instrumental in the creation of the Protected Forest of Los Cedros del Río Tigre, which later became part of the Gran Sumaco Biosphere Reserve in Northeast Ecuador. In Southeast Ecuador, Maquipucuna's Proyecto Agroforestal Zamora (PAZ) carried out between 1989 and 2002, helped mitigate the impacts of colonization on the northeast side of the Podocarpus National Park through the promotion of high quality coffee cultivated in agroforestry systems, cheese and jams cottage industries, the creation of new protected forests, environmental education programs, creating infrastructure for attaining drinking water for the local communities, coupled with participatory community forestry projects. The outcomes of these projects and the environmental awareness created cemented the establishment of the Podocarpus - El Condor Biosphere Reserve.
In 1992, Maquipucuna began the Chocó Andean Corridor initiative. In conjunction with local communities, governments, and NGOs to create conserved forest corridors from the Andes to the coast. With Maquipucuna’s intervention, farmers are willing to farm quality shade-grown coffee providing adding value to the farmer’s crops and providing a roadway from the mountains to the coast for migratory birds.
The foundation's work in the Andean - Amazon of South Ecuador included helping communities to establish the first shade grown Arabica coffee project for conservation in Ecuador in the bufferzone of Podocarpus National Park in the Zamora Province. Other achievements include the establishment of alternatives to illegal mining such as a micro-sugar cane factory, a cheese factory, a jam factory, in addition to building a drinking water project, and the delimitation of the boundaries of the park.
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Yunguilla to 60 families owning 6,400 acers of land. In the early 90’s the communities unsustainable practices threatened the integrity of the Maquipuna Reserve located directly to the east. Maquipcuna worked closely with Yunguila to curb deforestation by staring reforestation and soil conservation projects. Since that work in 1995, Yunguilla is a thriving community involved in ecotourism and the production of many local coods including orchids, cheese, jams, and crafts.
Santa Lucia is a community to the Northwest of the Maquipucuna Reserve consisting of 12 families who own 680 acers. Before Maquipucuna’s intervention, these families earned a living through selling timber. Implemented reforestation projects and social forestry programs were not enough to slow these destructive practices. Therefore, Maquipucuna worked with Santa Lucia to add an ecotourism component to their conservation strategy; opening a successful and beautiful community run ecolodge.
Playa de Oro is an Afro-Ecuadorian community on the Río Santiago which runs an ecotourism project designed to protect 10,000 hectares of prinstine rain forest. This area is one of the most important in the world for biodiversity and is home to many endemic bird species. Largely indepant Playa de Oro is the last stand against deforestation along the river since other villages sell timber or mine for gold. Maquipucuna offers assistance selling their chocolate and acts as their hub in Quito.
In 1989 Maquipucuna became involved with the Zamora Agro-Ecological Project which was designed to minimize colinzation impacts though educational programs. Several hundred children and adults were involved in this program designed for rural communities. These efforts led the community to run a hydroperwed sugar mill, produce jams and cheese, create a bridge, and bring potable water to the people in addition to the reduction of deforestation and mining.
Our Work Continues
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The foundation purchases biodiverse land directly or enables local communities to purchase and manage land. Our current goal is to increase the protected area along the Andean Bear Corridor in the core area of the Chocó Andino biosphere reserve. Ecuador, land tenure alone does not guarantee the protection of property, therefore effective forest protection includes persistent patrolling and financing legal expenses to dissuade squatters, hunters, and land scammers.
Ecotouris is one of the major initiatives for funding the protection of the Maquipucuna Reserve and for creating sustainable employment opportunities. Maquipucuna’s ecotourism program is community based. In addition to the Maquipucuna Lodge which employs people from the neighboring community Sta. Marianita, Maquipucuna has supported other communities including Yunguilla, Santa Lucia, and Playa de Oro. Thousands of families benefit from these programs.
Above 1,200 meters above sea level, the corridor has the most apt land to cultivate fine arabica coffee beans whereas the lowlands are perfect for growing cocoa beans. Growing shade grown crops provides growers with quality harvests and ensures conservation corridores for wildlife. To overcome the negative consequences of boom-boost pricing on farmers' economy, Maquipucuna proposed the production of only the highest quality coffee and cacao appreciated in specialty markets.