Home Search Cases Editors' Choices Ideas Resources
Editor Login

Case #884

Title:
Indigenous Ecuadorian Village Takes Control of Its Resources

Summary:

Cotacachi is the first 'ecological canton' in Ecuador. Martin Oliver describes how the first indigenous mayor since the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors is enabling the community to improve the environment and reduce poverty. Over half of the population of Ecuador are indigenous peoples, who despite crushing poverty, are striving to assert their rights, protect their cultures and the diverse natural resources that sustain them. The indigenous lobby has been steadily working to become a more mainstream political force, and recently its patience has paid off.

Cotacachi is both a town and a canton (municipality), located in the Andean north of the country, about two hours Northeast of the capital, Quito. With a population of around 33,000 people, of whom an estimated 80 per cent are under the poverty line. Natural environments range from mountains to tropical rainforests and coastal areas. The Cotacachi area contains extremely threatened ecosystems and, according to biologist E.O. Wilson, it has two of the world's 25 biodiversity hotspots.

Males followed through with an earlier commitment to restore and preserve both the cultural traditions and ecological integrity of the area. One of his first steps was to institute the People's Assembly, a process whereby the voices of everyone in the region could jointly formulate local government policy. The result is a model of participatory democracy for Latin America and the rest of the world.

In September 2000, strong environmental ordinances were passed, arguably the most comprehensive of their kind to be found anywhere, providing a legal framework to promote environmentally sustainable management and the protection of natural resources, benefiting both local communities and nature.

There are bans on mining, logging near watercourses and the growing of GM crops. Garbage must be recycled, organic farming is promoted, and financial incentives encourage the sustainable management of native forests.

The canton has attracted national and international attention, receiving an international award for local governance and the UNESCO 'Cities for Peace' prize.

Comments:

THE STRATEGY: One of the first steps of for the village was to institute the People's Assembly, a process whereby the voices of everyone in the region could jointly formulate local government policy. The result is a model of participatory democracy for Latin America and the rest of the world. Strong environmental ordinances were passed. The canton is run through a number of committees, including Health, Tourism, Education, and Youth, where decisions are made and resolutions passed. Control of resource management stays local.


WHAT WORKED: In September 2000, strong environmental ordinances were passed, arguably the most comprehensive of their kind to be found anywhere, providing a legal framework to promote environmentally sustainable management and the protection of natural resources, benefiting both local communities and nature.

There are bans on mining, logging near watercourses and the growing of GM crops. Garbage must be recycled, organic farming is promoted, and financial incentives encourage the sustainable management of native forests.

An environment committee has been formed to develop legislation for controlling destructive activities and promoting the restoration of forests. Recently it helped to create ecological murals around the town. A local Ecology Centre provides resources in numerous areas including low-impact development, eco-tourism, environmental education, permaculture, seed banks, and medicinal plants. Volunteers are very welcome.

In recent years, the people successfully rejected a huge Japanese-funded mining development. Locals are researching and developing sustainable economic alternatives to mining. One cooperative of over 300member families produce shade-grown organic coffee. Another economic solution with great potential is eco-tourism.


IMPORTANT POINTS: Within Latin America, 'structural adjustment' has curtailed the role of the State, reducing essential public spending, and increasing the overall level of poverty. This shortfall represents an added impetus to create local democracies and other alternative government structures. Given the low level of government funding, financial and technical support from NGO's has been vital for the development of such participatory institutions.
Location: Ecuador
Action:
Setting: Semi-Developed
Extent of Action: Local
Issues:
Year(s): 999
Outcome successful for now
Source: Living Lightly Magazine, Issue 23 - Spring 2003

Contacts:

Anja Light, Cotacachi Ecology Centre, 15-78 Modesto Penaherrera Y Morales, Cotacachi, Imbabura, Ecuador, Tel: +593 6 916 525, Email: alight@acuanex.net.ec, Or: pachalina@yahoo.com
Prepared By: sl, 1/09
Rating: 1
 
    Comment On This Case

Database of Successful Strategies and Tactics
Copyright © 2001-2007 DBSST.org. All Rights Reserved.
Disclaimer and Notices