News From the Cloud Forest
Well it had to happen someday. The expences of running the volunteer program and for short stays have been on a long rise. From wages to food prices it is necessary to adjust the price scale. I know most people seem to enjoy the food around here and by raising our prices we can continue to provide the quality people deserve. So forgive the inevitable.
The reserver itself has been involved in a UN-PNUD project aimed, with a major contribution from the National Parks administration, at changing the administrative structure of this protected area. A comunity based Comanagement Plan has been developed during the last two years.
I would like to say that we are about to bring about this change but things have gotten wierd. The executive branch of the Ecuadorian government has interviened in the process prohibiting any new comunity organizations especially since this organization would be about conservation. For some reasons dificult to define here the actually national administration has embarked upon a major program to bring petroleum and mining development to all corners of Ecuador.
Environmental organizatons have been shut down and intimidated in an attempt to silence any objections to this program. In our area of Ecuador the President of the community of Junin has been jailed for his opinions against the proposed megamine that would disappear his village. In the case of Los Cedros, for reasons unknown, Strategic Sectors, the VP´s portfolio promoting extractive industry, is now executing a suprise project to renew the boundries of LC and create an alternative comunity organization to run the reserve with the Environment Ministry´s Ibarra office.
This is unwelcome news as we were on the verge of getting started with our own Comanagement operation that had been coordinated with the same Ibarra office. So much for good intentions.
This unsolicited intervention is the first time any government agency has ever shown any interest in the Los Cedros reserve, much less put any financing on the table.
Watch this spot for updates on who´s and what interests are behind this. Strategic Sectors has been involved in major extractive industry interventions in the Cordillera del Condor and Yasuni, World Heritage Sites.
During the last few years this reserve has been the target of organized groups that have the objecive of securing new land for the purpose of exploiting the lumber and developing farms. This activity in a declared protected area such as Los Cedros is totally illegal. The situation is compounded by the inability of the Ministry of Environment to conduct rapid interventions to contol the invasions by squatters. At this moment there is a group of around 30 police and goverment authorites in the Manduraco Grande area of the reserve atempting to evict a squatter family that has now been living in the reserve for more than a year. The complaint that I filed 16 months ago about this situation took untill today to actually get the eviction in this stage of actual execution.
To take this long to actually do something about a clear violation of the protected status of this reserve has encouraged other squatters in the last months to take their own land that will have to be subject to other long processes in order to arrive at evicion orders.
This project will need the financial help of outside organizations to effect the needed rounds of the government agencies that will lead to the eviction of theses new ofenders. I would like to make a call as well to interested people to volunteer as administrative assistants here at the reserve on short or long term comitments. For this process we will consider reduction of the cost of room and board in order to facilite those comitments. The future of this protected area is threatened by the present situation and our comitment to provide a buffer area for the Cotacachi/Cayapas Ecological Reserve as well.
The long term answer to the problems that face the protected areas of Ecuador is the formation of a trained corps of physically able rangers by the Ministry of Environment or local governments. This reserve administration has proposed the creation of park rangers that are licenced by the Ministry. When a formal proposal that included this strategy was presented to the Ministry of Patrimony it was received enthusiasticly and subsequencially presented to the central planning comitte SENPLADES of the Ecuadorian government by Patrimony where it was rejected without explination. We will continue with this effort to provide long term protection if conservation is to have a future here.
Four community based ecotourism organizations have agreed to take on responsibilities for protecting Bosque Protector Los Cedros. Meetings held during the months of July and August with the Imbabura based Ministry of Environment. the President of the Junta Parroquial of Garcia Morneo and local organizations have let to an agreement to move forward with planning to include these new actors in the management of this reserve. Under a new law, planning and management of protected areas are to be co-administered by communities, local government at the parroquial or parish level and the ministry of environment will be brought together to protect declared areas for conservation. All of the organizations involved have received recognition from the government of Ecuador unlike the majority of communities represented in their memberships.
This scientific station still under management of the original team of founders will participate in a guidance role with the help of a specialist team of Ecuadorian professionals from community and scientific backgrounds.
Among the organizations participating at present are:
El Comite de Ecoturismo Comunitario Plurinacional de Manduriacos, long time associates of reserve management with membership from 5 communities including Chontal, Plan de Luisa, Magadalena Alto, Comunidad Mina y San Roque.
Flor de PambilCommunity based ecotourism organization based in Rio Verde and Cielo Verde. Women’s organization.
Hilos de Paraiso Paraiso is a community that borders the reserve where this women’s weaving and vegetable ivory handycrafts organization is branching out into tourism.
Grupo de Mujeres de Magdalena AltoThe only legally recognized community organization in the community of Magdalena Alto that is developing a new urban area for the community.
Planning is going ahead for a joint meeting of all these participants for the first Saturday in October.
During the month of July the Flor de Pambil organization participated in an inspection call for from the Ministry of Environment to remove squatters from the Manduriaco Grande sector of the reserve. It will be part of the responsibility of these organizations to protect the reserve and it is hoped that the management plan that will be developed together will include the building of some kind of structure to be used as a refuge for park guards and tourism in the Rio Verde and Manduriaco Alto sectors.
We also contemplated is the training of members of these organizations as Honorary Wildlife Inspectors and as Native Wilderness Guides supported by the Ministry of Environment.
Though I have been receiving notification for the past several years that people are asking me to join their facebook groups I still have yet to see a facebook page or personality on the screen. But I am reliably informed that old friend Rene Rosler with two dots over his o has created such a beast and other people are jumping on it. I do hope that this is not some elaborate hoax but here is the address if you are interested in finding out the unvarnished truth about volunteering or visiting here.
I will try to get my own page open soon so that I can see what this is all about.
Things around the reserve have been quiet for some time now as some of the pressures from land speculators appear to have lessened reciently. One efective measure taken by the community of Paraiso a few months ago was to grab one of the main people involved in the fraudlent sale of land here in the reserve and make him to agree to a public meeting on the subject. Of course he never came to the meeting and I have not heard a thing about his activities since.
The new watefall trail is now open and we have plenty of openings for volunteers. The new road to Brilla Sol passes only 1 hour’s hike from the reserve so getting here has never been easier. The new highway to Otavalo is also open with busses twice a day to Chontal one leaving Otavalo at 8 am and arriving in Chontal around 1 pm. with return to Otavalo leaving Chontal around 1:30pm.
So lets see if we get a response to this post and I will be back soon.
17 de Enero 2010
Seems as though the new bus schedule from Otavalo on Trans Otavalo to Chontal is a reality. The early morning bus leave around 8:00am and gets to Chontal around 1 pm which is early enough to get to Los Cedros. This same bus returns to Otavalo at 2:00pm from Chontal finally giving the option of not returning to Quito.
There is also the new road to Magdalena Alto from Chontal where for anywhere from 6$(see Ramiro Ona at the big food shop) to 10$(all others) you can save half the mule ride or hike to this reserve.
The busses from Quito still are leaving from the La Ofelia terminal in the far north of Quito for Chontal 5 times a day. 6, 10 and 12:30 am and 3 and 5 in the afternoon.