Dairy farmers establish a new food source, keeping the surrounding forests healthy

Community Conservation is supporting the construction of large, community-level organic gardens in a village in Ecuador.

Last year, the people of Sumaco (located in Quijos, Ecuador) expressed an interest in becoming actively involved in conservation. This is exciting because Sumaco is in the tropical Andes, a global biodiversity hotspot.

Volcán Sumaco. (c) Don Henise

Ultimately, the people there are interested in starting their own community-managed ecotourism preserve. This could protect many species, with a focus on endangered mountain tapirs and local birds. Read more about the beginning of the Ecuador project here.

Our original plan was to provide the village with a community training session, which would cover biodiversity, wildlife management, government relations, and entrepreneurism/ecotourism.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench into that plan, although the training session may still be possible in the future when it’s safe to gather in large groups again.

But right now, the village is facing food insecurity due to the pandemic. It hit Ecuador particularly hard, with one of the highest infection rates in South America.  The already-struggling economy has been devastated. Local dairy farmers are suddenly dependent on their lands for a wider variety of foods for their families.

Luckily, we have a safe way to help the people and protect wildlife at the same time: the construction of large organic vegetable gardens.

Collared trogon. (c) Michael Woodruff
Mountain tapir standing in stream with vegetation
Mountain tapir. (c) IUCN Red List

Wildlife can benefit from these gardens because…

  • when food is produced organically, more species of wild plants and insects live nearby (which in turn supports bird and mammal populations)
  • the produce from these gardens can help meet the demand for food, which can limit the expansion of dairy farms onto the forested hillsides.

The gardens will help to accomplish our original goal: to empower the community’s dairy farmers to manage their lands sustainably, in a way that supports the development of nature-based tourism.

One member of our project team is physically located in Sumaco already, so they and the community can begin construction without any travel.

The pandemic has encouraged all of us to be flexible. We are happy about this new way of using resources to help both the community and wildlife: buying the seeds, fencing, plastic sheeting, and more that will be needed to construct and plant these organic gardens.

Thank you to Community Conservation’s supporters for making this possible.

Garden and tomato photos via Creative Commons.