Ecuadorian Communities Conserve Forests

12/9/2008

Ecuador�s Ministry of Environment�s Forest Partnership program presents first results

Poznan, Poland - The conservation of 165,000 hectares (407,700 acres) of forest has become a viable economic alternative for 15,000 people from local and indigenous communities in Ecuador, and at the same time will contribute to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by avoiding deforestation. This initiative is part of the Forest Partnership program (Programa Socio Bosque in Spanish) launched by the Ministry of Environment of Ecuador in September 2008. (En Espanol)

Ecuadorian Minister of Environment Marcela Agui�aga signed incentive agreements on Dec. 3 with individual landowners in the Esmeraldas province and with the Indigenous Community Shuar Arutan in the Ecuadorian Amazon. As a result of these agreements, the Ministry of Environment will pay these communities for the forest hectares they protect. Payments per hectare depend on the size of the area conserved.

 �With the Forest Partnership program, the Government of Ecuador has demonstrated that with political will it is possible to close the gap between conservation and the fight against poverty; it demonstrates it is possible that conservation benefits are allocated directly to the local and indigenous communities; and it demonstrates that a small country, with needs in many fronts, can lead concrete actions to combat global climate change� said Minister Agui�aga.

Ecuador is one of the 12 megadiverse countries in the world, harboring amazing biodiversity � including forests that provide vital ecological services such as cleansing the air and water. Unfortunately, Ecuador�s biodiversity faces serious threats. With one of the highest deforestation rates in Latin America, Ecuador is losing 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres) of forest every year due to illegal logging and deforestation for agricultural expansion.

To answer the threat, the government of Ecuador launched a national program that recognizes the vital role of local indigenous communities and farmers in protecting these forested areas, preventing the release of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and offering a viable economic alternative for these communities.

The Forest Partnership program aims to conserve 4 million hectares (9,884,215 acres) of forest by 2015, reducing the GHG emissions from deforestation and improving the quality of life of over 1 million people living in poverty.

�The Forest Partnership program represents an innovative approach -at a national scale to provide economic incentives to local farmers and indigenous communities in exchange for their commitment to protect key biodiversity areas� said Luis Suarez, Conservation International�s (CI) Executive Director in Ecuador.

Through its program in Ecuador and its Conservation Stewards Program, CI has provided technical and financial support to the initial design and implementation of Forest Partnership Program. �In partnership and close coordination with the Ministry of the Environment, we see the Forest Partnership program as a groundbreaking initiative to link biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction with proactive steps against climate change in Ecuador,� said Suarez.

The announcement of the new agreements was made today, Dec. 9, by the Minister of Environment of Ecuador during the U.N Climate Change conference in Poznan, Poland.  The meeting in Poznan is an important step in the negotiation process to achieve a post-Kyoto climate change agreement in Copenhagen in 2009 that includes forest protection as a strategy for mitigating climate change with the necessary technical and financial mechanisms to make it feasible.

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Media contact:

Max Lascano
Coordinator Socio Bosque
sociobosque@ambiente.gov.ec

Carolina HoyosMedios en Latinoam�rica
mchoyos@conservation.org
Programa Socio Bosque: http://www.ambiente.gov.ec/paginas_espanol/sitio/sociobosque.html