Responsible travel is our most important commitment and our tours have a strong focus on conservation. As part of this commitment, for each guest that travels with us we make a contribution to a charity that we feel makes a real difference on the ground in Ecuador. One of these is Rainforest Concern, an organisation I have had a close relationship with for many years.
Guests can choose to sponsor the permanent protection of 1/5th of an acre of Ecuadorian Rainforest with Rainforest Concern as part of their booking and last year 50 of our guests permanently protected 10 acres of rainforest. As the famous slogan goes ‘Every Little Helps” and nowhere is this more true than with Rainforest Concern.
So where does your money go?
Protecting corridors of rainforest across Ecuador
Rainforest Concern is currently involved in five projects across Ecuador. Their direct conservation work involves purchasing land in the name of a local NGO or community to create corridors that connect existing protected areas and avoid fragmentation of the forest and its flora and fauna.
1. Choco Andean Corridor Project
Rainforest Concern has been working to develop the Chocó Andean Corridor in northwest Ecuador since 1993. They are currently focusing on the Southern Phrase of the project, the Santa Lucia Cloud Forest Reserve which is located at the confluence of two of the world’s biological hotspots: the Chocó-Darien and Tropical Andes.
The Santa Lucia cloud forest reserve is located about 80 km northwest of Quito, in the province of Pichincha. Rainforest Concern has for many years supported the Santa Lucia Co-operative, a community-based organisation dedicated to conservation and sustainable development. Their aim is to make a modest living whilst conserving the remaining cloud forest through projects such as ecotourism, reforestation, small agroforestry plantations and environmental education. The community currently owns 780 hectares of montane cloud forest, of which about 80% is still in its prime, virgin state.
2. Paso Alto
The Paso Alto mountain range lies between the Santa Lucia Cloud Forest Reserve and the Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve. Since the end of 2006 Rainforest Concern has been funding an agroforestry project in two communities in the buffer zone of the forest with a focus on producing shade-grown coffee. This project has enabled 5,000 hectares to receive the official declaration of Protected Forest Status, which required work with local residents to find environmental and economic alternatives to ‘slash and burn’ subsistence farming.
3. Fight against copper mining, Intag region
Rainforest Concern are currently providing funding to DECOIN, a grassroots environmental organisation in the Intag region of northwestern Ecuador. DECOIN, founded by Carlos Zorilla in 1995 is the main organisation in the area working with communities and local governments to stop the JUNIN mining project, which threatens the local forests, rivers and communities. The mining project is proposed to be situated in areas of pristine cloud forest, bordering the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, arguably one of the world’s most biodiverse protected areas. DECOIN identified 28 species of endangered mammals and birds whose habitats would be impacted, including jaguars, spectacled bears, pumas, ocelots and many others.
4. Neblina Reserve, Intag region
Since 2003, through generous donations from its members and supporters, Rainforest Concern has been able to purchase areas of forest to protect an area between the Paso Alto Mountain Range and the Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve, known locally as Intag. The intention has been to link these two protected areas through land purchases, creating one continuous protected corridor. They have named this area the Neblina Reserve, and to date it comprises 1,761 hectares of montane cloud forest, which has been declared Protected Forest in the national protected areas system.
5. Yakusinchi Reserve
Yakusinchi Reserve is a project to preserve and increase a fragment of extraordinary sub-tropical cloud forest in the foothills of the central western Andes. This mountainous and difficult land was purchased but not considered owned – only loaned for life – by husband and wife conservation team, Briton Jane Sloan and Ecuadorian Daniel Recalde.
In the last six years six tracts of adjoining land have been purchased, now amounting to 250 acres. Rainforest Concern helped to purchase the last piece of mountain land in an urgent bid to help save the lives of an important group of Ecuadorian golden-mantled howler monkeys.
Rainforest Concern don’t just purchase land, they also have well established volunteer programmes. These include groups of gap year students as well as mature volunteers who work on projects that include tree planting, trail maintenance and data.
If you’d like to make a donation or get more involved, knowing that you can make a real difference, visit their website www.rainforestconcern.org