By , January 2, 2013


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Forest Protection
Environmental Education
Casa de Intag
Irubí Project
The Resistance Continues!
Looking Ahead

Tis that time of year: What DECOIN has managed to get done this past year, and a quick round up of main achievements to date.

Before continuing, we would like to thank Rainforest Concern, The Threshold Foundation, Rettet den Regenwald, Geo schutzt den Regenwald and Lichtblick, The Sloth Club, as well as the individuals like David Walstrom and the students at Connecticut College, who actively support our work.



Wathershed and Conservation.
The Cuellaje Integral Conservation Project, with help from “GEO schützt den Regenwald e.V.” (Germany), is a holistic conservation project in the Cristopamba watershed that encompasses support of productive activities, conservation and environmental education aimed at protecting the Cristopamba river, one of Intag’s most beautiful and clean rivers.  In the Cuellaje area, to date (June 2013), the project has acquired 2639 hectares of mostly primary cloud forests bordering the Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve and handed them over to the Cuellaje government and its communities for administration. In other sub-watersheds in Intag, several other reserves covering a total of 2213 hectares  are in the hands of the governments of Apuela,  Peñaherrera and García Moreno.  This project started in 2005 and is ongoing.

“This year, with the support of  “GEO schützt den Regenwald e.V.” we were able to add 887 hectares of a very important patch of cloud forest to the new Peñaherrera local government reserve. This gives us a total of 1,534 additioal hectares that as of 2013 are being protected.  With Rainforest Concern, we purchased a total of 647 hectares to add to the Neblina Reserve. Armando Almeida’s and Silvia Quilumbango’s work in purchasing and legalizing the land was nothing short of extraordinary; the bureaucracy has gotten nightmarish for land acquisition: One land deal took about 4 months to complete and more than 10 trips to Cotacachi to deal with the municipality and the land registrar.


If you are looking to support or reproduce elsewhere the most effective conservation initiative, look no further. 37 communities have hydrological reserves protecting just over 1000 hectares of forests and wildlife. The community reserves also are providing thousands of Intag residents with safe water. I suspect the number of people now drinking safe water in Intag is now over 5,000. Earlier in the year Karen Knee, did her PhD. thesis on the quality of Intag’s drinking water. DECOIN published the report and is in the process of getting it to health, community and local government officials. One of the main findings: the water coming from the community reserves are equal in quality as that coming from fully forested protected areas. I honestly do not know a more effective conservation initiative than this one. Reason? Communities have a direct and vested interest in protecting their sources of drinking water. It opens a door to transmit important messages on the ethics of conservation. People experience firsthand the importance and practicality of conserving forests and biodiversity. Where laws often fail (nearly always) to protect protected areas in countries like Ecuador, communities will not let “their” community reserves be degraded….


37 community Reserves 1,100 hectares (see list of communities below)
JUNIN Community Reserve,, 1,500 hectares
Cuellaje Parish Government Reserve 2,731 hectares
Apuela Parish Government Reserve 1,074 hectares
Peñaherrera Parish Government Reserve 903 hectares
Garcia Moreno Parish Government Reserve 66 hectares
Neblina Reserve 1,676 hectares
Flor de Mayo 120 ha
Pajas de oro 150 ha

Total: 9,412 hectares, or 23,906 acres

If you take into consideration another 1,500 hectares that are now part of the Chontal protected forest, but which was once part of the Junin Community Reserve, made possible by the support of Rettet den Regenwald, the real total that we have helped conserve is 10, 912 hectares., or 27, 716 acres!!

REFORESTATION: To date, we have helped the communities reforest 83,400 trees, reforesting a total of about 50 hectares (all part of the community hydrological reserves). Of the about 30 species used, about 75% are native. One of the more important achievements related to the reforestation work is the generation of valuable information on reforestation with native species in cloud forests. Several students from the U.S. and Canada have helped gather, validate, and organize the information (Thank You Sarah Wilson!), and we managed to publish a pretty complete manual on the topic to help communities here and elsewhere, with this very important work.

In the long run, without folks understanding why we are conserving large swaths of forests, there is no way they will be conserved (this holds true for all of the official government reserves, by the way) This is why protection without education is bound to fail. And it is why we are spending more and more time and energy and funds on it. Lately Milton Arcos and our secretary, Wilian Navarrete have been giving a series of workshops on environmental concepts in 10 schools (thank you Angela!!). It’s a start, but there are more than 80 schools in Intag, and the official school curriculum sucks when it comes to Environmental Ed. LOTS of work ahead.

The Fair-trade store that DECOIN opened in Otavalo about 4 years ago to sell goods made by local groups in Intag is still going strong. In fact, it’s still the only Fair Trade store in Otavalo. Besides selling sisal and Tagua handicrafts, hand-made soaps and shampoos, and luffa goodies, the store offers cafeteria service, including freshly brewed RIO INTAG coffee. Next time you are in Otavalo visit us at Calle Colon 4655 and Sucre.


We have been working with the community of Irubí during the past year and more. The project established a community fruit and forest tree nursery and includes reforestation with native species, as well as training local community members in fruit tree and forest tree production.


Besides the book on Intag’s water quality, we are distributing Earth Economics “An Ecological Study of Ecuador’s Intag Region”. The book includes very sound economic arguments showing why mining is less economical than preserving the area’s forests, rivers and biological diversity. The book is already in the hands of dozens of Assembly members, well-known politicians, academics and other influential actors. We are also in the process of distributing it to local governments, organizations and key community members here in Intag (download it here:


FUNDING::: Sorry, but I have to mention that funding was low to very low this past year; especially to cover administrative costs. A lot of the ongoing work above depends on DECOIN having enough funds to pay our people a decent wage- and this is increasingly becoming more difficult. Some of those wages (including administrative costs) are not directly connected to a specific project, yet are absolutely essential to sustain organization like ours. In the past, the Threshold Foundation was instrumental in seeing and helping out with this essential need; however, and as we all know, all good things eventually come to an end, and Threshold will not be able to fund DECOIN this year. We hope that will change next year, but until then consider increasing your support.

MISC:  This is by no means all we’ve accomplished.  Also, there’s no time to go into the details of the many other activities we are working on and will be working on during 2013; such submitting observations to the Provincial Government highlighting the more obvious (very grave) errors with an environmental impact study for the paving of the Intag road that may impact several protected species, including within the Neblina Protected Forest.

2013 promises to be one of the most difficult years for Intag- especially if the Ecuadorian government decides to reactivate the Junin mining project. Therefore, I suspect we will spend a lot of time on mining again, unfortunately. This includes, among many other things, holding a lot more meetings, conferences and workshops on the issues; expanding alliances, producing and/or distributing more educational information (posters, brochures, videos), and seeking legal remedies to the mining curse.

However, we are also looking to expand both the number of community protected areas, and expand existing ones. We also hope to be able to continue and expand our environmental education work in schools, as well as keep supporting the Irubí community. In other words, full speed ahead as usual!  We will also try, as in years past when we created the Rio Intag coffee project and helped develop the Junin ecotourism initiative, to look for and develop economic alternatives to mining.

IF you appreciate what we have managed to do so far, and value what we are currently doing, please dig in your wallets and give us a hand in 2013

Thank you

Carlos Zorrilla
Executive Director
Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag


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