Implementing a 'Sustainable Matrix Model' within a biodiversity hotspot, the Ecuadorian Chocó.
by Proyecto Washu / Fundación Naturaleza y Arte
The Ecuadorian-Chocó is within the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena biodiversity hotspot, a region of priority for conservation worldwide as it is home to many endemic but also endangered species like the Ecuadorian Brown Headed Spider Monkey (Ateles fusciceps). Currently, only the 2% of Chocó forest remains in Ecuador, and is located in the north-western region of the country, where high rates of poverty have been reported. In this region, logging and agricultural expansion have been identified as the main causes of deforestation, but they are also the main source of income in rural areas. For this reason, it is essential to integrate different strategies that effectively tackle this complex socio-environmental scenario.
To achieve this, Proyecto Washu has successfully used participatory methodologies to implement the ‘Sustainable matrix model’ with the Arriba Cacao farmers’ association ASOPROTESCO, in the buffer area of private and public reserves in north-western Ecuador. The model consists on supporting the increase in income of small family farmers by eliminating the intermediaries in the commercialization chain, and instead, guaranteeing the purchase of their products from direct ethical buyers. The model also involves insuring that a percentage of the farmers’ land is used for forest preservation, and encouraging the creation of high quality matrices through an organic and agro-ecological land management.
The Van Tienhoven small grant fund has supported Proyecto Washu to replicate the model with the new association of Arriba Cacao farmers ASOPROCANANDE, helping us to expand our conservation impact from 231 to 581 hectares under the `Sustainable Matrix Model`, it has also allowed us to strengthen the local capacities of farmers in organic farming, harvest/post-harvest cacao techniques, and chocolate production and commercialization.