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Boosting Ecuadorian Business while Protecting Biodiversity

The Sustainable Forests and Coasts project conserved biodiversity in critical habitats along the Ecuadorian coast in ways that benefit local communities.
Ecuador has some of the world’s greatest biodiversity, by any standard. Yet the country faces challenges in protecting its natural resources, which the government often lacks the capacity to manage. Critical habitats—including forests, mangroves, and the seascapes to which whales migrate each year—face serious threats, such as poor agriculture and livestock practices that cause pollution and deforestation.
Through the USAID Sustainable Forests and Coasts project, Chemonics reduced major threats to conservation by creating incentives for local communities to defend, protect, and value their natural resources. These incentives included helping communities join the government of Ecuador's Socio Bosque program that provides monetary incentives for forest conservation, facilitating market access and links, and training community members in best practices.
To this end, the project promoted linking producers with responsible markets while strengthening Ecuador’s existing value chains—such as agriculture, fisheries, wood products, non-timber forest products, and tourism—to increase local incomes while safeguarding natural resources. Specifically, the project protected the red crab population; preserved non-timber forest products, such as tagua; improved mangrove concession and forestry management; and built local capacity to strengthen protected area management.
The project created opportunities to increase the local population’s income while protecting natural resources. It prioritized protecting mangroves and forests, which play an important role in carbon sequestration, as well as protecting water sources on which local communities depend. Lastly, the project helped to strengthen the government’s policies for forestry and biodiversity conservation, as well as management tools for protected areas and climate change. The project also assisted local governments in implementing climate change adaptation measures that were developed based on an innovative vulnerability analysis.
The project’s implementation approach focused on reducing key threats to biodiversity. Within each site, the project established priorities and guided work planning based on analysis of the following threats to conservation: (1) loss and/or alteration of critical habitats, (2) climate change, (3) lack of economic alternatives, and (4) insufficient institutional capacity for biodiversity conservation.
The project’s local partner organizations, the Ministry of Environment, and other government counterparts, and the beneficiaries themselves will continue the project’s methodologies, processes, and approaches moving forward. 
Project Results:
·         427,227 hectares of terrestrial area of biological significance under improved management, and 317,105 hectares of coastal marine area under improved management.
·         4,838 people trained in natural resource management and or biodiversity conservation.
·         22 new commercial linkages resulted from project support, with more than 16,225 people enjoying increased economic benefits as a result of these linkages, better management practices, and conservation incentives.
·         Formed strategic partnerships with the National Fisheries Institute (INP), the Guayas provincial government, municipal governments, and communities in each of its four project sites. With these partners, the project formed five conservation coalitions with public and private sector stakeholders that continue to serve as a venue for coordinating regional conservation priorities.
·         Designed an Operational Manual for Protected Areas Management and rolled out trainings to staff from 25 protected areas. These staff members in turn developed a total of 29 annual operating plans and budgets based on prioritization of conservation values, institutional capacity assessment, long term strategic plans, and improved human resource management.

Project Links:

·         Final Report
·         Final Event - May 2014
Project duration: 2009-2014


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