By Mara Precoma
Whether you consider visiting Two Rivers Reserve, have a passion for anything artistic, or simply need something to do during quarantine – this article is here to help! Apart from food, art is one of the best ways to get to know a country, especially from afar. Unfortunately, many Ecuadorian works have not been translated into English, which limits their visibility and reach. On a positive note, though, they might inspire you to brush up on your rusty school Spanish!
Los Que Se Van (1930)
La Nariz Del Diablo (2010)
Ratas, Ratones, Rateros (1999)
Qué Tan Lejos (2006)
La Muerte de Jaime Roldós (2013)
“Arts & Music.” Lonely Planet, 2020, www.lonelyplanet.com/ecuador/background/other-features/2f9308fe-3076-4f61-bfad-1a18bc297ae6/a/nar/2f9308fe-3076-4f61-bfad-1a18bc297ae6/363337.
Bogaard, Cecilia. “Top 5 Ecuadorian Movies.” Terra Diversa, 1 Feb. 2016, www.terradiversa.com/top-5-ecuadorian-movies/.
Davila, Damian. “Ecuador: What Are Some Good Ecuadorian Films?” Quora, 6 Dec. 2012, www.quora.com/Ecuador-What-are-some-good-Ecuadorian-films.
“Huasipungo.” Wikipedia, 29 Sept. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huasipungo.
Leon, Carolina Loza. “How Cultural Mestizaje Has Shaped Ecuador’s Music.” Culture Trip, 12 Aug. 2017, theculturetrip.com/south-america/ecuador/articles/how-cultural-mestizaje-has-shaped-ecuadors-music/.
“Los que se van.” Wikipedia, 23 Apr. 2020, es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_que_se_van.
“Qué tan lejos.” Wikipedia, 3 July 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qué_tan_lejos.
“The Devil’s Nose.” Good Reads, n.d., www.goodreads.com/book/show/25189920-the-devil-s-nose.
By Hannah Dora
Después de que las empresas de perforación hubieran descubierto 796 millones de barriles de crudo bajo el bloque Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) del Parque Nacional Yasuní en el año 2007, el gobierno ecuatoriano de Rafael Correa, presidente en ese momento, se enfrentaba a un dilema sin solución fácil. Por un lado, el presidente y su partido fueron elegidos por promesas de respeto a la Madre Naturaleza y a los derechos de las comunidades indígenas, después de un largo período de políticas neoliberales que habían hecho justamente lo contrario. La región particular del Parque Nacional Yasuní que iba a ser explotada es el hogar de dos comunidades indígenas no contactadas (los Tagaeri y los Taromenane) y muestra más biodiversidad en una hectárea que toda la vida silvestre de América del Norte. Por otra parte, el Ecuador es uno de los países más pobres de América Latina y altamente dependiente de la exportación de recursos naturales.
El ministro de energía del país, Alberto Costa, formó así un plan sin precedentes para dejar el petróleo bajo tierra sin renunciar por completo a los beneficios necesarios. Con la consigna de "dejar el petróleo bajo el suelo", el gobierno firmó un tratado con el Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo (PNUD) en el que Ecuador aceptó renunciar a la explotación petrolera, si el 50 por ciento de los ingresos esperados por las exportaciones de petróleo eran recaudados por la comunidad internacional. El papel del PNUD era principalmente la administración del fondo Yasuní, al que se debían pagar las contribuciones. El discurso de la iniciativa era que la Amazonía, a menudo llamada "el pulmón de la Tierra", no sólo sirve al Ecuador, sino que es un factor importante en cuestiones globales como el cambio climático. Aunque este plan ya había sido propuesto mucho antes por diferentes organizaciones ambientales e indígenas, sólo bajo la administración de Correa tuvo la oportunidad de ser ejecutado.
La iniciativa Yasuní recibió atención y aplausos de diversos actores y regiones, tanto que el término "Yasunización" se utilizó entre académicos y activistas para describir proyectos similares para dejar los combustibles fósiles en el suelo en todo el mundo. La iniciativa no fue menos popular dentro del Ecuador, donde alrededor del 85 por ciento de los ciudadanos aprobaron la idea y propusieron lemas como 'Yo soy Yasuní' o 'Todos somos Yasuní'. A pesar de todas estas buenas intenciones, el gobierno no ocultó la existencia del Plan B para el caso de que los aportes exigidos no se recaudarían y significaba la liberación de los yacimientos petroleros a la industria petrolera. El 15 de agosto de 2013, después de que sólo se había logrado el 0,37% de las donaciones proyectadas, el presidente anunció el aborto de la iniciativa Yasuní-ITT y autorizó las actividades de extracción.
En consecuencia, Correa hizo culpable a las naciones ricas por el fracaso del proyecto y justificó la explotación afirmando que los ingresos eran cruciales para las reformas sociales destinadas a combatir la pobreza y construir escuelas y hospitales, especialmente en la región amazónica. "No era caridad lo que pedíamos, era corresponsabilidad en la lucha contra el cambio climático", dijo el presidente cuando hizo pública su decisión. Era de esperar que el presidente se volviera muy impopular entre los ecuatorianos, dado que una parte tan grande de la población estaba a favor de dejar el petróleo en el subsuelo. Sin embargo, muchos comprendieron el argumento de Correa sobre la necesidad de programas sociales e incluso algunos pueblos indígenas aprobaron la explotación por las mismas razones. La Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador CONAIE, por otro lado, no estaba de acuerdo y lideró las protestas contra el gobierno.
A pesar de su fracaso, la iniciativa Yasuní-ITT no ha sido completamente en vano. En primer lugar, se convirtió en un "símbolo de otro mundo posible y un rechazo del capitalismo extractivo", como lo demuestra el movimiento de "Yasunización" que promueve la idea de dejar el petróleo bajo tierra en lugares tan lejanos como Nigeria. Por otra parte, destacó la corresponsabilidad de nuestro medio ambiente independiente de los estados nacionales, aunque parezca que la comunidad internacional aún está lejos de darse cuenta de ello. Por último, dio visibilidad a un dilema al que se enfrentan especialmente los países pobres con una rica biodiversidad, es decir, la elección entre proteger la naturaleza o proteger a sus ciudadanos de la pobreza.
After drilling firms had discovered 796m barrels of crude oil under the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) block of the Yasuní National Park in 2007, the Ecuadorian government under Rafael Correa, president at the time, was facing a dilemma with no easy solution. On the one hand, he was elected for promises to respect Mother Nature and the rights of indigenous communities after a long period of neoliberal politics that had done just the contrary. The particular region of the Yasuní National Park to be exploited is home to two uncontacted indigenous communities (the Tagaeri and the Taromenane) and displays more biodiversity in one hectare than all the wildlife in North America. On the other hand, Ecuador is one of the poorest countries in Latin America and highly dependent on the export of natural resources.
The country’s energy minister Alberto Costa thus came up with an unprecedented plan to leave the oil in the ground without completely renouncing the needed profit. With the slogan of ‘leaving the oil underground’, the government signed a treaty with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in which Ecuador agreed to resign from the oil exploitation, if 50 percent of the revenues expected for the oil exports would be raised by the international community. The UNDP’s role was mainly the administration of the Yasuní trust fund, to which the contributions were to be paid. The initiative’s discourse was that the Amazon, often referred to as ‘the lungs of the Earth’, does not only serve Ecuador, but was an important factor in global issues such as climate change. Although such a plan had already been proposed much earlier by different environmental and indigenous organizations, it was only under the administration of Correa that it received a chance to be executed.
The Yasuní initiative received attention and applause from diverse actors and regions, so much that the term ‘Yasunization’ became used among academics and activists to describe similar projects for leaving fossil fuels in the soil around the world. The initiative was not less popular within Ecuador, where around 85 percent of citizens approved the idea and came up with slogans like ‘Yo soy Yasuní’ (I am Yasuní) or ‘Todos somos Yasuní’ (We are all Yasuní). Despite all these good intentions, the government made no secret of the existence of Plan B, which was for the case the demanded contributions would not be raised and meant the liberation of the oil deposits to the petrol industry. On 15 August 2013, after only 0.37 per cent of the projected donations had been accomplished, the president announced the abortion of the Yasuní-ITT initiative and authorized drilling activities.
Consequently, Correa blamed the failure of the project on the international community and justified the drilling by stating that the income was crucial to social reforms aiming at the combat of poverty and building of schools and hospitals, especially in the Amazon region. "It was not charity that we sought from the international community, but co-responsibility in the face of climate change," the president said when he made his decision public. One could expect that the president turned himself very unpopular among Ecuadorians, given that such a large part of the population was in favor of leaving the oil underground. However, many people comprehended Correa’s argument concerning the need for social programs and even some indigenous peoples approved of the exploitation for the same reasons. The national umbrella organization of indigenous peoples CONAIE, on the other hand, was not in accord and led protests against the government.
Despite its failure, the Yasuní-ITT initiative has not been completely in vain. First of all, it turned into a “symbol of another possible world and a rejection of extractive capitalism”, seen in the ‘Yasunization’ movement urging to leave oil in the ground in places as far as Nigeria. On another note, it highlighted the co-responsibility for our environment independent of nation states, although the international community may still be far from realizing this. Finally, it gave visibility to a dilemma that especially low-income countries with a rich biodiversity face, namely the choice between protecting nature or protecting their people from poverty.
González, Javier Dávalos and Samuel Silveira Martins. 2017. “La iniciativa Yasuní-ITT: Del sueño de la moratoria petrolera a la pesadilla de los derechos colectivos.” ARACÊ – Direitos Humanos em Revista 4, no. 5: 346-364.
Lalander, Rickard. 2016. “The Ecuadorian Resource Dilemma: Sumak Kawsay or Development?”. Critical Sociology 42: 623-642.
Temper, L. et al. 2013. Towards a Post-Oil Civilization: Yasunization and other initiatives to leave fossil fuels in the soil. EJOLT Report No. 6.
Watts, Jonathan. “Ecuador approves Yasuni national park oil drilling in Amazon rainforest”. The Guardian, August 2013.
By Erick Sandoval
Al pensar en las exportaciones latinoamericanas, respeto al sector agrícola, muchas cosas pueden venir a la mente, pero un ganador único sigue siendo vital para la economía de Ecuador: los plátanos. Ya mencionado en un blog anterior en nuestro sitio, Ecuador es reconocido por ser uno de los diecisiete países mega diversos del mundo, produciendo una gran cantidad de frutas agrícolas para la venta en el mercado mundial. Ha ocurrido innumerables veces que uno está en el supermercado local comprando bananas solo para descubrir que tienen etiquetas en ellas que indican que son un producto de Ecuador. Esto no debería ser demasiado sorprendente al saber que Ecuador es el mayor exportador de banano del mundo.
De la producción a la mesa de la cocina:
Los plátanos tardan aproximadamente nueve meses en crecer y los plátanos se empaquetan comúnmente para dar protección contra organismos nocivos. Una vez que se cosechan, se colocan en una 'percha' y se trasladan a instalaciones de saneamiento y calidad que preparan las bananas para enviarlas al puerto para su exportación al mercado global. Es muy probable que estos productos se envíen a través del puerto de Guayaquil, el más grande del país. Una vez que los plátanos han llegado al puerto de destino, son llevados a las instalaciones a las que se someten a más procesos de inspección y reapertura. ¡Después de esto, los llevan a los mercados locales antes de que lleguen a la mesa de su cocina!
Las exportaciones de banano representan más del 2% del PIB del país y más de un tercio de la producción agrícola del país. Estratégicamente, los principales sitios de producción del país se encuentran en El Oro, Guayas y Los Ríos, todos bastante cerca del puerto de Guayaquil, en comparación con otras provincias. En algunas de estas regiones, las plantaciones de banano se extienden hasta donde alcanza la vista. Algunos de los principales importadores de bananas ecuatorianas son Rusia, Estados Unidos y la Unión Europea, que representan más del 65% de las exportaciones ecuatorianas de bananas. También hay otros países competidores importantes, incluyendo Costa Rica, Guatemala y Colombia. Curiosamente, Asia produce más bananas, pero Ecuador sigue siendo el mayor exportador en una comparación de país a país.
Existen muchas variedades de banano que se producen en Ecuador, pero la más común es el banano Cavendish. Dado que hay una gama amplia de opciones cuando se trata de plátanos, plátanos verdes son bastante comunes para saborear. A veces se les llama maduros cuando comienzan a ponerse amarillos y dulces. Algunos platillos que requieren plátanos en Ecuador son empanadas, corviche, balones de verde, patacones, maduro con queso e incluso empanadas. El plátano es, sin duda, un cultivo importante para el país, económicamente y culturalmente. Para aquellos que aún no están convencidos de la genialidad de los plátanos, aquí hay algunos datos divertidos: los plátanos flotan en el agua, puede frotar el interior de una cáscara de plátano para ayudar con la picadura de mosquito, y las cáscaras de plátano son realmente comestibles si se cocinan.
Ya sea que esté interesado en la cocina, la sostenibilidad o las cadenas de suministro mundiales, el plátano ofrece una forma sabrosa de involucrarse y aprender sobre Ecuador y su abundancia de ofertas. Two Rivers Reserve fomenta el ambiente perfecto para voluntarios y turistas por igual, para sumergirse en un enfoque emocionante y memorable para comprender la cultura local y general de Ecuador.
When thinking of Latin American exports, with regards to the agricultural sector, many things can come to mind, but a lone standing winner remains vital to the economy of Ecuador: Bananas. Already mentioned in a previous blog on our site, Ecuador is renowned for being one of seventeen mega diverse countries in the world, yielding a plethora of agricultural fruits for sale in the world market. It has occured countless times that one is at the local supermarket shopping for bananas only to find that they have labels on them indicating they are a product of Ecuador. This should not be too surprising when knowing that Ecuador is the world’s largest banana exporter.
From production to kitchen table:
It takes about nine months for the bananas to grow and the bananas are commnonly bagged to provide protection from harmful organisms. Once they are harvested, they are placed on a ‘hangers’ and moved to sanitation and quality facilitaties that prepares the bananas to be sent off to the port for export to the global market. It is very likely that these products are shipped via the port in Guayaquil, the largest in the country. Once the bananas have arrived at the destination port, they are taken to facilities to which they undergo further inspection and ripening processes. After this, they are taken to local markets before they arrive at your kitchen table!
Banana exports account for over 2% of the country’s GDP and over a third of the country’s agricultural production. Strategically enough, the main production sites of the country are located in El Oro, Guayas, and Los Ríos, all fairly close to the port of Guayaquil, compared to other provinces. In some of these regions, banana plantations stretch as far as the eye can see for kilometers. Some of the largest importers of Ecudorian bananas are Russia, US, and the European Union, which account for over 65% of Ecuadorian banana exports. There are other major competing countries as well, including Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Colombia. Interestingly, Asia produces more bananas but Ecuador remains the biggest exporter on a country to country comparison.
There are many banana varieties that are produced in Ecuador but the most common is the Cavendish banana. Given a wide array of options when it comes to bananas, plátanos verdes, or green plantaines, are quite common to savor. They are sometimes called maduros when they begin to turn yellow and sweet. Some dishes that use plantaines in Ecuador are empanadas, corviche, balones de verde, patacones, maduro con queso and even empanadas! The banana is undoubtedly an important crop for the country, economically and culturally. For those who are still not convinvced of the awesomeness of bananas, here are some fun facts: Bananas float on water, you can rub the inside of a banana peel to help with mosquito bite itching, and banana peels are actually edible if cooked.
Whether you are interested in cuisine, sustainability, or global supply chains, the banana provides a tasty way to get involved and learn about Ecuador and its abundance of offerings. Two Rivers Reserve fosters the perfect environment for volunteers and tourists alike, to immerse themselves in an exciting and memorable approach to understanding the local and general culture of Ecuador.
Fuentes y Referencias/References
“Banana Industry in Ecuador: World’s Largest Banana Exporter.” Bizvibe 8 Jan. 2018, https://www.bizvibe.com/blog/food-beverages/banana-industry-ecuador-largest- exporter/.
“Ecuador and the World of Bananas.” Adama, https://www.adama.com/en/our- commitment/global-farming/farming-stories/ecuador-and-the-world-of-bananas
“Fried Green Bananas.” Ecuador Beach Front Property, 20 Aug. 2014, http://ecuadorbeachfrontproperty.com/ecuadorblog/?p=932
“From Farm to Table: Inside the Journey of a Banana.” Inside Edition, 12 Jan. 2019, https://www.insideedition.com/farm-table-inside-journey-banana-49829
“Fun Banana Facts.” The Banana Police, https://thebananapolice.com/fun-facts/
By Mara Precoma
Currently, a lot of us are longing for adventures that extend beyond zoom calls, backyard hangs or grocery store visits. Once it will be safe and possible to go, I highly recommend considering Ecuador as your next travel destination. Until then, here are some tips to get you prepared and pumped:
When to Go
In general, there is no best time to visit Ecuador. When you should go really depends on where you want to go. Visit the coast during rainy season from December to May. During dry season, it can get cool and overcast. The highlands are best experienced outside of the warmer, wetter period which occurs from December to March. It rains all year long in the Amazon, but December to May is especially soggy. It is cooler during this time, but wildlife will be harder to track down whilst mosquitos will constantly track you down. The best months to visit the Galapagos are December to May. There is a higher chance of rain, but it is warmer and the sea will be calmer. If you plan on combining mainland and the Galapagos, try to visit in May. Avoid peak season from June to August and late December to January if you are on a budget.
How to Get Around
The cheapest (but also slowest) way to get around cities is by bus. Taxis are affordable, but only metered in bigger cities. If they aren’t, ask about the fare beforehand. When available, use EasyTaxi, Cabify or Uber to call a ride. For long-distance trips (also to Peru or Colombia), consider taking the bus. Prices are affordable and the network is extensive. You can usually buy tickets at any bus station. Flights within the mainland are relatively affordable and short, but certainly less environmentally friendly or adventurous. Trains are not the best option to travel around the country, but there are routes specifically designed for tourists. Use WAZE or Map.Me to find locations and download maps which work without internet connection.
How to Safe Money
Note that Ecuador uses USD as its official currency. Apart from the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador is one of the most budget-friendly countries in South America. $30-35 per day can get you far if you are staying in hostel dorms, eat at food stalls or markets, and use public transportation. Stay at hospedajes (family-run guesthouses) for a few dollars per night. Eat a filling and cheap almuerzo (a set menu) for lunch. Couchsurf for free accommodation and new friends.
How to Stay Safe
Ecuador is generally a safe travel destination. The most common type of crime is petty theft. Be careful when you use public transport and avoid old town Quito at night. Be aware of taxi crimes and only use registered taxis. Install the tourism ministry’s travel safety app so responders can locate you if necessary. Be extra careful in border areas. Remember that some places are at high altitude; be aware of dehydration and altitude sickness. Avoid unfiltered tap water.
What to See
In recent years, tourism has become an important part of Ecuador’s economy. According to the Central Bank of Ecuador, tourism constitutes the third-largest source of non-oil revenues, after banana and shrimp exports. Due to its spectacular natural wealth, the country is best known for ecotourism and adventure travel. Whilst ecotourism can help to finance conservation efforts and support local communities, it is important to note that it can also result in cultural and environmental exploitation and deterioration, particularly if “ecotourism” is used as a marketing strategy only. Be as considerate as possible when traveling so that future travelers and Ecuadorians will be able to enjoy all that the beautiful country has to offer.
Brown, Vicki. “Best Time to Visit Ecuador.” Responsible Travel, 2020, www.responsibletravel.com/holidays/ecuador/travel-guide/best-time-to-visit-ecuador.
Dearsley, Bryan. “10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Ecuador.” Planet Ware, 9 Sep. 2019, www.planetware.com/tourist-attractions/ecuador-ecu.htm.
Kepnes, Matt. “Ecuador Travel Guide.” Nomadic Matt, 25 Apr. 2020, www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-guides/ecuador-travel-tips/.
Maes, Jonathan. “Ultimate Ecuador Travel Guide (43 Tips).” Ecuador Abroad, Aug. 2018, ecuadorabroad.com/travel-tips/.
Pollack, Vanderlei J. “Tourism in Ecuador Contributes Significantly to the Economy.” Tourism Review, 25 Feb. 2019, www.tourism-review.com/tourism-in-ecuador-growing-in-importance-news10953.
Widmer, John. “20 Best Things to Do in Ecuador & Incredible Places to Visit.” Roaming Around the World, 2 Apr. 2020, www.roamingaroundtheworld.com/best-things-to-do-in-ecuador/.
Woodrow, Christy. “Ecuador Travel Tips: Everything You Need to Know.” Ordinary Traveler, 31 Oct. 2018, ordinarytraveler.com/ecuador-travel-guide.
By Mara Precoma
Eating your way through a country’s specialties is one of the best ways to experience its culture. Ecuadorian cuisine is as diverse as the natural world which yields it. Some dishes can be found in different versions all over Latin America, others are closely tied to specific regions.
Breakfast can be small and quick, or it can mean a cooked, savory meal. Bolón de verde is a typical breakfast or brunch dish made of mashed green plantains which are shaped into a ball, filled with cheese or pork and then fried. Ecuadorians typically eat a bigger almuerzo, a lunch or “menu of the day” which is relatively cheap and consists of three courses. It begins with a hearty soup followed by a second dish which includes a protein and rice or pasta, and ends with dessert (often cake or fruit salad) and coffee. Dinner is usually lighter, and might just be a coffee or herbal tea with bread.
In the coastal region, beef, chicken and seafood served with rice, lentils, pasta or plantain are popular. Shrimp ceviche is a very common coastal dish. Ceviche is traditionally made of raw fish or seafood marinated in lime juice. Other well-known coastal dishes include encebollado (a fish-based broth) or encocado de pescado (fish with coconut sauce).
In the mountain area, typical dishes include pork, chicken, beef or guinea pig (cuy) served with rice, corn or potatoes. A popular street food or family gathering dish is hornado, a pig roasted whole. A popular vegetarian highland dish is locro de papas (potato stew served with avocado). The southern mountain area features typical Loja food such as repe (green banana soup), cecina (roasted pork) or miel con quesillo (a cheese desert).
In the rainforest region, a dietary staple is yuca, a starchy root. Across the nation, yuca is processed into a bread called pan de yuca, which is often consumed with fruit-flavored yogurt drinks for breakfast or as a snack. The rainforest also produces a lot of fruits such as bananas, tree-grapes or peach-palms.
Some dishes that are generally popular include patacones (fried mashed plantains), llapingachos (pan-seared potato balls filled with cheese, often served with peanut sauce), seco de chivo (stew made from goat), fritada de chancho(pork in a red sauce), empanadas de viento (large pastries filled with air and cheese), and humitas (steamed corn dough wrapped in a corn husk). Wherever and whatever you eat, you will probably find aji (a condiment based on tree tomatoes) on the table.
A traditional non-alcoholic drink is pinol, a beverage made from machica (toasted barley flour), panela (unrefined sugar), spices and liquid (usually milk). Another popular non-alcoholic beverage is colada morada, a purple liquid which is prepared with corn flour, fruit and spices. In the Andean highlands, people like to drink a hot, spiced, alcoholic beverage called canelazo.
Several dishes are served on special occasions. Leading up to Easter, fanesca, a rich soup made with twelve kinds of beans and grains is usually eaten. During the week before All Soul’s Day, colada morada and t’anta wawa (stuffed bread shaped like children) are consumed.
When talking about food, an important factor to consider is a country’s (mal)nutrition profile. Ecuador performs relatively well against other “developing” countries, but it still experiences a malnutrition burden. Obesity and diabetes amongst children and adults are particularly worrisome. In 2014, the national prevalence of under-five overweight was 8%. 8.5% of adult women and 7.5% of adult men had diabetes. Meanwhile, 14.9% of adult men and 24.7% of adult women were obese. Compared to the global average, Ecuadorians consume more saturated fat and trans fat as well as less vegetables. On the positive side, undernourishment levels have gone down from 18.8% to 7.9% between 2001 and 2017. Ecuador’s food and nutrition situation reflects its’ socio-economic reality and its capacity to produce, transport and commercialize nutritious foods. National policies and nutrition plans (such as sugar-sweetened beverage tax) exist, but more needs to be done, especially with regard to rural areas’ food supply, and nutrition education generally.
Two Rivers Reserve is well aware of nutrition-related problems in its community and hopes to help eliminate community health issues related to nutrition by encouraging intern volunteer projects which include the construction of greenhouses, planting of food or knowledge sharing. At the same time, Two Rivers Reserve wants to make sure that visitors experience the country and the community through delicious local food, prepared with love and according to tourists’ needs.
Barciela, Maria. “8 Traditional Ecuadorian Food You Must Try on Your Trip to Ecuador.” Across Southamerica, 5 Dec. 2019, www.across-southamerica.com/ecuadorian-food/.
“Ecuador.” Global Nutrition Report, 2019, globalnutritionreport.org/resources/nutrition-profiles/latin-america-and-caribbean/south-america/ecuador/.
“Ecuadorian Food: The Most Typical Dishes.” Novo-Monde, 22 Aug. 2019, www.novo-monde.com/en/ecuadorian-food/.
Longwell, Lance. “15 Ecuadorian Food Dishes Not to Miss.” Travel Addicts, 29 May 2020, traveladdicts.net/10-ecuadorian-food-dishes-not-to-miss/.
“Traditional Food of Ecuador – 9 Dishes You Must Try on Your Trip.” Quito Tour Bus, 2 Sept. 2019, quitotourbus.com/en/traditional-foods-of-ecuador-9-dishes-you-must-try-on-your-trip/blog.
by Mara Precoma
The Indigenous population of Ecuador counts approximately 1.1 million people out of a total population of 17 million inhabitants. There are 14 Indigenous nationalities which are grouped into local, regional and national organizations. Two Rivers Reserve is located in the Kichwa community.
The history of Native Ecuadorians spans roughly 11,000 years. Evidence suggests that humans settled in the coastal and Andes region before they settled in the Amazon region. Nowadays, the majority of Indigenous peoples lives in the Central-North mountains, most of them in rural areas. Around 24% of the Indigenous population lives in the Amazon area. Across the country, Indigenous nationalities with just a few hundred members exist. These communities find themselves in especially vulnerable positions as they lack economic and political power.
Ecuador has made theoretical steps towards the recognition and protection of its Native population. It ratified the International Labour Organization’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention in 1989, voted in favor of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, and included the idea of a plurinational and intercultural Ecuador in its 2008 Constitution. In reality, however, civil, political, cultural and territorial rights are not fully respected and enforcement of policies is lacking. The introduction of neoliberal politics which favor private enterprise, extractive industries and US-American foreign policy under Donald Trump has put the Indigenous population in an unfortunate situation. Importantly, all of this is taking place against the backdrop of a colonial history during which Indigenous peoples experienced enslavement, abuse and exploitation, and whose legacy lasts until today.
Some of the main challenges which Indigenous peoples are currently facing concern natural resource exploitation and large-scale mining activities. Both disturb and harm Indigenous lands and ecologically fragile areas, leading to existential concerns with regard to self-determination, health, cultural practices and sources of income. While these are some of the most visible and internationally covered struggles experienced by the Indigenous population, they are by far the only ones.
Latin America has the widest gap of income inequality in the world. In Ecuador (and many other countries), Indigenous peoples are most likely to be disadvantaged and to live in poverty. The percent of Indigenous who are poor is 4.5 times that of the non-Indigenous population. Being poor is highly correlated with low levels of educational attainment. Indigenous adults have received an average of 4.5 years of formal education whereas non-Indigenous adults’ formal education average amounts to 8 years. Differences in education lead to differences in human capital attainment, which, combined with discrimination, explains the earning gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. Knowing that differences in education translate into differences in wages and living standards, Two Rivers Reserve aims to equalize educational opportunities for local children. One of the many projects which volunteers and interns can engage in is teaching local school children basic English and science.
Another area where the Indigenous population experiences disadvantages concerns health services. Even though these continue to improve, access to mainstream and emergency healthcare is still limited, especially for rural populations in the Andes and Amazon regions. In partnership with volunteers and interns, Two Rivers Reserve tries to offer health and wellness activities such as first aid classes or dental checkups to the local population whenever possible.
Despite many challenges, Ecuador’s Indigenous population continues to fight socio-political disadvantages, discrimination and exploitation. 2019 was marked by anti-government protests and demonstrations which denounced the national government’s economic policies. In the fall of 2019, Indigenous mobilization peaked and was met with violent action by repressive forces, in particular the police. At a time when racism and police brutality is receiving unmatched media attention, we would be well advised to pay more attention to the struggles and resistance of Indigenous peoples in Latin America and all over the world as well. Two Rivers Reserve acknowledges that listening to and learning from Indigenous voices is one of the most important steps towards the liberation of the Indigenous population. We celebrate Indigenous cultural expression and support the battle for Indigenous rights and rights implementation.
“Ecuador.” Minority Rights Group International, 2018, minorityrights.org/country/ecuador/.
García-Aracil, Adela, and Carolyn Winter. “Gender and Ethnicity Differentials in School Attainment and Labor Market Earnings in Ecuador.” World Development, vol. 34, no. 2, 2006, pp. 289-307.
Mamo, Dwayne, editor. “Ecuador.” The Indigenous World 2020, 34th edition, The International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, 2020, pp. 396-409.
“World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples – Ecuador.” Refworld, 2018, www.refworld.org/docid/4954ce3223.html.
by Mar Precoma
Last week’s article listed the many threats to Ecuador’s spectacular biodiversity. This article will outline the main threat to biodiversity conservation: Deforestation. 34.5% of Ecuador’s land area is covered by forest. In 1986, the forest cover amounted to 48.1%. During the last few decades, forest in the average size of 110 American football pitches was cleared daily. Ecuador ranks second among Latin American countries in terms of deforestation levels. Of course, this has wide-reaching consequences for nature and humans alike.
Historically, deforestation occurred mainly in the coastal and Andes region. The coastal lowland region is still experiencing a high degree of deforestation caused by enhanced population pressure. The Andes region displays lesser deforestation, since much mountain forest was already cleared centuries ago. Current forest reduction in this area is usually due to the mining industry.
In the middle of the 20th century, the Amazon region was cleared for crop production. Since the 1970s, the main driver of deforestation in the Amazon Basin has been the expanding oil industry. This includes the construction of roads, pipelines, camps, oil wells and heliports as well as the land settlement, agricultural expansion and timber harvesting which follow after the establishment of roads. In recent decades, 650,000 hectares of Ecuadorian rainforest have been lost. Almost 70% of the Ecuadorian Amazon is divided into oil blocks, with more blocks to be added during the next years. The rainforest is covered by more than 9500 km of roads (roughly twice the distance between the US-American East- and West Coast) which connect more than 3400 oil wells.
Deforestation has large impacts on both climate and biodiversity. By destroying habitat it threatens the livelihood of many species and the functionality of ecosystems. At the same time, deforestation has grave consequences for local and global climate regulation. Deforestation in tropical regions is one of the main components of climate change. Burn activities and forest to pasture conversion lead to massive emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases. Global warming and diminished water availability cause even higher pressure on tropical ecosystems, resulting in species extinction.
Humans are deeply impacted by deforestation as well. The Amazon area is home to a variety of Indigenous communities who are being robbed of lands which make up the basis of their livelihood and cultures. Despite their vulnerability, the presence and territorial claims of Indigenous peoples constitutes one of the main obstacles to deforestation. Where ancestral lands are recognized, deforestation is 2 to 3 times lower than outside of those areas. By making it harder to hide environmental degradation, satellite images constitute another useful tool in the fight against destructive industries and compliant governments.
Laws and programs which address deforestation have been introduced, but the Ministry of Environment (which oversees the National Forestry Agency) is often unable to conduct forestry law enforcement due to funding shortage.
Two Rivers Reserve works in direct partnership with the local community in order to build and strengthen resistance to deforestation as pressures on land and cultures grow every day. It engages in reforestation practices in order to restore the area’s biodiversity. Planting trees is one of the many helpful and fun activities which interns and visitors of the reserve can engage in. If you would like to spend time in nature whilst restoring a unique ecosystem, you can visit the website for more information on internships and educational trips.
Brown, Kimberley. “How to Clear the Oil Spills of the Amazon Rainforest.” BBC, 17 Mar. 2020, www.bbc.com/future/article/20200316-cleaning-up-the-oil-spills-of-the-amazon-rainforest.
“Forest Governance – Ecuador.” Global Forest Atlas, 2020, globalforestatlas.yale.edu/amazon-forest/forest-governance/forest-governance-ecuador.
González-Jaramillo, Víctor, et al. “Assessment of Deforestation During the Last Decades in Ecuador Using NOAA-AVHRR Satellite Data.” Erdkunde, vol. 70, no. 3, 2016, pp. 217-35.
Mainville, Nicolas. “Deforestation in the Ecuadorian Amazon: 50 Years of Oil-Driven Ancestral Land Invasion.” Amazon Frontlines, 2019, www.amazonfrontlines.org/chronicles/deforestation-ecuador-amazon/.
Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. In fact, it is one of seventeen “megadiverse” countries, hosts approximately 10% of the world’s biodiversity, and offers two natural World Heritage sites (the Galapagos National Park and the Marine Reserve) – all of this despite its relatively small size (Ecuador is about 35 times smaller than the US). Protecting this great biodiversity as it suffers from human intervention is one of Two Rivers Reserve’s main goals.
Ecuador’s natural wealth can be explained by its geographical, atmospheric and climatic conditions. The country is located in the Neotropical realm, a terrestrial realm which developed a rich natural world during its long separation from the North American continent. Ecuador can be divided into four zones with unique features: The coastal region, the Andes highland region, the lowland Amazon region and the Galápagos Islands. Ocean, beaches, bays, mountains, volcanoes, moorlands, rainforest and rivers offer the perfect backdrop for a richness of fauna and flora. Some numbers help to demonstrate Ecuador’s biodiversity: The country hosts 16% of the world’s known bird species, 8% of all the species of amphibians on earth, over 16,000 species of plants and 4,500 species of butterfly. To compare: Arizona and Ecuador (they are about the same size) host 14 and 140 species of hummingbirds respectively. (If you would like to experience some of this beautiful natural world yourself you should check out the “Travel” section on our website!)
Two Rivers Reserve is located in the Amazon region, close to the city of Puyo. The Amazon biome encompasses the largest tropical rainforest in the world, making it home to an unfathomable number of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. Since one in ten known species lives in the Amazon rainforest, it is called a biodiversity hot spot. The area of the Amazon rainforest located in Ecuador is just a small part of the forest as a whole, but Ecuador is home to the most diverse biosphere on earth – the Yasuni National Park. The Amazon’s role in maintaining regional and global climate functions is indisputable. Yet, it has lost at least 17% of its forest cover in the last few decades.
About 9% of the Amazon’s population is made up of Indigenous peoples. In Ecuador, the Kichwa Indigenous community is the largest Indigenous group in the rainforest region and the country at large. Two Rivers Reserve works with the local Indigenous population to promote sustainable behavior in hopes that our next generations will be able to enjoy all that the rainforest has to offer as part of a harmonious relationship between people and nature.
In Ecuador, the Ministerio del Ambiente y Agua is responsible for the administration of the Sistema Nacional de Áreas Protegidas (National System of Areas Protected). Protected areas represent about 14% of the conserved national territory. Currently, there are 59 protected areas. In Pastaza, the province where Two Rivers Reserve is located, about 13% of the land is protected. However, in order to preserve the country’s biodiversity, more land needs to be protected.
Despite a growth of documentation on the country’s biodiversity, information on Ecuador’s ecosystems is still lacking. Two Rivers Reserve engages in biodiversity monitoring and cataloguing. These are important activities which help evaluate ecosystems, their responses to disturbances and the success of conservation and recovery efforts. Unfortunately, Ecuador’s biodiversity richness is threatened by unsustainable behavior from extractive sectors such as mining, oil, logging, agriculture and industrial fisheries. Urban expansion, human migration, tourism development and introduced species add to the problem. The resulting habitat loss threatens the livelihood of many species, for example jaguars or spider monkeys. A different blog post will provide you with more information on the threats to Ecuador’s biodiversity.
“An Equatorial Treasure Trove.” Fauna & Flora International, 2020, www.fauna-flora.org/countries/ecuador.
“Ecuador – Main Details.” Convention on Biological Diversity, 2020, www.cbd.int/countries/profile/?country=ec.
“Ecuadorian Biodiversity Project.” The Biodiversity Group, 2016, https://biodiversitygroup.org/documenting-biodiversity-ecuador/.
“Inside the Amazon.” WWF, 2020, wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/where_we_work/amazon/about_the_amazon/.
“Sistema Nacional de Áreas Protegidas.” Ministerio del Ambiente y Agua, 2020, www.ambiente.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2020/04/2020_03_30-BOLETIN-FINAL.pdf.
By Mara Precoma
When trying to understand the cultural and political context within which Two Rivers Reserve operates, it is helpful to familiarize oneself with the concept of buen vivir. Those who have heard of buen vivir have likely come across the “fun” fact that Ecuador’s Constitution bestows rights upon nature. While this is true, there is much more to buen vivir – an idea with revolutionary potential.
Buen vivir is best understood as an umbrella term for a set of different, context-dependent positions. It is loosely translatable into “good living,” but the inadequacy of this translation already points out that buen vivir is far from the western notion of wellbeing which prioritizes the individual. Buen vivir describes a community-centric, ecologically-balanced and culturally-sensitive way of life. This worldview is embedded in various Indigenous belief systems across South America, but it is also expressed by critical movements such as feminist thought or environmentalism. Two of the most well-known approaches to buen vivir are the Ecuadorian Kichwa concept of sumak kawsay and the Bolivian Aymara concept of suma qamaña, both Andean conceptions of life which value diversity and a harmonious relationship with nature.
In its more abstract form, buen vivir constitutes a philosophy. It tries to overcome the artificially created dichotomy between society and nature which has resulted in an understanding of nature as an inanimate object which can be sold and owned. Buen vivir advocates for cohabitation with others and nature. At the same time, buen vivir proposes an alternative model of economic development and societal organization. It prioritizes the collective over the individual, the community over the self. As opposed to a consumption-based and profit-driven market economy, buen vivir promotes reciprocity, redistribution and small-scale, local production. It acknowledges that each product comes with a social and environmental price; one which South America pays all too often as its resources are exploited in order to satisfy a global market. Buen vivir also encompasses the legal and political recognition of diversity and the celebration of cultural pluralism. In Ecuador, for example, Indigenous movements are promoting the idea of a plurinational state.
Buen vivir asks for transformations. Not just transformations of the economy, the political and legal system, education or the health sector, but transformations of thought and changes to the ways in which we perceive our surroundings. Rather than a strict blueprint, it is a platform for critical thinking and alternative visions.
Ecuador has shown that buen vivir can be translated into practical strategies. In 2008, the country included buen vivir in its Constitution. Together, economy, politics and society are to promote and protect the principles of sumak kawsay. In Ecuador’s Constitution, buen vivir does not just constitute an ethical principle, it represents a set of rights. Breaking with traditional patterns of environmental protection, nature itself is attributed rights. The Constitution states that “Nature, or Pacha Mama, where life is reproduced and occurs, has the right to integral respect for its existence” (Article 71).
Knowing of the continued environmental degradation which takes place under the eyes of the Ecuadorian government, a puzzling contradiction emerges. With regard to environmental protection, Ecuador’s Constitution seems to be an aspirational document at best. This is why the conservation work of organizations such as Two Rivers Reserve takes on such an importance. However – and this point is not to be underestimated – the constitutional appointment of the Rights of Nature authorizes a rhetoric which legitimizes the public performance of rights claiming, an important step towards the lasting implementation of any claim. Buen vivir is hope, after all.
Balch, Oliver (2013): “Buen Vivir: The Social Philosophy Inspiring Movements in South America.” The Guardian, 4 Feb. 2013, www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/blog/buen-vivir-philosophy-south-america-eduardo-gudynas.
De La Cadena, Marisol (2010): “Indigenous Cosmopolitics in the Andes: Conceptual Reflections beyond ‘Politics’.” Cultural Anthropology, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 334–70.
Gudynas, Eduardo (2011): “Buen Vivir: Today’s Tomorrow.” Development, vol. 54, no. 4, pp. 441-47.
República del Ecuador (2011): “Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador.” Political Database of the Americas, 31 Jan. 2011, https://pdba.georgetown.edu/Constitutions/Ecuador/english08.html.
Hannah is a 26-year old student from Germany. She has a very special connection to Ecuador since after her high school graduation she spent one year working and living in a children’s home in Quito. In order to understand and reflect on her experiences from a more academic point of view, she specialized in Latin America during her Bachelor’s in International Studies and learnt a lot about the region’s culture, history, politics, and economics. Although she has visited several other Latin American countries since then, Ecuador will always hold a special place in her heart. If she is not busy traveling, Hannah tries herself at yoga or entertains her two beloved cats.