CONDESAN invests in rural youth in Ecuador


The Consortium for the Sustainable Development of the Andean Ecoregion (CONDESAN) is investing in the development of young rural leaders, key actors for the sustainability of the mountain forests in the Andean Chocó region of Ecuador. This exceptional territory was recently declared the “Chocó Andino de Pichincha Biosphere Reserve” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for its natural and cultural wealth and its long-standing process of social organization focused on sustainability.

Despite this, young people in the Choco Andean region are increasingly migrating to urban areas due to lack of employment and other opportunities. However, some of the youths have chosen to embrace traditional ways of life.

CONDESAN and the Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation have implemented the Andean Forests Program (AFP), financed by the Swiss Development Cooperation, to sustainably manage Andean forests and make them more resilient to climate change. As of now, the project involves information gathering and sharing about existing good practices in the area. The eventual goal of the AFP is for this research to translate to political outcomes.

One of the most innovative activities currently supported by the AFP and its local partners is the formation, training and empowerment of a network of young rural leaders who are motivated to stay and transform realities in their local contexts, becoming the socio-environmental communicators of the territory.

The organization meticulously selected youth who have proven commitment to their communities in cultural, social and political contexts. Those selected were trained in communication, journalism, photography and video. Manuel Peralvo, the research coordinator of the AFP, said that when the youth are faced with the challenge of doing an interview, writing an article or producing a video, they have to think about what is the story they are going to tell, so it becomes a reflective process where they find new interests, construct identity, and build a new relationship with the people and the territory.

The participants were taken on tours around the region to gain a more comprehensive vision of their territory. On 25 and 26 May, the youth group visited the Bellavista community in San José de Minas. They exchanged knowledge and experiences with the Bellavista community and the Cambugán - Paso Alto Protected Forest bird guide group. At the event, groups and communities illustrated the richness of their communities by having product tastings and exchanging native seeds. There was also a small festival in which many groups showcased their culture, including a traditional dance and a historical play. The youth network’s field trip included a visit to the El Pahuma Reserve, where they saw how a local family, in cooperation with several civil society actors, could contribute to the conservation of water sources and biodiversity.

The communication group has produced newsletters, photos, video footage and a local sustainability festival which was supported by various organizations and covered by local and national media.

The young people’s committed efforts have positioned them as visible actors in the territory, and they are now invited to participate in different dialogues for decision making.

Watch a video about the initiative

News and photos by Ana CarolinaBenítez – CONDESAN

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