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Members' Research

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Research in Ecuador

Friends of Ecuador is excited to share findings made in Ecuador. Read about what our members are investing in Ecuador ranging from anthropology to zoology and everthing in between.

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John Clark ('94-97)

Miles away from civilization, two PCVs, John and Cyrus, were the first to live and work on the recently created reserve.  They mapped trails, marked off the limits of the reserve and created its first management plan. Cyrus, a landscape architect, oversaw the construction of cabins, latrines and the two-story field station.  All of the building materials had to be hauled in by mule.  John, a botanist, aided in the construction and dedicated his time to studying plants for the National Herbarium. Over the course of his time at the reserve, John collected more than 3,000 plant species, 20 of which were previously unknown to scientists.  John’s discoveries provided further evidence of Bilsa’s unique environment, warranting its protection.

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Jonas Frank

Decentralization in Ecuador: Actors, Institutions, and Incentives. (University of Potsdam, Germany Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences, 2003)
Why does decentralization occur? Why does a government pursue decentralization at particular moments and fail to do so at others? Five theories have developed that describe and predict why governments shift powers to local levels and others stay behind. Though broad-ranging, all of them have proved inconclusive. I argue that actors and their incentives are the driving force for change. Legislators and labor unions, indigenous people and presidents, finance ministers and regional governors, are the real protagonists of the game of decentralization. Using actor-centered institutionalism as background theory, I develop an explanatory framework that captures the underlying dynamics of competing actors and incentives. I take the case of Ecuador to test my hypotheses and identify six actor equilibria that sustain either centralized, decentralized, or transitional arrangements. A particular sequence of decentralization develops that is determined by actors and their incentives. However each actor equilibrium not necessarily gives way to a more efficient equilibrium. Ironically, it is often the winners of partial decentralization that provide the greatest obstacle to complete reform and achieve efficiency. This analytical framework is useful to think strategically why and how decentralization is initiated and sustained, and why many goals often stay unrealized.

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Andy Perleberg ('97-99)

Implementing Agroforestry at the Family-Level: Modest Projects That Make a Big Difference (to be presented at the 1st World Congress of Agroforestry)

There is a perceived shortage of natural resource conservation assistance available to developing countries, and indeed, many international agencies and non-governmental organizations spend considerable resources attempting to implement environmental improvement projects. In some countries, the problem of visible results may lie in the method of implementation. In cultures where social norms do not fit development projects objectives, there is considerable risk of wasting time and resources. Perhaps the answer lies in the scale and model of the project?

This presentation will share techniques and testimonies from coastal Ecuador. Here, volunteer organizations implemented a successful agroforestry campaign which was suitable and appreciated by forest families, and achievable and cost-effective by local volunteer group efforts. As individual families, modest projects can make a big difference, and as an aggregate group, the ecological impact and large-scale development goals can be realized.

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Julian Quibell ('97-'99)

Civil-Military Relations In Ecuador: (In)Subordination And Challenges To Democratic Consolidation (MA Thesis, Georgetown University, 2002)
The Ecuadorian case is examined through these lenses, focusing first on the Ecuadorian military’s evolving internal and external missions since 1979. This new internal component to the military’s mission combined with the Ecuadorian military’s historically broad definition of its role in economic and social development projects have reinforced the military’s justification for budgetary autonomy, limited civilian oversight and provided spaces for military influence in the political arena. Since transition, the military’s role in internal development projects (civic action and military industries) has given the institution an undemocratic political voice that has included direct opposition to attempts at privatization, the ‘crowding out’ of civilian institutions designed to fulfill these social functions, and played a part in junior officers’ involvement in the 2000 coup. Second, the structural weakness of the Ecuadorian political system and repeated failures of civilian governments to steer the country out of economic and political crises have combined to severely de-legitimate democratic institutions. This de-legitimization, coupled with the largely autonomous and highly esteemed armed forces has created space for increasing military involvement in the political arena. Conscious of its own institutional limitations and the repercussions of blatant interference with the constitutional order, the military has, for the most part, eschewed an overt political role in favor of remaining a powerful ‘behind the scenes’ actor within the country’s democratic system.

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