Conservation and Environmental Education in the Ecuadorian Amazon

This is a guest post from RPCV Dave Goucher, founder of Conciencia Amazónica.

In the province of Morona Santiago, more than 1000 species of birds have been observed and recorded on eBird (a database managed by Cornell University), representing more than half of the total species of birds in the entire country of Ecuador.  Throughout the last 50 years, on a global level, the observation of birds (known as “birding”) has become a tourism phenomenon, with the positive result of impulsing conservation of habitats to maintain and recuperate forests across the world.  In Ecuador, eco-tourism has been an important source of income specifically to the Galapagos Islands, but  over the last decade, adventurous tourists have made the most rural reaches of the Amazon their destinations to enjoy little explored areas.

CONCIENCIA AMAZÓNICA has made environmental education a primary goal of its foundation projects, using birding as an activity to captivate the younger generations.  Almost every child in any school in the province has a family member who owns a farm, primarily used for cattle production using non-sustainable, non-environmentally friendly ancestral practices.  While cattle production represents over half of the main source of income of the population, applying new methods and a new business model, model farms in San Juan Bosco are presented to demonstrate that an equilibrium between production and conservation is possible.  Visits to these farms include a detailed explanation of the processes undertaken to change pastures, improve beef genetics, as well as the “produce the best” business model, all while maintaining streams clean with natural reforestation, and the resulting re-establishment of flora and fauna.  A farm visit also entails observation of birds, insects, and any other creature encountered while walking the property, demonstrating first hand the abundance of biodiversity adjacent to cattle, as well as emphasizing the eco-tourism aspect of the farm, a sustainable and even profitable, alternative income generating activity.

Several videos have been produced based on resulting videos of wildlife cameras, completing the visit with the demonstration of an entire trophic chain reestablished in areas of conservation in just 10 years, including 2 natural corridors, reconnecting 2 previously isolated tracts of primary forest, to a much larger area of rainforest, allowing for repopulation of such animals as the South American Cougar (Puma concolor), the Mountain Tapir (Tapirus pinchaque), the Collared Peccary (Dicotyles tajacu), and even the rare Northern Pudu (Pudu mephistophiles).

Thanks to Jack and James Agett (RPCV, Ecuador 1966), a new Nature Preserve, Agett-Geary Nature Preserve, has been purchased, currently encompassing 2 cattle farms, forming 300 hectares (750 acres).  The Nature Preserve will be legally declared a Private Reserve and Bird Sanctuary following an extensive biodiversity assessment across the vast property, which ranges in altitude 3800 ft to over 10,000 ft above sea-level; at these altitudes, we expect to observe the rare Spectacled Bear, the only bear species in South America.  This area will be transformed into a large scale, model project of conservation, area of continual scientific study, and an ecotourism destination in the rural Amazon region of Ecuador.

FRIENDS OF ECUADOR has been an essential collaborator with Conciencia Amazonica; since 2020 during the pandemic, funds were raised in the US to assist isolated Amazon communities with essential food supplies, as well as seeds for producing familiar gardens.  Since then, our collaborations have resulted in 6 figure annual donations for community projects, environmental education, scientific investigations, as well as the Agett-Geary Nature Preserve.  Our areas of work have expanded now into 6 of the 12 counties in the Morona Santiago Province.









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Post 2016 Earthquake Project News

In 2016, Ecuador experienced a devastating earthquake on the coast in Manabí. Friends of Ecuador helped support Ouida Chichester with whom we had worked before with a small donation from the Elmo Foundation and a modest contribution from FOE. It was a few thousand dollars to support the work of Fundación Simón Palacios Intriago

We belatedly got a report back on how the funds were spent. The longer document in Spanish is attached, which includes a number of photos. Support was directed to disabled populations in particular. Our support helped provide food, clothing, mattresses, medications, diapers, kitchen utensils and other supplies to displaced families. Some 200 kits of cleaning supplies and food kits were distributed. An additional 180 food rations were provided to disabled persons and families with scarce resources in the two months after the earthquake.

We encourage folks to read the full document and all the photos.

Support also helped with some home repair. Some 80 families with disabled family members were beneficiaries of support on home repair, with the community volunteering their time.

Additional efforts supported educational outreach on post-disaster response and future earthquake protection measures.

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News from Mushuk Yuyay School Program

This is an update on the Mushuk Yuyay school feeding program that FOE supported last year.

The FOE funds were to be used in 3 schools.  400 children were provided with breakfasts and participated in the educational activities.

The program will last through June 2017 due to the assistance of FOE donations. Below is a recent video and some photos from the project.


The Healthy Children, Healthy Futures Program is working with several indigenous Cañaris community schools for the purposes of:

  • Learning the value of nutritious traditional food such as quinoa and amaranth.  For example, one cup (2.4 dl, 245 g) of cooked amaranth grain (from about 65 g raw) provides 251 calories and is an excellent source (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of proteindietary fiber, and some dietary minerals.  Amaranth is particularly rich in manganese (105% DV), magnesium (40% DV), iron (29% DV), and selenium (20% DV.) Also cooked amaranth leaves are an excellent source of vitamin Avitamin Ccalcium, manganese, and foliate. Other home grown crops are barley.
  • Learning how to prepare and serve the foods such as barley or quinoa soup, amaranth, preparation of quimbolitos (traditional Ecuadorian pastries) made of corn flour and wrapped in achira leaves (ancient Andean crop plant with edible leaves).
  • Learning how to plant these traditional foods through the use of demonstration plots.

Picture Album:
Mushuk Yuyay program

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Mushuk Yuyay School Breakfast Appeal

We are proud to partner with the Association of Producers of Seeds and Nutritional Andean Foods on a pilot school feeding program in the Cañar region for which we are requesting donations on their behalf. This has come to our attention from RPCVs Stuart Moskowitz and Alan Adams (Ecuador 1967-69). We are seeking to mobilize $1000 to support a fall program. Read on for full details about the project.

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Fundraising Appeal from PCVs for Gender Empowerment Camps

Feb 3, 2016 update. Thanks to all of you. This project is now fully funded. Friends of Ecuador made a $500 donation, and along with other individual donations, this project was able to raise the $7700 for the camps to go forward. We should be hearing news of how the camps went in coming weeks. We also hope that this proves to be a model for succesful collaboration between RPCVs and Peace Corps Ecuador going forward. Thanks to all of you who supported this effort! 

We just received this fantastic fundraising appeal from PCVs in Ecuador to support GLOW camps for gender empowerment. Three volunteers on the coast — Jackie Urban in Bahia, Julia Schiffman in Pajan, and Yajaira Hernandez in Portoviejo — are organizing camps to be held in February 2016 to help young girls be aware of their rights and the impact of gender roles in their community. Please make your tax-deductible donation now by the end of January so camps can go forward righty away. Click on Girls Leading Our World link at the bottom of the linked page.

See below for a more detailed description.  …

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Volunteer jewelry project

From the project’s website:

Mujeres Cambia (Women Are Changing) is a social venture located in Ecuador whose mission is to provide opportunities for low-income women to benefit themselves and the environment through making and selling products made of recycled materials.

Mujeres Cambia members work towards change within their families, their community, and the world. All products are made by hand out of recycled materials and are priced to ensure that each artist is paid a fair wage.

Living in the coastal fishing villages of Santa Elena, Ecuador members come together to support one another working towards individual goals each member has set for herself. Mujeres Cambia gives women the opportunity to share their creativity outside of the home, to promote eco-friendly practices, and to earn money for their families.

How It was Started

Again, from the project website:

Mujeres Cambia was founded in 2011 by a Peace Corps Volunteer named Jessica who taught recycled arts projects to women in San Pablo. The founding group of women: Jennifer, Elba, Noralma, Alexandra, and Maribel opened up membership when new Peace Corps Volunteers Marisa and Paul started working with the group after Jessica’s Close of Service.

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Student in Need of Support in Guayaquil

This is a note from RPCV Miles Masci who is seeking to help another ambitious youth further their education in Ecuador. Any ideas for him would be most welcome.

A family I was very close to in Ecuador has a very ambitious son who recently matriculated at ESPOL Naval Academy in Guayaquil. The family is now struggling to find the financing to allow him this education he has worked so hard on. I was wondering (beyond self financing) what may be some resources I could use or direct them to? Any ideas? Thanks

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Scholarship Fund for RPCV Host Sister

This is a guest post by Katrina Organ, a recent RPCV from Ecuador. She has started a scholarship fund for her host sister.

Hey Folks! Over the summer as I was finishing my Peace Corps service, I decided to start a scholarship for my Ecuadorian host sister. She is an exceptional kid limited by her family’s economic situation.. you can read more about it on the website. If you can donate, I would really appreciate it, and so would Estefania. Either way, please, SHARE the website! The more people know about the scholarship, the more likely we are to get donations! I REALLY need to get the word out right now. Please share on your facebook, and share via email with friends, co-workers, and family members if you can. THANKS and let me know if you have any questions or suggestions for fundraising!

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2014 Peace Corps Ecuador Calendars on Sale Now

2014 Peace Corps Ecuador calendars are now for sale! Support the work of Peace Corps Ecuador with your purchase of these full-size color calendars featuring pictures taken by current volunteers. Proceeds go to support small project grants and volunteer activities funded through the Volunteer Advisory Council in Ecuador. Past grants have been awarded for the installation of water systems, creation of community libraries, as well as providing start-up capital for numerous other small-scale sustainable projects. Calendars are $10 each. Shipping costs are $5 for each individual order up to 5 calendars to a single address. Calendars can only be shipped within the U.S. Please allow 2-8 weeks for delivery. Contact if you have any questions about your order.

12/15 update. Sales ended

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Un “feliz cumple!” al ‘Donde no hay doctor’

Happy Birthday, Where There Is No Doctor!
Hesperian Health Guides invites you to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Where There Is No Doctor with others who know and love the book! Join us for two free events co-hosted by local Returned Peace Corps Volunteer groups:
Where There Is No Doctor‘s 40th Anniversary Party
Co-hosted by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Northern California
Thursday, September 19th
Berkeley, CA
Co-hosted by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, October 15th
Washington, D.C.
Please come and share stories about your Peace Corps experience, network with other RPCVs, and meet and greet Hesperian staff and board members.
Another way to celebrate this landmark year is by  sharing your story on Hesperian’s website or with other RPCVs through the group ” Friends of Where There Is No Doctor.” Your contributions help make future editions of the book even more useful for community health workers, teachers, volunteers, PCVs, and others worldwide who rely every day on Hesperian information to support healthy families and communities.
Hesperian Health Guides is a small nonprofit organization and depends on your support to keep our books updated and translated. Please consider purchasing a book or making a donation today.

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