EarthWays in conjunction with 3 other NGO’s is attempting to protect 200 square miles of delicate rainforest lagoon systems with an extremely rich bio-system and several endangered species, including a pink fresh water Dolphin.
EarthWays has teamed up with Rainforest Information Centre (RIC, Australia), Ancient Forests International (CA, USA) and Rainforest Concern (UK) to protect 56,000 hectares in the Ecuadorian Amazon in collaboration with the local indigenous community of Corazon de Jesus. Our activities combine to protect the environment, promote cultural diversity, and empower people to meet their basic needs while relying primarily on volunteer efforts.
The Panacocha Reserve consists of 56,000 Hectares of primary rainforest, home to jaguars, ocelots, 9 species of monkeys and 500 species of birds. It harbors a network of waterways including the spectacular Panacocha Lagoon where the endangered Amazon River Dolphin live. Important as it is in its own right, Panacocha achieves added significance as the corridor connecting 2 much larger areas: To the south it is bordered by the Yasuni Reserve which is 982,000 hectares and to the north by the 600,000 hectare Cuyabeno park. Unfortunately Cuyabeno has been impacted by oil drilling in the past while Yasuni has a large number of active oil wells. Panacocha has so far been spared oil exploration and we want to try to keep it that way. By strengthening protection for Panacocha, we are helping to establish a huge (more than 1.6 million Hectares) contiguous park in the headwaters of the Amazon. The success of this project depends largely on our work with this largely Quichua community, which has the right to determine whether or not to allow the oil industry and other extractive activities into the reserve.
In 1998-99 we raised adequate funds to purchase 120 acres and a backpacker style lodge as a foothold to protect the entire area, and we are now implementing a small eco-tourism project and a research station at the Panacocha Lodge. We are attempting to halt the ongoing constant pressure of colonization, logging, poaching and mineral extraction. Our presence at Panacocha Lodge will allow us to physically patrol and protect the area and will allow us to develop partnerships with the local people. We are currently seeking funding to develop a strong and lasting partnership with the local community of Corazon de Jesus, largely composed of indigenous Quichua people.
Our work with the Corazon de Jesus is twofold: 1) to actively involve members of the community of the eco-tourism enterprise as caretakers and guides at the lodge and 2) to work with community members to develop and implement revenue generating ecologically and socially sustainable projects. Both of these activities are conducted with the goal of developing a sustainable community thus eliminating the need for the Corazon de Jesus community to seek support from the oil and other extractionist industries.