Ecuador’s indigenous population numbers some 1.1 million peoples with 14 indigenous nationalities.
24.1% of the Indigenous population live in the Amazon, divided into 10 nationalities. The Kichwa people are the largest and live in different areas of Ecuador including the Andes, the Amazon, the coast and on the Galapagos Islands. This is the community we are working with on this project.
The Shuar, who form a nationality of more than 100,000 people, have a strong presence in three provinces of the Amazonian Center-South area, where they account for between 8% and 79% of the total population in the “county”. The rest are spread in small groups across the country.
There are different nationalities with very little populations that are in a highly vulnerable situation. In the Amazon, the A’i Cofán with 1,485 inhabitants, the Shiwiar with 1,198 inhabitants, the Siekopai with 689 inhabitants, the Siona with 611 inhabitants, and the Sapara with 559 inhabitants. On the coast, we can find the Épera with 546 inhabitants and the Manta with 311 inhabitants.
Remarkably, in this age of mass communication, there are still entire communities that have not seen or been in contact with anything Western. Some of these are nomadic people living in the Amazon and the forests.
Although the constitution of Ecuador protects indigenous land from outside exploitation, it’s often the people in power, the mayors, counsel people, judges, legislators who actually fund and profit from illegal mining.
That’s exactly what is happening in Napo Provence where the communities we are working with live. The mayor of Tena, the main city, and many others are destroying so much of the Amazon river that the government had to send in the military. Here is a video we made for a project to teach the Kichwa youth how to podcast.
District 5110, the Medford Club and many others have come together to fund the Nutritional Forest project. We are working with five Kichwa communities to improve their lives. The average Kichwa family earns $65/month.
They are severely malnourished and often only have one meal a day of rice, lentils and a piece of chicken if they’re lucky. Even with that you go anywhere in the community and there is laughter and happy people. They are determined to take control of their own lives and support their families.
This project goes beyond nutrition. They are planting over 110 different native species including traditional medicine. Interestingly enough the communities are as excited about the medicinal plants as they are the food plants. It is a way for them to revive their traditions and share those traditions with their children.
Most of these plants were lost when the missionaries came and cut down vast expanses of forest to raise cattle. The trees survived in family gardens and what they call “Chakras”. Over the last few years Yakum, one of the non-profits leading the project, has managed to collect and plant tens of thousands of seeds. The indigenous people also have gatherings and festivals where the communities exchange seeds.
One of the main suppliers is the ice cream vendor in the park. He makes ice cream from native fruits and donated the seeds. Honestly, between you and me, some of them are acquired tastes. All of them are super-foods. A tasty way to get your vitamins.
A constant threat to the trees is the grass. This grass grows fast and can grow taller than you or me. To combat this every couple of months they have what’s called a “mingas” it’s where the whole village comes out with their machetes to cut down the grass. It’s a long day and hard work. The only compensation they have is a lunch with the same rice, lentils and chicken. That and the hope of someday being able to harvest the produce.
Well, maybe borrow one when you’re here. Don’t think the airlines take kindly to large sharp instruments.
This program is designed so members of District 5110 can actively participate, whether live, hacking weeds, helping with training and sharing in their culture. Or online with monitoring, and other tasks.
One unique thing about this project is the trees are Geo-located via satellite. You can actually go online and watch “your” trees grow. It’s part of their accountability and sustainability.
Because this is a long term project, they are training the kids to monitor the growth of the trees. Armed with mobile phones, measuring tapes, spreadsheet and sticks to triangulate the taller trees they maintain a constant survey of about 50 hectares, that’s 123 acres of new forest. Any dead trees are replaced.
This is project is full of firsts. This is the first year Rotaractor’s can participate in Global Grants. The project is from the Cumbaya Rotaract Club. It’s the first full year with the new Environmental focus. It’s the first post-pandemic year when we can actually visit and participate in global projects. Ecuador is one of the top countries with complete vaccinations so a safe place to start.
District 5110 leads the way in so many things. It is an honor to serve with you.