IFRI: A Springboard to Tropical Forest Conservation and Co-Management in Western Ecuador

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"This paper contributes to the literature on common forest resources and their collective management. In 1995, an International Forestry Resources and Institutions (IFRI) study was completed in the Comuna of Loma Alta, a rural farming community in western Ecuador. Despite having property rights to a 6,842 hectare watershed, strong local institutions, and value for forest resources, the Comuna had not organized to conserve or protect highland forest, a key resource that provided water for agriculture. Results of the IFRI study provided a foundation for design and implementation of an integrated conservation and development project (ICDP) financed by People Allied for Nature (PAN) and the Earthwatch Institute, two non-profit organizations based in the USA. The IFRI study suggested that a greater understanding of ecosystem services provided by forests might encourage Comuneros to protect them. When informed that the forest trapped fog and thus provided water for the lowlands, the Comuna decided to establish a 1000 hectare ecological reserve. Through a co-management agreement, People Allied for Nature financed the demarcation and guarding of the reserve. To assess the impact of these ICDP activities on local knowledge and attitudes, two surveys were conducted. In one survey 41% of the respondents from the Comuna of Loma Alta listed water conservation as the most important role of highland forest, whereas only 5% of peers in an adjacent watershed with no conservation project ranked water conservation as most important. Conservation of water and biodiversity were ranked as more important than employment benefits by 28% of the respondents in Loma Alta. Community members that viewed the President of the Comuna as the rule- maker were less supportive of co-management than those who viewed themselves as rule-makers. According to the survey, participation in demarcation of the reserve was biased towards community members who did not approve of co-management. The IFRI method not only provides useful information for stakeholders in social forestry in Latin America, but can be useful as a springboard or foundation for conservation and development projects."
IASC, co-management, common pool resources, forest management, IFRI, community forestry, protected areas, conservation, surveys, Workshop