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EL CHOCO ANDINO, THE SEVENTH BIOSPHERE RESERVE OF ECUADOR

The area covers some 286,805 hectares, of which some 14,000 are covered by forests

The UNESCO included the area in its system of Biosphere Reserves. Between 2014 and 2016, Biosphere reserves in Ecuador received USD 4 million from the country, except for Galapagos islands. Just 45 minutes North West from Quito is the recently declared Unesco Biosphere Reserve, the Choco. This area seeks to show the world that it is possible to have a harmonious relationship between development and conservation.

The 286,805 hectare territory received the international distinction this week in Indonesia. The most important component is that its inhabitants were the main promoters of this declaration becoming a reality.
Inty Arcos, Technical Coordinator of the Mancomunidad/commonwealth of Chocó, says that the processes to achieve sustainable development in the area began about 20 years ago and were strengthened four years ago.
The 3 counties, the 9 rural parishes and the 76 communities that make up the mancomunidad have been in charge of promoting environmental governance and sustainable land management by supporting producers to improve their production quality, performance and contribute to the conservation of ecosystems.
Arcos says that the mancomunidad is also working on environmental education in ways to strengthen sustainable livestock, organic agriculture, permaculture and new technologies.
The activities of the commonwealth/mancomunidad allowed this area to be taken into account for the application before Unesco. In June of last year the files were sent and this week they finally received the news they were waiting for to ensure the sustainability and protection of their territories.

Saadia Sánchez as Unesco representative for Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela explains that seven aspects were taken into account for the declaration that refer to the equilibrium and relationship between those who make use of resources and the biosphere.
The Chocó Andino on this occasion met all the requirements, but will have to strive to maintain its status. The international organization will review the conditions of this area in the future and, if they do not meet the parameters, the country will be warned and then the area may be removed from the list of the Unesco Global Biosphere Network.

For Manuel Peralvo, Research Coordinator of the Andean Forests Program of the Consortium for the Development of the Andean Ecoregion (Condesan), the interesting thing about this model is that it seeks the participation of the population, local governments, Non-Governmental Organizations and nationals authorities. The challenge is to create a governance platform with these actors.
Tarsicio Granizo, Minister of the Environment of Ecuador, says that this is a collective effort. The next step is an "inclusive planning" to define responsibilities among these the budgets that are needed. A meeting is planned for next August 6, 2021.
According to Granizo, there are positive experiences with the other six Biosphere Reserves that exist in Ecuador, since the declaration helped them to give added value to their products and to have greater visibility on an international scale. Belonging to the network also allows exchanging experiences with other biospheres.

In the Dry Forest Reserve, which was created a year ago, villagers are putting a stamp on their items indicating that they come from a protected area, which makes them more attractive to the public.
From 2014 to 2016, it is estimated that Ecuador have invested about USD 4 million in protected areas that are part of the Biosphere Reserves, without including Galapagos. As a contribution from International Cooperation, they received more than USD 4.5 million. Arcos is expected that, after the declaration, support from the authorities will be strengthened but, above all, they will be able to shield themselves against "mining activities". This type of activity will not be allowed in the 3 core areas of the reserves.
These areas include 12 types of forest, a geobotanical reserve, an Ibero-American model forest, nine protected forests, three conservation and sustainable areas of use, and the Andean bear corridor.
By Richard Hernandez

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