Through the joint efforts of NCI, farmers organizations and municipalities, the 183,000 acre Colambo – Yacuri Conservation and Development Area was formed in 2002. The area contains the southern extension of the mountain range that shapes Podocarpus National Park, and its shrub deserts and cloud forests are key to the preservation and continuity of the ecosystems of southern Ecuador and northern Peru.
The Conservation and Development Area is comprised of a number of natural areas, the largest being 44,500 acres of desert and cloud forest in the Espindola region. Crucially, this area is the direct source of drinking water for a nearby population of 16,000 people. A number of projects have been executed in the area by NCI including the improvement of community management of the ecosystems and the development of local productive systems such as with the toronche, a fruit native to the region.
In 2007 and 2008, Nature and Culture assisted the communities of Malvas, Chaquito, Paletillas de Malvas, and Totumos in the development of a program to benefit from the fruit of the Palo Santo tree. The local community members harvest the fruit in a sustainable manner (collecting only 10% of the fruit from each tree) to extract essential oils. This work is carried out in partnership with Loja Technical University and these fragrant oils are sold to Natura, a Brazilian cosmetics company and the producer of Amor America perfume, which is currently marketed in several countries around the world. In 2008 this project received a certificate from Ecocert, which guarantees the sustainable nature of this community program. Amor America perfume exemplifies our dedication to protecting threatened ecosystems while improving local livelihoods.
NCI’s La Ceiba Natural Reserve protects 25,000 acres of threatened tropical dry forest in southwestern Ecuador, and is the core area of the La Ceiba Conservation and Development Area (CDA). The CDA includes 17 communities and 370 families, the majority of whom subsist on goat and cattle raising, and growing seasonal corn. Here, NCI works closely with local communities on a wide range of sustainable projects such as honey production by native bees, production of several goat’s milk cheeses and yogurts, and the creation of an internationally-marketed perfume from the fruit of the Palo Santo tree. This methodology ensures the economic well-being of local community members while simultaneously protecting the ecosystem. The region is home to 31 species of birds found only in this area (11 threatened by extinction), 20 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 56 species of trees, some of which are used for construction such as the guayacán and hualtaco.