“The work of NCI has raised awareness about the fact that we must take care of the forest and its natural resources.”

– Brígido Zapata, a farmer in Ecuador’s La Manga parish


One of our guiding principles is to improve the economic wellbeing of communities while conserving nature. This approach, which we call “productive conservation”, enhances a community’s quality of life through the sustainable use of natural resources in conjunction with environmental protection.

We’re helping Ecuador become a leader in the development and promotion of environmental goods and services through an innovative bio-knowledge program carried out with the government and local universities that links the conservation, research and production sectors of the economy. Through this multifaceted approach, Ecuadorian leaders hope to make their country a pioneer in conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources.

One example of these efforts is the Palo Santo program, where we are working with the communities of Malvas, Chaquito, Paletillas de Malvas and Totumos. Community members harvest the palo santo fruit in a sustainable manner (collecting only 10% of the fruit from each tree) and then extract the essential oils. These fragrant oils are sold to Natura, a large Brazilian cosmetics company that produces Amor America perfume, sold globally.

We are working with local partners including the Technical University of Loja and a government office to develop additional markets for this product and increase tangible benefits to the communities. In June 2014, the program was recognized by the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Equator Prize for its outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty through conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity.

In Peru, we’re working alongside communities to increase their rights over resources and improve their ability to reap tangible benefits from conserving natural areas.

One of our flagship programs is improving the local economy by enhancing traditional products. We’ve helped female artisans improve the quality of the baskets they make from the Chambira palm tree, worked with communities to create jewelry out of “vegetable ivory” that is made from the tagua seed, and develop high-value uses of sustainably grown woods. Click here to read the New York Times article, “For Peruvians, Baskets for U.S. Markets Bring a New Way of Life”, about our work with female artisans.

Working with communities to enhance economic benefits through the sustainable use of natural resources reduces activities that degrade forests and enables local people to protect their land.

Sustainable methods implemented by communities with our support led to a 40% increase in fisheries stock in the Yanayacu basin over five years, and a 80% decrease in the destructive harvesting of palm tree leaves in the Tahuayo basin within four years.