Monday, December 8, 2014

Farming Communities, Environmental Groups Continue Fight to Save Intag Region in Northwest Ecuador

 “Yesterday I was running down the path to bathe in the waterfalls, and passing a pile of leaves they turned into butterflies and flew away. This is a magical place. Thank you for sharing it.” Despite gains in corporate incursion, many Intag residents are hoping that this “magic” can continue to be their largest export to students and tourists from the US, Europe and Japan.  -Carlos Zorilla, organizer, Intag Cloud Forest Reserve & Education Center
Photo: Dina M - Flickr
Imagine an environmental paradise in northwest Ecuador, where the local farming communities are self-sustaining. This paradise is known as the Intag reegion, an area blessed with a microclimate diversity. As a result, local growers have produced a lush cast of mixed fruits and specialty crops-- from shade-grown coffee to papayas, blackberries and plantains, to the uncommon tree tomato. In fact, the tree tomato has been the third most valuable individual crop per hectare for small-scale family farmers, surpassed only by coffee and sugarcane. Such gastronomical specialties, along with a keen sense of self-sustaining environmental protections and local autonomy, began attracting a growing consumer base for exports, tourism and environmental activism both within Ecuador and in foreign markets.

Community farmers and land owners have benefited from a gowing market for ecotourism and specialty, fair trade and organic products, in addition to the region’s notoriety for grassroots environmental activism. The interest and foreign demand for Intag’s agricultural and cultural products is firmly evident in the Intagblog, which displays the important link between Intag community resistance, foreign environmental and human rights activists, and foreign consumer markets that specialize in organic, fair trade produce, crafts and environmental-based tourism. The area housing the Istag communities was the first region to be granted the status of an “Ecological Canton”.
Photo: Dawn Paley - Flickr
The problem for this community of 17,000 residents, is that the area is also attractive to the multinational mining companies, who have their eyes on the huge deposits of copper and other minerals in the area. The communities of the Intag region, operating under the defense and protection created via local resistance and organization efforts, fended off a Japanese company in the 1990s and Canadian mining concern Ascendant Copper Corp. more than a decade later.  The mining industry has not abandoned its efforts to gain access to the natural resources in the area.  This time, a mining company has obtained the support of Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa's administration.  In the second half of 2013, Ecuador's  Empresa Nacional Minera del Ecuador (ENAMI) signed an agreement with the Chilean mining firm CODELCO and, without consulting local communities, reopened the project in the second half of 2013.

In this week's issue of NotiSur (as well as a previous issue in March 2014), Luis Ángel Saavedra reported that intervention of ENAMI and CODELCO in the project comes at a time when Intag is fragmented and unable to sustain its long-standing determination to defend its territories. Will the residents of Intag finally lose out to the mining industry?  Even under these adverse conditions, the resistance continues, as evidenced by the emergence of the campaign entitled CODELCO Out of Intag.

-Jake Sandler

Also in LADB on Dec. 3-5...
Follow us on Twitter @LADBatUNM

(Subscription required to read full LADB articles. Click here for subscription information)

No comments:

Post a Comment