Urgent Request for Support for the Awa Federation of Ecuador

May 22, 2002

The 21 indigenous communities which conform the Awa Federation of Ecuador have legal title to 120,000 hectares in northwestern Ecuador, known as the Awa Territory, which represents the last piece of intact lowland Choco forests left in the country. These Choco forests have been recognized internationally as one of the most biologically diverse areas left on the planet. The Awa Federation is a partner in the World Wildlife Fund Choco Ecoregion Project.

Since 1998, the Awa Federation has been developing their own community forest management project. This project has been visited twice by Smartwood, and is well on the way to being certified. Meanwhile, the Awa have begun a very low intensity extraction of 5 to 7 trees per month, using innovative aerial cable systems and preparing and selling their wood directly to a company in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, without intermediates.

The Awa Federation is a founding member of the Working Group on Forestry Certification in Ecuador, and is presently applying for membership to FSC.

While the Awa move ahead with their forest management project, various wood companies, intent upon entering the Awa forests, have increased their illegal intents to force the Awa to sell them lumber. Over the past 6 months, these companies have illegally entered the Awa Territory various times. The Awa Federation has initiated various legal suits against these companies, but every time the legal suits are lost in the courts, due to the companies ability to corrupt Ministry of Environment officials and local judges. A number of these cases are being investigated by the Civic Commission for Control of Corruption.

For years the Awa Federation has denounced these situations to the Ministry of Environment, which has openly admitted their inability to control the rampant corruption of their own officials, and has offered no support to the Awa in their attempt to stop the illegal logging and constant pressure by the wood companies on their territory.

If the Ecuadorian government does not intervene to control the rampant corruption and illegal logging soon, it appears likely that the Awa Federation will not be able to resist the pressures of the wood companies for very much longer.

At this critical point, the Awa Federation asks that members of the FSC social forum, and any other person or institution interested in helping them defend their cultural and territorial rights, write letters to Ecuadorian government officials, in the hope that this international pressure will force the government to take effective measures to stop the illegal logging and control the corruption of government officials.

Points to be addressed in these messages could include the following:

1) The Awa Territory contains the last lowland Choco forests left in Ecuador, and also represents some of the last forests left on the coast of Ecuador.

2) The Awa Federation is developing successfully their own forest management project since 1998, and is in the process of being FSC certified.

3) The Ministry of Environment admits their incapacity to control their own corrupt forestry officials, and despite pleas for help, has not offered concrete solutions for controlling the wood companies.

4) Make a plea for helping the Awa protect their territory, by controlling the wood companies which operate in the San Lorenzo region, and putting a stop to the corruption of government officials in Esmeraldas Province.

Please send your message to the following government officials:

Dr. Gustavo Noboa Bejarano
President of the Republic of Ecuador

Dra. Maria de Lourdes Luque de Jaramillo
Minister of Environment

Dr. Marcelo Merlo Jaramillo
Minister of Government

Dr. Jose Cordero
President of the National Congress of Ecuador

Econ. Pedro Votruba S.
Executive Director of the Civil Commission for Control of Corruption

If you would like more information, you can communicate directly with the Awa Federation at: fedawa@imbanet.net.

Comentarios y Sugerencias / Comments and Suggestions: Marc Becker (marc@yachana.org)

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