Agua Blanca, Ecuador
The Agua Blanca community is located in the province of Manabí, Puerto López canton, in Ecuador. Agua Blanca is recognised as an original ancestral community. It belongs to the indigenous Manta People, who are descended from the pre-Hispanic Manteña culture, dating from the year 600 to 1534.
One characteristic that makes Agua Blanca special is that it is located within the Machalilla National Park. The Agua Blanca community are recognised (de facto, however not legally) as the governance authority of the area by SNAP (National System of Protected Areas). Agua Blanca is also special as it has overcome various challenges faced throughout its history. It is now an organised community actively committed to conserving natural resources and their intangible cultural heritage.
TERRITORY AND TYPE OF USE OF THE ECOSYSTEMS
Currently, Agua Blanca is made up of 80 families and about 300 people. It is a community made up of peasants from the coast belonging to the Manta People. The community territory area is 9,201 ha. The section of the territory conserved by community is 5,000 ha of tropical humid forest and 1,000 ha of dry forest. The main productive activities are ecotourism, goat herding and agricultural production. The territory is zoned into areas of resource use, and areas specifically for conservation.
CONSERVATION OF THE TERRITORY
The main criterion for community conservation is the sustainable use of its natural resources, which is based on the long-term benefits that they deliver to the community. The community has regulations for the use and surveillance of the territory, which are focused on conservation. One of the community’s important conservation measures has been the decision to voluntarily conserve 5000 ha of tropical humid forest. This area is located in the upper part of San Sebastián and it has been intact for 25 years. Despite being within the State protected Machalilla National Park, it is the inhabitants of Agua Blanca who carry out surveillance of the territory through patrols as community park rangers.
GOVERNANCE AND COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT
Agua Blanca meets the three elements necessary for it to be a defined ICCA:
- It has a deep connection with its territory since ancient times
- It has a system of governance of its shared territory with a state national park. This was achieved and has been maintained thanks to the high level of organization and social mobilization
- It has statutes that are focused on the conservation of its territory and that are effective in practice.
The community have zoned their territory so that both the forest and the population live in balance and benefit from this relationship. Making sustainable use of the ecosystem services of their forests guarantees the sustenance and well-being of the community.
LESSONS LEARNED AND WAYS FORWARD
One of the most important lessons learned from the ancestral community in Agua Blanca throughout its history has been the conservation of its natural resources and its link to their livelihoods. This includes community tourism and organic agricultural practices that are carried out for self-consumption. The community has also learned about the management of territory in relation to the growth in population so that the land can be managed sustainably into the future.
This case study was facilitated by the Small Grants Program in Ecuador (PPD/GEF/UNDP – GSI ICCA), in collaboration with the Latin American Association for Alternative Development (ALDEA).
The photographs in this case study are from the Small Grants Program in Ecuador, the collaboration agreement signed with ALDEA indicated that the production, audiovisual, photographic material or generation of documents within the framework of the GSI-ICCA/PPD project are from the PPD.