Project Regions

Schutzwald works in close collaboration with local communities in Ecuador. After working in the Amazon region for many years, we are now concentrating our efforts on the largest mangrove concession of Ecuador, located on the coast in the Gulf of Guayaquil.

Within the framework of the German weltwärts program we also send European volunteers to Ecuador as well as youngsters from the Ecuadorian communities to Klingenmünster in Germany.

The Gulf of Guayaquil is the mouth of the river Guayas and is situated on Ecuador’s South West coast. It takes its name from Guayaquil, the biggest city of Ecuador, located in the North of the Gulf. The region contains some of the largest mangrove forests in Ecuador, ecosystems of great importance worldwide, not only for biodiversity but also for biomass production and the provision of multiple environmental services. Many small villages whose inhabitants live from catching crabs and fishing can be found across the gulf. Most of the villages were founded 100 years ago: at that time, their main source of revenue was mangrove cutting. The wood was used in the area of Guayaquil.

Starting in the middle of the 1970s and intensifying in the 1980s, more and more shrimp farms were established in the Gulf of Guayaquil. For these a large part of the mangrove forests, as well as salt flats and grassland, were converted into shrimp pools and several villages had to be relocated. These land-use conflicts continue to this day.

In the 1990 the regulations governing mangrove cutting were made ever stricter, until the activity was eventually forbidden completely. At the same time, the so-called “mancha blanca”, a shrimp illness, raged and many shrimp farms went bankrupt. The remaining owners started buying their shrimp larvae from labs. Consequently, three major sources of the village inhabitants' revenue were lost: mangrove-cutting, work on shrimp farms, and the selling of shrimp-larvae caught in the river. Thus, they went over to fishing and catching crabs, even though this assured even less income. At the same time, there is a problem of population decline due, among other causes, to the heavy burden put on the ecosystem by pollution by waste water from the shrimp farms and the city of Guayaquil.

In the year 2000, the Ecuadorian government started a program in which villages in mangrove zones were given concessions of use and protection of their surrounding forests. One of these villages was Cerrito de los Morreños in the Gulf of Guayaquil. A condition for obtaining a concession was, and still is, to receive technical assistance and support from NGOs. This task was first taken over by Cerro Verde and Fundación Ambientar. A little later, Schutzwald joined these organisations through a contact established with Cerro Verde. Since then, the concession region has been expanded through cooperation between villages, Ecuadorian biologists and various NGOs. Since 2011 the protected region comprises more than 10.800 ha of mangroves and, along with Cerrito, the villages of Puerto Libertad and Santa Rosa are involved in the management of the concession. Our volunteers participate actively in the processes concerning the concession.