The Web of Life World Tour: Ecuador

Do you remember what is “The Web of Life world Tour? ” mmmmmm… nop? a quick reminder for everybody. While in Germany at D&F Academy, the 13 fellows (including myself) of the Engage in Conservation Project mentored by Jane Goodall, organized the “The Web Of Life World Tour: Hamburg” to share our findings from collaborating at D&F Academy and to engage in an open exchange with guests from our host city Hamburg. We aimed to raise questions about the nature of the Web of Life and what can be done to preserve and restore it worldwide. We dreamed of organizing the Web of Life in our countries and encourage all Roots & Shoots groups to do the same. That is how The Web of Life World Tour: Ecuador was born. I decided to organize with the community of El Malton an event on the 27th of July 2012 to offer a variety of activities to engage community members and guests in biodiversity conservation, providing a space to discover the community’s needs and assets and meet youth talents. A traditional community fair provided a framework for many conversations and allowed guests to interact with community members and understand their social and economic situation. There we had the chance to taste delicious traditional snacks from the area, including pineapple mermelade, sugar cane syrup, home made cookies, green plantain chips and more.

Then, we all had the chance to experience the unique ambiance created by the theatrical performance of the Council of All Beings, which was hosted by children from the school of El Maltón. Children represented many animals from the Otonga forest and speak out from their perspective. They shared their concerns with their human fellows.

The bees, the armadillo, the golden beetle, the frog and many more raise their voice during the event.
Finally, to close The Web of Life World Tour: Ecuador, a professional group of acrobates and theatre performers, engaged everybody in a highly interactive discussion about biodiversity conservation.

Childen, youth and adults shared a beautiful moment and committed to protect the Otonga cloud forest. People live the forest, respect the forest and help each other to build a better future for their families.

Thank you to all Vivamos al Bosque Team, Giovanni Onore and to Otonga Foundation for their support! It was an unforgettable day 😉

The Earth is not just a planet…it is HOME!!

“The natural environment we treat with such unnecessary ignorance and recklessness was our cradle and nursery, our school, and remains our one and only home.”
-Edward O. Wilson (2002)

I feel touched every time I read Ed Wilson’s quote. I do think about it and it is difficult for me not to care about the Earth and not to see it as much more than just a planet. What is home for you? For me it is a place and a space where I belong to, I care, I look after and can’t live without. It is where I found peace, understanding and love. I’ve been asking myself how can I share my passion with my peers and how can I engage more and more people in this crazy love for life in the Earth.

I’ve been interested in the topic of Conservation of Biodiversity for quite a long time. Fisrt from the scientific side, understanding biodiversity at its more basic level, then from the social side, understanding the knowledge, believes and perceptions of people who rely on biodiversity and now, I am in the practical side, where I hope I can facilitate a lasting change in the Otonga Cloud forest and its communities.

I see “Vivamos el Bosque” as seeds of hope and consciousness with the potential to empower children and youth to help each other to build a better world. Why did I choose non formal environmental education as the foundation of the project? Well, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) environmental education is the process of giving people the skills, perspectives, knowledge and values to live and work in a sustainable manner. The definition is sometimes difficult to understand and apply but I take “Vivamos el Bosque” as a response to the Earth’s call for help and action… as an invitation to integrate the principles, values and practices of sustainable development into all aspects of our lives.

The importance of non-formal environmental education in developing countries is self-explanatory in the context of Ecuador where factors such as illiteracy, low levels of schooling, high rates of failures and desertions at the primary school level, deficiency in the public services infrastructures and poor educational materials have challenged the implementation of EE programs at the formal level. In 1994, the Ministry of Education of Ecuador incorporated the preservation of the environment as part of its educational system in order to guarantee local, regional and national development, but due to the unstable economic situation, civil organizations and the private sector were forced to assume some of the basic responsibilities of the government such as education and health.

Within contexts where EE at the formal level is limited, experiences had shown that livelihoods in poor communities in developing countries can be improved through non-formal EE education initiatives such as “Vivamos el Bosque”. Therefore, non-formal EE has been an important instrument for rural development since it involves innovative learning methods organized outside the formal school system that aim at developing practical skills, including aspects of health, sanitation and literacy to be applied in real life.

With this scenario in mind, and based on the premise that health and well-being depend upon the quality of the environment, EE and its varied learning process, blend local knowledge with technical/scientific information to foster dialogue, create action oriented solutions, and drive behavioral change instead of only delivering environmental messages to community members.

Environmental education should reach everybody, but for me, children and youth are the ones who can get the most of it. Environmental education can easily show them that it is possible to live in harmony with nature. On one side, children and youth should be aware of the current environmental crisis but they need to be empowered to work for another reality and have the skills to do it! The intention is not to blame on anybody or depress young generations, but to give them hope and inspiration. “Vivamos el Bosque” aims to empower them to become part of the solution. By giving children and youth the space and time for dialogue, reflexion and action, they can choose and build the HOME they want to live in…

What the educational program for children and the one for youth entail will be explained in detail in a separate section. Keep Checking the blog and thank you for all your inputs!

And my life has never been the same again…

There are some moments, people, places or even smells and flavors that somehow impacted me in such a way that changed my way of thinking and living…

While I was a second year student of biological sciences, for example, I had a professor of zoology-entomology, Prof. Onore, who always encouraged me to “think outside the box” and challenged me by taking me out of “my comfort zone” without even noticing it. He had a particular way of sharing knowledge with his students. He mainly relied on the power of story telling and personal experience. He was teaching us about insects, and for every single family of insects he had a special story to tell, a particular anecdote to share or a funny joke to laugh about. He was very engaging! Soooo engaging that I became and entomologist, just like him! You would probably think I liked insects, but actually nooop! I didn’t. I was planning to study neurobiology before meeting Prof. Onore, and I was pretty convinced that was my way!

After converting me into an insect lover, he kept challenging me to move further and further away from my comfort zone. As one of his students, I always felt his support and encouragement, and we developed very quick a nice friendship based on shared values and ideals. In 2005, he invited me to collaborate with some activities concerning environmental education, reforestation, and biodiversity conservation in a cloud forest located in the west slopes of los Andes in Ecuador. He is the executive director of a small NGO that aims to protect the biodiversity of the forest with the active participation of the surrounding communities, especially children. It was my first real experience working in the field and I loved it. The incredible work that he has done in the area, really inspired me to follow his steps and work toward the same goal, protecting the forest by helping people to help themselves.

Since then I’ve been collaborating with several initiatives to preserve one of the most diverse endangered ecosystems in Ecuador, but the most important, since then, I keep my eyes, heart and mind quite open to let the magic of life happen…

En español