In July of 2010, Jeroen Kruft of Amigos International, visited the foundation ECOMINGA, which carries out the preservation activities of pristine woodland, 350 hectares of which are financed by Brandstand, the producers of Organic Meltdown chocolate, distributed by Amigos in Benelux and Fennoscandia. Park rangers were gathered to discuss the various challenges native trees and species face in a country where its rapidly increasing population is making more and more demands on the natural resources of Ecuador. The corridor between two national parks, Llanganates and Sangay, is envisioned by Ecominga to become an ‘ecological-corridor’, where communities in the villages desist from cattle ranching and other destructive activities and instead organize eco-tourism, in order to maintain the rich biodiversity in the area.
(Pablo Reyes gives the rangers first aid medicine kits for their work in the forests.)
In Ecuador, examples of an involved local population working toward nature preservation do exist, such as in nearby Baños, which lives from (eco)-tourism, but in most communities a lot of awareness-raising is still required. The Ecominga and Jocotoco foundations therefore visit schools to show children the value of forests and the nearly extinct tapir living in it.
(The tapir, endemic Ecuadorian mamal, in danger of extinction. Local school children receive classes on wild-life and preservation efforts.)
Economic development toward eco-tourism is also needed, such as professional guides and proper accommodations for tourists. Discussions in villages such as Rio Verde are currently under way, and inhabitants are increasingly motivated to plan for an environment-friendly oriented economy. This according to Lou Jost, an American national, who is the founder of Ecominga, as well as a published authority on the mathematics of biodiversity.
(Lou Jost and Pablo Reyes, founders of Ecominga and Jocotoco foundations, partners of World Wildlife Trust and Organic Meltdown.)
The park rangers enjoyed a presentation by Jeroen Kruft about how the Organic Meltdown system of ‘Eat Chocolate, Save Trees’ works: how consumers can see where their tree saved is located by inserting the code on the bar’s wrapper, how to become part of the top-tree-savers and how they become informed about the problems the rangers face daily. They were happy to see that this established a veritable connection between consumers and preservation efforts. They were less happy to hear that Jeroen had failed to bring – meltdown-prone- chocolate to their office but accepted his promise to do so next time!