The San Francisco de Pachijal Community Nursery is an agroforestry project that promotes more diverse, productive, and sustainable land use, incorporating community well-being into its philosophy as a fundamental cornerstone for forest conservation.By Diana Troya
Foto: Diana Troya
“We decided to collect plant species that are in danger of extinction as well as supplying other communities, because in the parish of Pacto there are 24 communities […] They all need to reforest and recover their water sources.”
–Miriam Miranda, San Francisco de Pachijal
The geography of San Francisco de Pachijal is perfect for a project of this kind. It extends from 600 to 1,800 meters above sea level along the western foothills of the Andes in Ecuador. Endangered species such as the White Guayacán (Swartizia sp.) and the common Guayacán (Abebuya chrysantha) are still found in its forests. The local farmers boast an unparalleled knowledge of the forest.
Foto: Diana Troya
Cecilia Redrobán, for example, strolls through the forest picking up seedlings which would be imperceptible to the average person amid so much green. Walter and Tito Cando also have a deep experience with seeds. They know their cycles, light, soil, and climactic needs. Klever Armijos is pleased to share his knowledge of edible and medicinal plants. With every step he takes in the forest, he points out leaves and fruits with different healing properties in the hope that he can share the wisdom he has accrued about these forests and their inhabitants.
The transformational potential of the San Francisco de Pachijal community — focused on the protection, reforestation, and restoration of the Chocó Andino forests as a sustainable way of life — stems from the community’s desire for a holistic sense of well-being, bolstered by its extensive knowledge of the forest, and supported by the coordinated actions of allied institutions and local stakeholders.
“My dream has always been to have a botanical nursery. I was always collecting seeds and germinating them here on my farm to reforest what I could […] I lived from extensive agriculture and cattle ranching for years, but for more than 10 years I’ve focused on conservation. All my production is now organic, and I have tried to implement sustainable livestock rearing.”
–Walter Cando, San Francisco de Pachijal
San Francisco de Pachijal is located in the Parish de Pacto, within the buffer zone of our Tayra and Mashpi Reserves in the Chocó Andino, northwest of the capital, Quito. It is an isolated area that preserves remnants of forest containing tree species that, due to excessive logging, are no longer found elsewhere. These forests are therefore an important reserve for germplasm — the genetic diversity of plant species — key to the ecosystems of the Andean Chocó. This genetic ‘bank’ allowed the community of San Francisco de Pachijal, together with several institutions, to develop its Community Nursery project as a sustainable way of life that aims to promote the reforestation and regeneration of the forests of this bioregion, so rich in biodiversity.
The implementation and development of the San Francisco de Pachijal Community Nursery was coordinated through the combined work of various institutions and the community. Fundación Futuro together with CONDESAN, Fundación Imaymana and Mindo Cloudforest Foundation, with the support of the Flemish Fund for Tropical Forests, carry out projects in the region to conserve and restore montane forests, part of which include activities that promote the development of sustainable systems local production. Additionally, the nursery is the community-based organization San Francisco de Pachijal Foundation’s first project. It seeks to design and execute projects that promote sustainable development to improve social, environmental and economic conditions in the area. At Fundación Futuro, we are committed to this form of articulated work, convinced that by joining forces with related organizations we can multiply the positive impacts on behalf of the forests of the Chocó Andino and its communities.
“The community nursery has shown us how we can help each other as a community, as neighbors… We can work together, stronger. It’s not, for example, about one person who owns the nursery, and that one person gets all the benefits. The benefits go to the whole community, as well as generating jobs and reforestation projects in the places that need it.”
–Miriam Miranda, San Francisco de Pachijal
In San Francisco de Pachijal, as in many communities located in biodiverse territories, the main means of subsistence has historically been the extraction of natural resources, whether logging, extensive cattle ranching, or small and large-scale mining 1, activities that have weakened the social fabric and caused disputes in the area. On the other hand, this reality also prompted a large section of San Francisco de Pachijal’s population to work together with the Foundación Futuro on strengthening the community’s shared desire for long-term well-being. Our priority is therefore to promote the implementation of sustainable livelihoods that can guarantee a dignified life for all through the protection of forests. The well-being of the community is the fundamental cornerstone for the conservation of forests that contribute to ecological connectivity and the mitigation of climate change.
“A bright future, a good life and peace… that’s what it’s all about!” Walter Cando
1: Mining activity also entered the territory in 2001: the company, Natural Resources Company NRESC s.a. — formerly known as CURIMING s.a.— began its lobbying through a series of polarization mechanisms, rupture of the social fabric, and violation of prior consultation rights. Between 2020 and 2021, alongside the local Pacto government, the revocation of the mandate for the mining concessions was requested and a citizen proposal delivered to carry out a popular consultation, which was denied in the first instance.