Hunger in Ecuador during the COVID-19 pandemicEcuador is a mostly Spanish-speaking nation in South America with a population of about 17 million people. Despite its recent successes in decreasing poverty levels, parts of Ecuador still struggle with the effects of low-income living. One of the country’s greatest challenges is malnutrition, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce hunger in Ecuador in the time of the coronavirus. 

Present-day Challenges

Since the enactment of a lockdown, hunger in Ecuador is increasing for many reasons. Namely, the price of domestic food products has increased due to the shortage of goods being grown and produced. Therefore, access to adequate food supply has decreased. As a result, many Ecuadorians lack food security and are struggling to adhere to healthy diets. People with disabilities face additional challenges. They can receive emergency food vouchers provided by the government, but the vouchers do not last more than a few days. The vouchers are also not being provided to over 20% of the population with disabilities. Many Ecuadorians with disabilities and Ecuadorians in general, continue working despite the risk of contracting COVID-19 because that is their only form of income. Those who are unable to work face starvation.

Additionally, a report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) details concerns about hunger in Ecuador and other Latin American countries in relation to the pandemic. Major concerns for these countries include increased unemployment rates, which could negatively impact families that already struggle with food insecurity. Additionally, these unemployment rates are predicted to force 16 million of all Latin Americans into extreme poverty. Those who were able to afford nutritious meals before the pandemic will have to resort to less nutritious food: if they are able to find food at all. Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s executive secretary, worries that the pandemic will cause a food crisis if interventions aren’t implemented quickly and successfully. 

The Good News

Despite COVID-19’s significant impact on hunger in Ecuador, there is some positive news regarding overall poverty in Ecuador. Although Ecuador is a hotspot for natural disasters, which can destroy crops, the World Food Programme (WFP) works with the Ecuadorian government to prepare citizens for natural disasters before they happen. Specifically, Ecuador’s Secretariat of Risk Management and National Decentralized Risk Management System work with the WFP to calculate how natural disasters have affected food supply so they can learn from past crises. Vulnerable Ecuadorians can attend workshops to learn about emergency preparedness and how to protect their crops. The workshops also provide training sessions about better eating habits on a low budget. With these calculations and workshops, Ecuador can be more prepared for the next crisis. 

Another hunger-relief organization is Banco de Alimento Diakonía, a food bank that works solely to reduce hunger in Ecuador. Its slogan is “Barrigas contentas, corazones llenos,” which translates to “Happy bellies, full hearts.” The food bank’s threefold mission is to reduce hunger, improve nutrition and decrease food waste; the food bank accepts donations in the forms of money and non-perishable foods. Since 2015, Banco de Alimento Diakonía has been a certified member of the Global FoodBanking Network, and it has helped an estimated 16,200 people get access to nutritious food. Fortunately, the food bank is continuing to provide aid during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking Forward

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed economies and ways of life in every country around the globe. It will undoubtedly have long-lasting effects on poverty, such as the prevalence of hunger in Ecuador. However, citizens and governments can be more prepared for the next time a crisis comes along. With food banks, workshops and the right preparations, nations like Ecuador can recover from disasters and emerge with new tools to overcome the next challenge.  

 

Levi Reyes
Photo: Unsplash

sanitation in Ecuador
Located at the western top of South America, Ecuador has improved water regulation and overall sanitation within the last couple of decades. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Ecuador.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Ecuador

  1. Before 2007, organic loads, toxic substances and hydrocarbons contaminated large bodies of water. Ecuador’s government devised a plan to increase overall healthy water flow. The plan consisted of using financial support to create sustainable water management. The lack of healthy water flow led to the exploitation of aquifers on Ecuador’s coast, which melted approximately 33% of the country’s glaciers. Moreover, the lack of water flow led to a reduction of at least 25% of Paramos’ regular water flow, which is a historical area. The improvement of water sustainability allowed Ecuador’s people to access healthy water easily.
  2. In 2019, Ecuador received an $87 million loan from the U.S. to improve water regulation. The loan from the U.S. allowed Ecuador’s government to expand and improve drinking systems. Ecuador has directed the loan towards the achievement of universal access to piped sanitation services.
  3. The country created a National Development Plan in 2007 which prioritized the integration of water management. Many saw Ecuador’s lack of easy access to clean water and sanitation as a detrimental factor that slowed the development of the country’s sustainability. The National Development Plan encouraged a more developed culture for Ecuador’s sanitation. One main goal was to build 1.5 kilometers of sewage networks in Quitumbe and 26 kilometers of interceptors for wastewater management in Checa and la Merced.
  4. Ecuador’s national sectoral strategy established that the country should reach equitable access to potable Water and Sanitation Services by 2030. In the national sectoral strategy, the country strived to divide loans into different sections with regards to water management. As a result, vast improvement has occurred in the country’s economy. In July 2019, approximately 39,197 additional citizens in urban areas obtained new access to improved sanitation services.
  5. The government’s new project hopes to achieve country-wide access to piped sanitation services. The Guayaquil Wastewater Management Project for Ecuador aims to install wastewater catch basins of the urban cities such as Guayaquil. As a result, 2 million citizens will gain access to proper sanitation. Ecuador’s government hopes to ensure that 100% of the wastewater within these basins receive treatment in an environmentally sustainable way.
  6. Currently, 93% of Ecuador has access to basic drinking water. Ever since 2007, there has been more focus on safely managing sanitation services as well as water waste treatment. Due to the implementation of basic sanitation needs in Ecuador’s sustainability plan, improvement is evident within urban and rural areas throughout the country.
  7. Ecuador upgraded and amplified the sewage system and sanitation networks throughout municipalities in Quitumbe, Checa and La Merced. By building several drinking water treatment plants, the government and local workers introduced 39 kilometers of raw water transmission lines from natural reservoirs. Within agricultural systems, Ecuador also installed and put over 400 flow meters for larger consumers. Installing hundreds of flow meters allow farmers and other agricultural workers to maintain and limit the amount of water needed for efficient agriculture.
  8. Ecuador’s improvement within sanitation allowed basic water regulation within schools to improve immensely. Before, numerous schools lacked access to clean sanitation, flushing water and dry toilets. The government’s development plan focused on nationwide sanitation, which involved the implementation of basic water and clean sanitation to just under 7,000 students.
  9. The overall share of people living in poverty in Ecuador has dropped to roughly 4%. Compared to 1998, the poverty line has dropped significantly. Approximately 10% of Ecuador’s population lived in poverty in the late 1900s. Today, only 4% of the population lives in poverty.
  10. Awareness of female sanitation has increased in the last decade. In 2015, the government responded to a higher demand for easier access to female products. Female products such as towels (pads), tampons and pantyliners are more easily accessible in grocery stores within urban and rural areas.

Throughout the last decade, sanitation and easier access to water has increased immensely. While sanitation within the country has improved, with over 90% of the country having access to clean water, the government hopes to close the entire gap and provide accessible water for the country as a whole by 2030.

– Elisabeth Balicanta 
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Mental Health in Ecuador
One of the numerous factors spurred by poverty is mental illness. In many developing countries, those who are mentally ill face ostracization and a lack of support from health care providers. Mental illness may cause substance abuse, which can create further mental issues that prevent those who are ill from seeking assistance. Additionally, people who are mentally ill and abuse drugs in countries or areas where gang activity is common are much more likely to join criminal groups and further exacerbate the prevalence of gang-related violence. Ecuador is no exception to these symptoms. 

Government-funded health care provisions have largely overlooked mental health in Ecuador. Policy regarding mental health does exist, but the provisions are outdated and only 10 percent of the policy’s original content was put into action. Additionally, the policy’s provisions receive no regular public funding, even though much of Ecuador’s health care infrastructure is dependent on public funds. 

The Stigma of Mental Illness

The mental health policies do allow health care institutions to treat those who are mentally ill, however, mental health typically receives less attention than other sectors of health care. The lack of attention towards mentally ill people links back to the social perception of mental illness in Ecuador. People in many developing countries often consider seeking medical assistance for mental issues wrong. People who do not have a mental illness may find it difficult to understand what it is like to live with one. Many ill people do not seek treatment due to stigma and explore alternative methods, such as drugs, to cope with their problems instead. 

Many developing countries have only recently established mental health awareness. In the United States, social stigma still exists to an extent. However, the U.S. has established facilities to adequately treat the mentally ill. That is not the case in many developing countries. In numerous Ecuadorian provinces, people do not treat mental health institutions as primary facilities. Mental health is classified as a primary health care concern under Ecuadorian law, but only 25 percent of the population has access to these services. 

Progress In Mental Health

However, Ecuador is making progress. Rather than focusing on directly funding mental health institutions, the Ecuadorian government is beginning to direct attention to community-based solutions. Trained nurses diagnose mental illness and must make a referral to a primary source of care. Even so, a large portion of the mentally ill in Ecuador does not receive diagnosis or treatment. Groups like McLean Hospital are working to educate Ecuadorians at the university level, as well as at the community level. McLean Hospital believes that the most important step is to educate the public on the truth behind mental illness. Education can drive Ecuador’s perception of mental illness from one of stigma to acceptance and treatment.

Crime in Latin America is a dire issue that pushes millions out of their homes and their countries. By improving the mental health situation in Ecuador, there would likely be a large decrease in gang-related and drug activities. As a direct result, those who are mentally ill would receive adequate treatment and experience a much higher quality of life through the support from their community and health care.

– Graham Gordon
Photo: Wikimedia

global citizen year
In 2008, after winning first place at the Harvard Business School’s Pitch for Change competition, Stanford graduate and aspiring social entrepreneur Abigail Falik established the cultural immersion gap-year program, Global Citizen Year. Falik became inspired to create an opportunity for service available for all rising college freshmen.

Global Citizen Year in Ecuador

As a developing country, Ecuador faces a significant economic strain, especially in its more rural areas. It ranks as the fourth poorest country in South America with a GDP per capita at $11,036.

Global Citizen Year offers five distinct apprenticeships to its fellows, all of which revolve around social justice and complete cultural immersion. The program prides itself on providing an uncensored version of third-world interaction. This stands in contrast to its counterparts, many of which place a patronizing lens over international service.

When a fellow embarks on their mission to Ecuador, they choose between apprenticeships in agriculture, education, environmental conservation, social enterprise or social work. The duties range from working alongside the local government in efforts to protect vulnerable populations, to helping tutor English in local schools, to working in government-run elderly homes.

The following is an excerpt from Natalia Lanzoni’s June 2019 interview with the Borgen Project regarding Global Citizen Year’s unique approach.

Natalia Lanzoni’s June 2019 Interview with the Borgen Project

The Borgen Project: What were the biggest culture shocks—especially relating to the level of poverty—you faced when initially arriving in Ecuador?

Lanzoni: There was obviously a considerably less amount of wealth than the average person has in Cambridge. It kind of permeates every aspect of life, even the little things that you don’t think about what we do here. When I would buy groceries with my host-family we would buy one roll of toilet paper, because that’s what their income allows them. Here we don’t even think about it when we’re buying twenty-four rolls of toilet paper. It means that we have a surplus in our income that we can afford to spend it now. There was a lot of privileges I had that I didn’t even realize. Especially the fact that I was able to travel. The host-family told me they had never seen the ocean, which blew my mind because they were a two-hour drive away. Also, my host parents had to cross the U.S. border as illegal immigrants to find work when their son was born, because the U.S. won’t give visas if they see Ecuador in the papers. Their son lived his first ten years parentless.

The Borgen Project: Can you talk about your service experience in Ecuador?

Lanzoni: For the program, we have what’s called an apprenticeship, which is basically a volunteer job in our communities. So, a lot of people are English teachers or assistants to English teachers. English is important because it is so global. The one I worked for was at a local elderly home, it was run by the government of the town which provided a place for them to hang out during the day. They would come there and do crafts and the home would feed them meals. That home also supported families that lived very rarely, that had no sources of income because they were older. And they lived really high on the mountainsides, so a lot of them didn’t even have access to clean water, or they couldn’t walk all the way to the river because it was too far. They were living in pretty extreme poverty and the organization would also make trips out to do activities with them. Also, deliver them food and supplies for their homes.

TBP: Can you explain the ways in which you believe Global Citizen Year ensures long-lasting improvement on both a personal and social level?

Lanzoni: There are two different parts of how the organization is working to combat poverty. There’s the more obvious one which is the labor, the volunteer work that the fellows do while they’re in the country. But obviously, they’re only 18-year-old kids who don’t have a marketable skill or some niche way in which they can help the community. So I think the organization is more focused on the bigger picture, which is educating the leaders of tomorrow and inspiring young kids who are about to go off to college to involve themselves in social work. People don’t really think about going to college to work for a nonprofit combating poverty that often, so this is a way to expose young kids to those types of fields and to hopefully educates them in ways that they know will tangibly help that community down the line.

Global Citizen Year succeeds in informing its students about the reality of extreme global poverty. In doing so, it builds a force of passionate and motivated youth that will fight the fight to end global poverty. Here is the application to become a Global Citizen Year fellow.

Liam Manion
Photo: Flickr

Self-Determination in Ecuador

For indigenous people in the Americas, one of the greatest struggles has been for the right to their land and autonomy. Historically, this has been an uphill battle, but a recent legal victory by the Waorani tribe in the Amazon rainforest set an important legal precedent for indigenous people’s self-determination in Ecuador.

The Waorani Tribe’s Legal Victory

In the past few years, the Ecuadorian government has been dividing much of its rainforest land, including Waorani territory, into blocks to be leased out for mineral and oil rights through international auctions. The lawsuit contends that the tribe was not properly consulted about the auction. According to Amazon Frontlines, a non-governmental organization that worked with the tribe on the lawsuit, the consultation process by the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Resources had numerous failings in design and implementation.

Some issues cited in the lawsuit were “bad faith and false reporting of compliance, unintelligible communications, grossly insufficient time allocation, unaddressed complexities of translation, and poorly crafted informatic materials.” On April 26, 2019, a panel of three judges ruled that the Ecuadorian government had failed to properly inform the Waorani tribe or receive its consent for its land to be auctioned off. They ruled that the free, prior and informed consent process must be repeated.

A Victory for All Amazon Tribes and the Land

This ruling was not only a victory for the Waorani tribe but an overall win for indigenous people’s self-determination in Ecuador because the Waorani people’s territory was not the only indigenous land up for auction. According to Maria Espinosa, one of the Waorani’s lawyers, the ruling means that, because the land of the other tribes was dealt with under the “same flawed and unconstitutional process” as that of the Waorani, “the State cannot auction off the territories.” This is a huge victory for indigenous people in Ecuador.

This victory has also set a precedent for the rights of the rainforest itself. In 2008, Ecuador became the first country to recognize the rights of nature to exist and act out its processes. Ecuador has some of the most diverse varieties of species on the planet. Globally, it has the highest number of species per area, including at least “1,500 species of birds, more than 840 species of reptiles and amphibians and more than 300 species of mammals.” In Yasuni National Park alone, there is more flora variety than any other place on the planet with more than 20,000 species.

Alternatives to Oil

The Ecuadorian government has appealed the verdict. The South American country is currently the fourth-smallest producer of oil, but it is looking to attract investors in the fossil fuel industry. In 2018, President Lenín Moreno argued that the public-private partnerships in infrastructure, oil, energy and telecoms could bring in $7 billion dollars in investments by 2021.

However, Ecuador has shown success in producing clean energy, and a more sustainable solution to boosting the economy could be found in tourism. With its natural beauty and biodiversity, the Ecuador tourism industry grew by 44 percent from 2017 through 2018, bringing in an estimated 1.3 billion dollars. Through building these sectors, Ecuador could find an alternative to auctioning off its oil rights.

It’s unclear how the courts will rule on the appeal. At the moment, it is a victory for the protection of the rainforest and indigenous people’s self-determination in Ecuador. Even if they lose on the appeal, the Waorani people are not giving up. Nemonte Nenquimo, president of the Waorani Pastaza Organization said, “We have shown the government to respect us, and other indigenous people of the world, that we are the guardians of the jungle, and we’re never going to sell our territory.

– Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Ecuador
Ecuador, a small country in South America, known for its impressive ecological diversity, has made great strides in improving education access for Ecuadorian girls in the past few years.

Still, there are several barriers that prevent many Ecuadorian girls to finish secondary school or make them quit school even earlier.

The top 10 facts about girls’ education in Ecuador presented below are exploring the root causes of this issue, as well as the recent leaps towards progress.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Ecuador

  1. Thirty-one percent of adolescent women in Ecuador do not graduate from secondary school. In indigenous populations, this number is even higher and stands at 44 percent. In Afro-Ecuadorian groups, this number is 42 percent and in the Montubio population, 33 percent. Plan International Ecuador offers scholarships to young women to continue their education, as well as classes to teach parents the importance of their daughters’ education.
  2. In recent years, an estimated 149,572 girls aged from 5 to 17 (about  1 percent of the total population) do not attend school because they are doing domestic work instead. This issue also affects different ethnic groups disproportionately since 13 percent of Montubio girls, 15 percent of Afro-Ecuadorian and 17 percent of indigenous girls are missing school due to domestic work.
  3. Some Ecuadorian families take part in a practice that offers their girls food, lodging or other necessities in exchange for doing domestic work. Cultural and familial expectations prevent the girls from having a choice. In years prior to 2009, The Social Observatory estimated that 718 girls did not attend school because they were doing unpaid domestic work as a part of this type of transaction.
  4. In 2009, 2,083 girls aged 10 to 14 gave birth, while 60,623 births were recorded with mothers aged from 15 to 19. Due to strict legal restrictions on abortions, girls who become pregnant must either give birth or undergo illegal abortions, and the cultural expectation of mothers to assume the majority of parental responsibilities puts young mothers in a position where they are unable to continue their education.
  5. Twenty-two percent of girls in Ecuador are married before they turn 18, despite a Civil Code reform enacted in 2015 that raised the legal age of marriage for girls from 12 to 18. Underaged brides often engage in domestic chores and other marital duties, including premature parenthood, in place of continuing their education. In 2017, two nongovernmental organizations, Let Girls Rise and Girls Not Brides partnered and enacted a plan to advocate for legislative, cultural and social reform to further prevent the marriage of underage girls.
  6. Sexual violence against girls often occurs in schools. In a study conducted by Plan Internacional, it was founded that girls are often sexually abused by their teachers and older students. Ecuador’s education minister has acknowledged the prevalence of sexual violence in schools and the need to combat this issue.
  7. The problems tend to affect women and girls in rural areas more than those who live in urban areas. Fourteen percent of women in rural areas are illiterate, in comparison to 5 percent in inner cities. Rural girls attend school for an average of 7.1 years as opposed to urban girls, who attend school for an average of 10.9 years. In addition to domestic work, rural Ecuadorian women tend to do agricultural work as well. Many rural women are indigenous and face a higher rate of domestic violence.
  8. A staggering 78 percent of Ecuadorian girls are subjected to some form of abuse at home. This discourages girls from attending school by affecting their overall emotional well-being and sense of self-worth. Progressive legislative changes in the past few decades, including the Law against Violence toward Women and the Family (1995) and the rewriting of the constitution in 1998 to include Ecuadorian women’s equal rights in several sections, have been made.
  9. Approximately 2 percent of girls and 4 percent of boys are not enrolled in primary school. Almost 92 percent of girls and 94 percent of boys above the age of 15 are literate. In 2014, nearly 74 percent of girls in Ecuador completed their primary education. In 2015, nearly 42 percent of girls completed secondary school.
  10. There are several nongovernment initiatives working to improve conditions for girls in Ecuador. WE is an organization that contributes to improving girls’ by creating and running girls’ clubs, improving access to water and building and rehabilitating schools in rural areas. Plan International Ecuador hosts workshops for girls that encourages them to envision successful futures for themselves and begin to consider career plans. CENIT is a nonprofit organization that was founded to improve conditions and decrease abuse of girls working in Ecuador and continues to provide integrated educational, vocational, health, social and psychological services.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Ecuador highlight the obstacles that stand between Ecuadorian girls and their education in order to contribute to restructuring oppressive legal and cultural systems that have allowed this problem to persist.

While some of this information can be disheartening, all signs are pointing towards progress for girls and adolescent women Ecuador.

Knowing and sharing these top 10 facts about girls’ education in Ecuador will help increase awareness of these complex issues, as well as the large number of legislators, humanitarian organizations and collective initiatives on the ground that are all paving the way for a future where all Ecuadorian girls will have access to the education and quality of life that they deserve.

– Shannon Mullery
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Ecuador
Ecuador has long welcomed backpackers and tourists from around the world who wish to indulge in its rich culture and diverse nature. For this reason, one will encounter many resources for westerners considering resettling in the country.

The following 10 facts about living conditions in Ecuador focus on its natives rather than on expats who often settle in Ecuador carrying wealth and resources with them.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Ecuador

  1. In 2015, the life expectancy of an Ecuadorian was 76 years. This number is higher than in previous years but still lower than most countries like the U.K. where life expectancy was 81 years in 2015.
  2. In 2016, 22.9 percent of the Ecuadorian population lived below the national poverty line. This is lower than the 64.4 percent living below the poverty line in 2000. However, it is slightly higher than its 2014 rate of 22.5 percent. Thus, this statistic should be monitored in coming years to ensure that the rate does not increase or stabilize.
  3. In 2017, the average monthly wage was $437.44. This number is a slight increase from 2016 when the average monthly wage was $426.92. However, it is still significantly lower than the average monthly wage of $4,893 in the U.S.
  4. In 2018, the unemployment rate was 5.2 percent. A year prior, the unemployment rate in Ecuador was 5.4 percent. This suggests that the country is making slow progress.
  5. The 2018 labor force participation rate was 63.2 percent. This is lower than the 2017 labor force participation rate of 66 percent. There are many possibilities for this trend, including changes in social security systems and increased labor costs.
  6. Seventy-seven percent of indigenous children in Ecuador live in poor homes with daily incomes of just $2 or less. Seven percent of Ecuadorians are indigenous, which means that this 77 percent of indigenous children comprise a significant part of the total population.
  7. In 2016, the literacy rate in Ecuador was 94.4 percent. The literacy rate among women was 93.3 percent and 95.4 percent among men. This is much better than Tanzania where the literacy rate among adults is 77.89 percent. However, it is lower than in Spain where the literacy rate is 98.25 percent.
  8. In 2014, the infant mortality rate in Ecuador was 8.4 deaths per every 1,000 live births. This is down from 15.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2000. However, this number is higher than that of the U.S., which faced just 5.82 deaths for every 1,000 live births in 2014.
  9. In 2017, there was an average of 2.19 children born to every woman in Ecuador. This placed Ecuador in 99th place out of 224 countries in terms of births per woman. Niger was in first with 6.49 births per woman, while Singapore came in last with just 0.83 births per woman.
  10. In 2013, the Ecuadorian government passed communication laws that limit free speech. These laws require the verification of all information that the media wishes to disseminate. This allows the government to protect certain ideas or pieces of information and prevents freedom of expression and participation in national or international affairs.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Ecuador evoke hope for the country’s potential for progress and a sense of urgent need for change. Among developing countries, Ecuador is doing relatively well. It is experiencing steady growth and its poverty rate has dramatically declined. However, it has a lot of growing to do before it reaches its full potential and becomes sufficiently developed.

– Julia Bloechl

Photo: Flickr

Galapagos tourism reduces poverty
Tourism can be an important tool for developing countries to reduce domestic poverty. The global industry is responsible for 5 percent of the world’s GDP and helps provide foreign exchange earnings and over 235 million jobs. Many of these jobs belong to the poor in developing countries because of the labor-intensive and low-skill nature of work in the tourism sector.

Tourism’s Impact

Workers can often make $1,000 to $4,000 a year which can help bring workers and their families above the poverty line. Employment can be scarce in some developing countries, which makes tourism a necessary stimulant in otherwise stagnant economies. International arrivals continue to increase each year, which creates an even greater demand for labor.

One developing nation that sustainably benefits from the tourism industry is Ecuador.

Equador and the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos islands host one of the few remaining natural sanctuaries for marine and bird life such as sea lions, octopi, sharks and flamingos in the world. Many of these species are endemic to the Galapagos, which means that they do not exist anywhere else in the world.

The animal life, geologic activity and lack of development have made the archipelago a premier travel destination for wealthy patrons looking for an expeditionary vacation. The islands continue to gain popularity as the number of visitors has grown from 17,500 in 1980 to over 200,000 in 2012.

The Ecuadorian government has kept pace with growing demand, while still preserving the untouched beauty of the Galapagos by employing a platform of Eco-Tourism.

Eco-Tourism

The World Conservation Union defines Eco Tourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people.” The goals of eco-tourism are to capitalize on the economic benefits of tourism while minimizing the negative effects it can have on the environment and local people.

Ecuadorian policymakers have actualized this approach in a manner that has maximized benefits to tourists, the local population and ecosystems alike.

The increasing popularity of the Galapagos islands for tourists has been met with several regulations designed to protect the environment and interests of the local people. The government mandates that cruise ships must be kept in Ecuadorian ports, which incentivizes international cruise liners to staff their boats with locals and purchase supplies from the mainland.

Poverty Reduction

Such occurrences couples the direct benefits of tourist expenditures on the islands with the indirect benefits of employment, trade, transport, construction and social services.

A study by Edward Taylor entitled Ecotourism and Economic Growth in the Galapagos (2006) found that overall tourism generates $200 million in revenues. Meanwhile, the locally-owned hostels have gained more popularity with tourists as a more affordable option to the small cruises.  These hostels expose tourists to local markets and restaurants, which further directs capital flows away from international cruise lines and towards the people of Ecuador.

Galapagos tourism reduces poverty by focusing on the inclusion and welfare of the locals. The environment has also benefited from this Eco-Touristic approach.

Economic and Environmental Benefits

The islands were made a national park in 1959 and have become further protected as tourist numbers have increased. “Cruises are limited to having 100 guests per trip,” only certain areas are designated for expeditions and 97 percent of the island is protected from human habitation. Measures like these have protected the endemic wildlife of the Galapagos from human interference and invasive species.

The Borgen Project had the opportunity to interview an expedition leader for the Silver Seas cruise in the Galapagos, and he stated that “tourism only adds an average of 1,500 extra people to the islands each day because of the regulations.” Thus, Galapagos tourism reduces poverty without harming the environment.

The conservation measures taken by the Ecuadorian government have minimized the effects of human activity, but the presence of humans has still caused problems for some of the native wildlife.

Migration Ramifications

The migration of mainland Ecuadorians to the three percent of the island not protected by national park statuses has created a presence of feral dogs, cats and goats that outcompete the native animals and bring some to the point of starvation.

The guide even explained that “feral dogs eat the baby giant tortoise eggs and the goats feed on the plants that several of native herbivores rely on to survive.”

A Prosperous Balance

The governing body of the Galapagos has responded by attempting to exterminate these feral animals and create breeding centers for endangered native species, but it’s important for tourists and migrants alike to respect the true natives of the archipelago.

Eco-Tourism, as seen in the Galapagos, should serve as a model for other vacation destinations. The Galapagos tourism reduces poverty through the influx of foreign spending and the jobs created, without harming the natural environment which is allowing tourism to flourish as well.

– Anand Tayal
Photo: Google

Facts About Human Rights in Ecuador

A complicated and complex country, Ecuador has undergone a range of human rights abuses and solutions. Below are the top 10 facts about human rights in Ecuador, which includes the mistreatment of prisoners and corruption in government processes.

Top 10 Facts About Human Rights in Ecuador

  1. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) held hearings over the issues of violence and human rights; however, there were concerns over a lack of state representatives at the hearings. While the IACHR is trying to address social problems in Ecuador, there is still a lack of governmental involvement and interest to have human rights legislation passed.
  2. While the constitution prohibits the use of excessive force, torture or cruel punishment, there have been reports of police officers and guards abusing subjects: On September 4, 2017 human rights organizations reported allegations of torture amongst inmates at the Turi prison center; a doctor examined one of the prisoners and confirmed the claims. Judge Alfredo Serrano acquitted 15 police officers and dismissed charges against 32 other officers under investigation of abuse and exercising excessive force.
  3. President Lenin Moreno publicly endorsed respect for free speech and civil society. In 2013, the previous president Rafael Correa signed a communications law that prohibits and punishes media outlets that cover government issues that are considered public interest — limiting freedom of speech. Lenin Moreno, the new president, was elected last year and expressed interest for supporting freedom of speech.
  4. Prison and Detention Centers have harsh living conditions. Food shortages, overcrowding, harassment from prison guards and meager sanitation and medical services prove to make living conditions severe. Some facilities are reported to have medical services but only for emergency care — medicines are often unavailable and most do not have access to dental care.
  5. Prison officials ignore human rights activists and relatives of the inmates. Officials were expected to provide monthly provisions for prisoners which they did not and would not allow for relatives to purchase basic supplies — such as clothes and toiletries — outside of the detention center.
  6. Some prisoners in these detention centers had not been released after serving their time. Due to corruption and bureaucratic insufficiencies, inmates remained incarcerated even after they had served a full sentence.
  7. Refugees and migrants are denied basic due process. About 150 Cubans were apprehended during a raid in a park — they were protesting an inability to obtain a humanitarian visa from Mexico, which would allow them to travel to the U.S. border. The judges handling the cases did not follow due process and ordered the deportation of the refugees. They were deported before having a chance to appeal their cases.
  8. The government can intervene with nongovernmental organizations. Correa implemented a decree in 2013 that allows the government to interfere with nongovernmental organizations — the decree has dissolved an environmental group and one of the oldest unions of teachers.
  9. There has also been corruption in arbitrary arrests. Under the constitution, citizens of Ecuador are protected from arbitrary arrests and any person can challenge the lawfulness of their arrest. On April 27, 2018, Jimpikit Agustin Wachapa, an indigenous leader, was released after being incarcerated in a maximum-security prison —since December of 2016 — in the town of Latacunga without a judicial order.
  10. Violence against women is also a consistent human rights issue. In November of last year, the national assembly passed legislation that would protect women and girls from abuse and mistreatment; however, president Moreno partially vetoed the bill and proposed modifications in December.

Creating Postive Change

These are the top ten facts about human rights in Ecuador. They are the pressing matters amongst the public, those in detention centers and human rights advocacy groups in Ecuador. Such facts deserve global recognition, consistent improvement and high prioritization.

– David Daniels
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Ecuador
Several aid organizations are working to improve the access that girls have to educational opportunities in Ecuador. According to UNICEF, girls’ education in Ecuador is affected by social factors, and providing girls with access to education that is equal to boys has been an issue for some time.

Statistics Illustrate the Gaps in Girls’ Education in Ecuador

According to UNICEF, approximately 97.4 percent of children in Ecuador attended school in 2013. However, there are still improvements to be made. The organization noted that there still are more than 230,000 children between the ages of five and 17 that are not receiving any kind of education

Social factors make it difficult for some children, especially girls and women, to gain equal access to education. When girls are given away to men by their families as part of an agreement, it is difficult for women to access the educational opportunities that they otherwise would, as their role becomes that of wife and mother.

On this subject, UNICEF has noted, “The Social Observatory of Ecuador has found that for previous years 718 girls do not attend school and are working without remuneration. This condition is possible when the family gives the girl as part of an agreement to ensure that they have food, lodging or for some kind of transaction.”

Organizations Making a Difference

Plan International Ecuador is working to support women as they achieve their professional and educational goals and the issues surrounding girls’ education in Ecuador. Plan International Ecuador started a letter campaign to raise awareness of the issues girls face and the problems that unequal access to education cause for them. More than 1,300 girls wrote letters to explain their struggles, and made paintings to raise awareness about the change needs to take place in the social and educational systems there. Awareness of the issue is an important factor in improving girls’ education in Ecuador.

Some organizations, such as the Manna Project, have taken a more holistic approach to the issue, providing a wide range of services to increase opportunities for women and girls. These include English lessons for both children and adults, job skills training and professional development, among others.

The European Commission has taken the approach of improving the system for both boys and girls. Improving education as a whole and not focusing only on girls’ access to education will broaden the educational opportunities that girls will have available to them. The European Commission has defined its goal as reducing child labor in Ecuador and, instead, giving these children a chance to participate in school. One objective listed on the European Commission’s website is “to prevent 5,000 children from engaging in labor activities and take 2,800 children out of the work environment.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2015 99.3 percent of children in Ecuador were attending school, a sign of progress. However, aid organizations are still looking for ways to improve the child labor statistics. Although the percentage may appear small, in 2015 approximately 75,689 children were working.

The U.S.-based Ecuador Children’s Hope Organization has been raising money to improve the education system in Ecuador overall as well. The aid organization raises money to support other organizations and educational systems in Ecuador, taking the approach of improving the system as a whole as other organizations specifically focus on the social factors that influence equal opportunity in Ecuador. With the work of organizations like this, girls’ education in Ecuador has seen great improvements and continues to progress.

– Gabriella Evans
Photo: Flickr