|Urban and peri-urban forestry in Quito, Ecuador: a case-study. (1997)|
|4. URBAN FORESTRY IN QUITO: RECENT AND CURRENT ACTIVITY|
|4.2. Urban forestry management in Quito 1990-present|
|4.2.2. Major social actors involved in urban and peri-urban forestry in Quito|
The efforts of ex-Mayor Rodrigo Paz and the accompanying change in official attitude towards urban vegetation and parks in the city were also significant in encouraging and facilitating the efforts of private actors promoting the urban environment in Quito in general, and the urban forest ecosystem in particular. These actors represent the entire gamut of civil society in the city, and fall into a number of broad categories. Some observations follow regarding these general classes of private interveners, as background to the summary list of currently active private actors presented in Appendix D.
· Local Non-Governmental Organizations
The private non-profit sector has been key in advocating urban and peri-urban "green" issues within the Quito metropolitan area. Since the formation in the early 1980s of the Quito chapter of the largest national environmental group, Fundación Natura, private citizens have had a large influence in the preservation of existing green space, as well as in the increased level of planting of urban vegetation throughout the city. Fundación Natura has been the NGO which has been most consistently and intensively active in management of the urban forest ecosystem of Quito over the years, both alone and in association with other public and private entities. Highlights of the achievements of this group are presented in Boxes 4.3 and 4.4. A more detailed description of this organization's private management of a peri-urban protected area appears in Box 4.5.
Other environmental groups also sprang up in Quito in the mid-1980s, including Tierra Viva (an associated but autonomous chapter of the Cuenca parent group) and Acción Ecológica, both of which have national-scale agendas, but which have also generally directed some interest and action to urban environmental issues. Tierra Viva is currently not active as an organization in Quito, but was involved in the early 1990s in the establishment of a Protected Forest and Vegetation zone in the Mindo area just to the northwest (but outside) of the legally designated metropolitan area (a district where another Quito NGO, Fundación Maquipucuna, also has a private reserve area).
Acción Ecológica has for many years organized summer youth brigades in the Pichincha Protected Forest, to detect and help combat the frequent fires which occur in this zone at that time of year. Although the effort has been critiqued over the years by public and private agencies because of the lack of training, proper equipment and organization of the brigades, coordination with both municipal officials and INEFAN fire fighters has greatly improved in recent years. In addition, although the on-the-ground effectiveness of the fire detection and suppression activity can be debated, there have been significant positive impacts in environmental education on the youths involved. Acción Ecológica has also been active intermittently in an urban organic gardening project which included for a time a demonstration plot located at the Las Cuadras municipal nursery in Chillogallo (currently inactive) (Yánez, pers. comm., 1995; Galindo, pers. comm., 1995).
Recently, some other private environmental groups in Quito have initiated some action in the area of protection or enhancement of the urban forest ecosystem. These include the recently formed Fundación Amazonas, working under a memorandum of understanding with the Municipal Water and Sewage Company (EMAAP-Q) on issues related to watershed protection in the peri-urban zone of the city (Urgiles, 1995). Other groups planning future interventions involving urban vegetation include Ecourbe, and the Asociación Cristiana de Jóvenes (i.e., the YMCA).
BOX 4.3: Fundación Natura - NGO leader in Quito Urban Forest Ecosystem Activities
Fundación Natura was founded as a national private non-profit environmental organization in 1979, with a special focus on environmental education and policy advocacy on issues of broad interest. By 1983, the Quito Chapter of the organization was created, meeting the need for a non-governmental entity focused exclusively on issues pertaining to the urban and peri-urban environment of the capital city. The Chapter has been under the leadership of Executive Regional Director Wania Cobo since 1986, and has become one of the leading institutions in the country working in the area of the urban ecosystem. The Chapter now has eight permanent full-time office staff working in all areas, in addition to the over 30 full and part-time employees of the Pasochoa Reserve (see Box 3.2).
Although not the unique focus of the organization's work, the involvement of the Quito Chapter of Fundación Natura in urban "green" issues has been extensive over the years. Since 1989 at least one full-time person has concentrated on these issues, including both volunteers from the U.S. Peace Corps, and numerous short-term contracted personnel for specific projects. In addition, the management of the Pasochoa Reserve was formally placed under the direction of the Chapter in 1991. In 1994 the Quito Chapter ceased receiving financial support from the national office of Fundación Natura, and has become self-sustaining through attracting new projects. and donations, selling publications, t-shirts, and greeting cards, and conducting other fund-raising activities. In the area of the urban forest ecosystem, the organization has been able to hire a coordinator to manage existing grant projects and all other matters related to urban green space and forestry projects in the metropolitan area.
The types of activities undertaken by the Chapter have included environmental education, public promotion campaigns, technical training, policy advocacy and watchdog functions, urban forestry planning, tree planting, and management of a protected forest area. In many of these activity areas, the organization has served an intermediary role rather than as a direct service provider, furnishing information, educational materials, technical assistance, training or consultation to local neighborhood associations, city government, private businesses and other groups.
The programmatic priorities of the Chapter have to some degree been determined by the vagaries of funding from both domestic and international sources. Many worthwhile projects related to the urban forest ecosystem have been developed by Fundación Natura staff and funding pursued without success. Others have taken years to finally receive the resources necessary to carry out action. In the area of urban vegetation, for example, there has been a decided bias on the part of international and national funding institutions for tangible projects involving the planting of trees, when at times this activity may be premature and/or inappropriate in the Quito context. Support has also been relatively easy to acquire from local businesses for tree planting as well as production of educational or promotional materials which provide some advertising benefit to the donor company. On the other hand, general advocacy activities, legal work, research on the urban forest, planning support, etc., all strong programmatic priorities identified by Chapter staff and Board of Directors, have received far less consistent funding and generally must be supported as part of the general overhead expenditures of the organization. The list of accomplishments of the Quito Chapter of Fundación Natura in the area of the urban forest ecosystem is lengthy, and much of the organization's work has already been referred to in other sections of this report. Some highlights of the types of projects in which the Chapter has been involved over the years appear in Box 4,2,
One of the major strengths of the organization has been its great power to generate and spread an alternative vision of a healthier and more sustainable urban environment to the general public. For much of the Quito population, Fundación Natura is indeed seen as an advocate and a defender of green space and trees in the city, and the organization devotes considerable time to responding to public concerns on various issues, and representing these concerns to public authorities or private businesses with the power to change outcomes. Because of its historically responsible fiscal and programmatic management, the Quito Chapter has also been able to attract significant support from the private sector of the city, especially those institutions who prefer to work with the private non-profit sector instead of directly with city government. Through its efforts, the organization has in fact developed strong partnerships with both the public and private sectors of the city, and in general maintains positive working relationships with a broad spectrum of Quito society. While Fundación Natura has certainly been known to take strong adversarial positions on urban green issues in apposition to government authorities or other powerful groups in the city, the organization is in general characterized by a cooperative posture and an openness to working with all affected parties to resolve conflicts concerning urban environmental quality.
Like all institutions, Fundación Natura has also experienced failures of some of its efforts in the area of the urban forest ecosystem. Tree planting campaigns have had very mixed results, stemming from the same problems that plague city officials involved in similar efforts, i.e., using plants that are too small, planting in inappropriate places, and not working enough with the community prior to planting. Also, efforts to promote public consciousness regarding care of urban trees, or work with city officials to encourage better planning for the future of the urban forest have only borne moderate results in the short-term (although even under the best of conditions these types of changes typically require many years of sustained effort).
Finally, the generally cooperative approach of the organization has led to critiques of the organization by more confrontational groups in the city, who charge that Fundación Natura is out of touch with the grassroots, emphasizes talk instead of action, and is too conciliatory in the face of authority. The largely middle and upper class constituency of the group has also come under attack. For example, the organization has been called elitist and anti-housing for the poor because of its staunch position against land invasions into the Pichincha Protected Forest on the western edge of the urbanized core (although the organization has in fact directed protests to upper class developments in these zones as well). Interestingly, in the last few years, as many of these same low-income neighborhoods have become more consolidated, even this relationship is evolving into a more positive one. Fundación Natura has now collaborated in a number of projects related to environmental quality and tree planting in the spontaneous settlements at the city edge, in close coordination with neighborhood leaders.
As the Quito Chapter of Fundación Natura looks to the future, it will certainly maintain and increase its already significant level of activity and advocacy on the part of the urban forest ecosystem of the capital city. The organization is consolidating its leadership position not merely within the metropolitan orbit of Quito, but is serving as a national model and an important institutional resource for other cities throughout the country who are becoming more interested in urban green issues.
Source: Fundación Natura, 1983-1995
BOX 4.4: Highlights of Activities of Fundación Natura, 1984-1995
· Bellavista Metropolitan Park: Fundación Natura spearheaded an almost ten year legal and public relations battle to defend the designation of this land as a public open space resource. The fight was finally won in 1992, when the Municipality constructed the first public works on park land, and the area was officially inaugurated as a Metropolitan Park.
· Public Denouncements: Fundación Natura has served as a citizen vigilance group, protesting any and all actions having a negative impact on open space, tree cover, or urban park areas in the metropolitan area, whether or not they are legally sanctioned by public authorities. The group has consistently denounced the encroachment of illegal spontaneous housing, as well as the official "legal exemptions" made for high-income developments located within the boundaries of the designated protected greenbelt of Quito. These interventions have met with mixed success, but a persistent watchdog attitude has certainly had some chilling effect on the pace of such activity. The organization has also successfully opposed further construction of public facilities in the existing Carolina Park within the urbanized core, and has frequently alerted public officials of illegal tree cutting activity in protected areas.
· Urban Forestry Planning: In addition to the direct assistance provided to city officials in developing a plan for Quito's urban forest, Fundación Natura developed the first general methodology to conduct urban forestry planning m the country, for diffusion locally as well as to cities throughout Ecuador.
· Metrópoli Housing Development: Fundación Natura worked with this private housing developer to develop a more environmentally sensitive landscape design, including the preservation of existing ravines and native vegetation on the building site. Due to financial constraints, the green space portion of the project is unfortunately not being implemented in full. However, this collaboration with the private development sector is the first effort of this kind in the country, and will hopefully pioneer the way for more such consultations in the future.
Training and Education
· Urban Forestry Training: The Chapter was responsible for the development of a self-guiding training package in basic management techniques for urban forestry, for use by municipal employees, educators and citizen groups in Quito and elsewhere in Ecuador. Fundación Natura has also conducted many technical training sessions on the urban forest ecosystem for groups of teachers, city workers and citizen leaders.
· Environmental Education: In addition to the production of didactic and promotional materials, extensive use of the mass media, and other outreach strategies, staff of Fundación Natura have given numerous educational presentations to children and adults in school, neighborhood groups and other venues throughout the city. They have also formally sponsored several school tree nursery and seed germinating projects.
· Pasochoa Nursery: The nursery of the Pasochoa Reserve is one of the few native species-producing facilities in the Ecuadorian highlands with a primarily urban market base. With a monthly production averaging 5000 plants of all types, the nursery has also served an important environmental education function for numerous school group projects over the years.
· Planting Campaigns: Fundación Natura has sponsored tree planting campaigns with citizen neighborhood groups, schoolchildren, and employee groups of sponsoring businesses throughout the city. Although tree mortality has sometimes been high, success rates are being improved by better planning, a shift in focus to more private Spaces, as well as the planting of larger tree stock. The organization has also received support form local businesses for some very innovative campaigns to promote tree planting in the urban greenbelt. During the Christmas season, a local vendor of artificial Christmas trees (Sukasa) donates a portion of the proceeds of each sale for the planting of a replacement 'real' tree. Fundación Natura has also developed a programme supported by a local paper products Company to plant a tree in the name of a newbom child, complete with a certificate of adoption for each dedicated tree.
Source: Fundación Natura, 1983-1995
BOX 4.5: The Pasochoa Reserve: A Privately Managed Peri-Urban Protected Zone
A relict forest area located within a one hour drive of central Quito provides educational and recreational opportunities for urban dwellers, and is an example of how the concept of "ecotourism" is being applied in the urban context. The Pasochoa Reserve is a good example of private management of ecologically valuable public lands within easy travelling distance of an urban center. From an urban-based perspective, the project has been a clear success in financial, educational, and environmental terms, but may have had mixed outcomes for local livelihoods.
The vegetative cover of the great majority of the highland zone of Ecuador has been greatly transformed since the arrival of the Spanish colonists in the sixteenth century. Much of the existing forest cover was converted by early settlers to farmland and pastures, a process which continues to this day. Later, the planting of introduced tree species such as eucalyptus and Monterey pine continued the drastic alteration of the landscape and ecosystems of the zone. In some areas, however, particularly those with difficult access, steep slopes, or other characteristics impeding rapid development, the native vegetation of the area has remained relatively unaltered-One of these zones is the territory surrounding the Pasochoa volcano, among the last remaining relicts of Andean forest in the Province.
The Pasochoa Protected Forest is located in the rural parish of Uyumbicho, in the Mejia canton, 45 kilometers south and east of the urbanized core of Quito, and about eight kilometers from the rural metropolitan parish of Amaguaña, The area is technically situated just outside the boundaries of the formal jurisdiction of the Metropolitan District of Quito, but its current use is dominated by the urban-based citizenry of the capital city.
In 1978, the local environmental group Fundación Natura first proposed the establishment of a protected area in Pasochoa, and conducted a preliminary assessment of the zone. In 1982, the organization successfully acquired the legal designation of a 319 hectare parcel of the forest as a Protected Forest and Vegetation area by the national Ministry of Agriculture (Ministerial Accord No. 0360). This land had formed part of an ex-hacienda belonging to the national Ministry of Public Health. Under a 14 year trust agreement, the agency turned over administration, protection and management of the Pasochoa Protected Forest to Fundación Natura shortly after its declaration as a reserve. In 1984, the Ministry ceded an additional 25 hectares as part of the reserve, and in 1989, an extension of the lease was signed with Fundación Natura, which recently expired in 1996. The future management of the park was still in question at the time of publication, since some representatives of the Ecuadorian government have stated that the lease with Natura will not be renewed.
The area falls within three major Holdridge life zones, i.e., Low Moist Montane Forest, Montane Wet Forest and Subalpine Rain Páramo. The reserve has three dominant types of vegetative cover. Within the central caldera, there is a highly complex and diverse primary forest, including some rare and endangered native tree species, e.g., Ceroxilon sp. (Palma de Ramos), Podocarpus sp. (the only native conifer of north central Ecuador) and Polylepis reticulata. Exotic pasture grasses grow on the edges of the caldera and on the outer low slopes; while on the higher slopes (above 3000 m.) páramo vegetation dominates. More than 120 species of birds have been sighted in the reserve, as well as a high diversity of snakes, insects, mammals and marsupials. Current land use inside the Pasochoa Protected forest includes about 27% primary forest and 52% secondary forest growth. Surrounding the eastern border of the reserve, there is an additional 300 hectares of primary forest which is currently not included in any protected area.
The Pasochoa Reserve has proven to be one of the most popular natural areas in the country, and currently receives more than 30,000 visitors annually, 60% of whom are school children from within the Quito metropolitan area. An additional 38% are other Ecuadorian tourists (including adults from Quito), with about 2% of the visitors from other countries. Its enormous popularity among urban residents of all ages reflects the potential to achieve protection of a valuable forest resource close to a major metropolis, while taking advantage of economic development opportunities as well.
The environmental education and financial success of the reserve is due to more than the attraction of its natural features, and the staff of Fundación Natura has worked hard over the years to build an excellent programme of interpreted trails, guided walks, environmental education events and displays, overnight lodging and other facilities important to attract visitors. There is also a native tree nursery on site, which has a monthly production of 5000 plants. These plants are for sale to the public, as well as used in reforestation of the reserve area itself. Much of the initial financial support to build the existing infrastructure at Pasochoa was acquired through the support of local businesses, international donations, and fund-raising activities, although the reserve is currently self-sustaining.
The establishment of this pen-urban nature reserve, although successful overall, has not been without problems. As in other parks and protected areas throughout the country, land use conflicts involving some pre-existing residents of properties surrounding the park have consistently occurred. There are no human inhabitants residing within the park, but the land was traditionally used by local residents for many purposes. Much of the land neighbouring the Protected Forest is used as cattle pasture, and wandering cows still at times cause damage to vegetation and facilities inside the protected zone, leading to conflicts, at times acrimonious, with some area landowners. The woodlands of the Pasochoa volcano have also traditionally served as a source of firewood for residents of the neighbouring rural parishes. Hunting has been intense as well, especially for wild turkey, pumas, rabbits and goats. Further, local residents have entered the area to collect native palm leaves, epiphytes and mosses during Holy Week and Christmas. Although the extraction of flora and fauna still persists, these activities have diminished notably due to the protective measures taken by personnel of the reserve, with positive impacts on the State of the forest, but unmeasured (and potentially negative) outcomes for local household economies,
Partially in recognition of this need to incorporate local concerns for economic development, a significant priority for Fundación Natura has been the involvement of the area residents in the management of the forest and in sharing the benefits of ecotourism which accrue to the Pasochoa Reserve. The park provides some employment to local residents, for example, including three forest guards, seven guides, three restaurant personnel and one person staffing the gift shop, representing 44% of the permanent on-site staff of the reserve. Other temporary employment opportunities arise for projects such as road maintenance or facility construction. In addition to direct economic benefits to the community provided by these jobs, the training given to reserve staff has helped to raise ecological awareness among some local residents, who have now adopted preservationist values in their conception of the Pasochoa area, and in their desires for its future development.
Source: Bustamante, 1993; Bradley, 1989; Cobo, pers. Comm., 1996
In addition to environmentally-oriented organizations, grassroots neighborhood associations in various sectors of the city have become more involved in recent years in urban forest ecosystem issues. In the spontaneous and generally low-income settlements at the edge of the urban core, the "environmentalist" agenda has in the past sometimes been viewed as antithetical to more immediate objectives of adequate housing and service provision for local residents. However, especially in more consolidated neighborhoods, attention is now being turned to more long-term quality-of-life issues, and several organizations are requesting outside assistance and organizing activities related to local environmental conditions, notably the Federación de Barrios del Noroccidente de Quito and several neighborhood groups in the southern part of Quito (Sáenz, pers. comm., 1995; Campos, pers. comm., 1996). It should be noted that most of these activities related to the urban forest ecosystem have been carried out in conjunction with Quito environmental NGOs, municipal agencies and/or international assistance organizations, and thus to some extent may bear the imprint of the priorities of these institutions, rather than those of the communities themselves.
In at least one other case, a vigorous effort was mounted by one local government employees housing cooperative against municipal efforts to expand urban green space. For over ten years, owners of housing lots in this cooperative politically and legally resisted a municipal mandate to create the metropolitan Bellavista Park, an action requiring the public acquisition of their property. Although the legal battle seems to have finally been definitively won by the Municipality, it serves to highlight the heterogeneous motivations behind community organization in the city, some of which may work counter to the health of the urban forest ecosystem.
In addition to groups born within particular neighborhoods, other Ecuadorian community development groups have entered the realm of urban environmental management. The Centro Andino de Acción Popular (CAAP), which has historically worked in rural agricultural areas in the northern Ecuadorian Sierra, has recently become affiliated with urban peripheral settlements at the Quito city edge to work on urban quality of life and health and sanitation issues. To date, these activities have not explicitly included actions related to urban vegetation.
Organizations focusing on women's issues in the city (e.g., CEPAM, CEPLAES) have also not had an active role in the management of the urban forest ecosystem to date. These groups are demonstrating a growing interest in the quality of the urban environment in recent years, however, especially as it relates to family health and sanitation issues, and certainly have great potential to become more active in promoting the positive benefits of urban plants in the lives of women and families.
Finally, it is important to recognize that environmental, community development and neighborhood association movements of Quito are all characterized by extreme dynamism, and the number of groups varies from year to year. This institutional fluidity is due to a number of factors including changes in priorities and financial support of international funding institutions, ideological and strategic rifts internal to organizations, and the evolving needs and priorities of locally-based citizen actors. It is impossible to predict how many of the existing groups will be functioning actively within five years, how many new groups may form, or what the focus of their activities will be.
· International Non-Governmental Organizations
International NGOs have been involved in management of the urban forest ecosystem only indirectly, through their support to both local public and private institutions. Beneficiaries of international private involvement have included the Municipality of Quito (e.g., Direction of Planning, Subdirection of Parks and Gardens), as well as most of the NGOs described above. The support of international institutions is important to the effectiveness and long-term viability of virtually all local NGOs working in this area. Among the private international organizations which have been involved are American Forests and Partners of the Americas, as well as various European and North American foundations and other organizations. These groups have supported urban tree planting and production, the publication of educational and promotional materials, and the development of a proposal on peri-urban fire protection programme. Recently, the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), an urban environmental organization which emerged out of the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development, has been actively supporting a grassroots project to restore damaged ravine areas in marginal neighborhoods in southern Quito.
Finally, other major international organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), CARE, Plan International, and Save the Children, have been large supporters of environmental work in the country, but are not currently active in the realm of urban forestry in Quito.
· Private Universities
There are several private universities in Quito (e.g., the Universidad Católica, the Universidad de San Francisco, the Universidad Tecnológica Equinoccial and FLACSO), but none has been directly active in the area of urban forestry to date. The Catholic University (Pontifica Universidad Católica del Ecuador) has a recently formed Department of Architecture and Design, in which there has been interest in offering a specialization in urban landscape design.
· Private Businesses
During the administration of ex-Mayor Rodrigo Paz (1988-1992), a prominent and influential Ecuadorian businessman in his own right, a large amount of private money and in-kind goods were donated for civic ends in Quito, including resources directed towards the improvement of public green spaces. Unfortunately, no specific figures are available on how much support this has involved. Within the Subdirection of Parks, at least, the level of private aid has diminished somewhat under the current administration of Mayor Mahuad, although some resources are still available from the private sector. Among the businesses which have at some time given support to the Municipality are: Texaco, Banco de Pichincha, Coca-Cola, Güitig, AGA, Wesco, and countless other small and large enterprises.
Some private businesses in the country have been hesitant to donate funds directly to public coffers, and have preferred acting through local NGOs. Fundación Natura has been an important intermediary in this regard over the years. The organization has successfully attracted the support of dozens of local businesses to assist with tree planting and promotional campaigns related to urban forestry, independently and in conjunction with municipal authorities.
· Unaffiliated Private Landowners
Not all the private actors influencing the urban forest ecosystem are associated with organized groups, and certainly a significant part of the patterns of land use, land tenure and land cover in the metropolitan area is the product of the rise and fluctuations of the private urban land market. Actions of private property owners which attempt to maximize economic and other benefits from their lands (and directly and indirectly affect vegetation) include: transfer of ownership, fragmentation of lots, installation of infrastructure, construction of housing or businesses, expansion of agricultural use, as well as outright speculative land dealing. Within individual properties, thousands of private decisions are also made regarding what kind, how much and where to plant vegetation. All these private decisions are shaped and coloured by the policy and economic environment of the Quito metropolitan area, and are influenced by the knowledge and cultural values of various sectors of the populations. While it is difficult to make generalizations about such a diverse public, it is easy to conclude that in sum, these actions have led to a net loss of vegetative cover relative to pre-settlement conditions, as well as a substantial change in the type of vegetation present. At the same time, public consciousness regarding the importance of urban vegetation has certainly risen in the last ten years, although how much of that awareness has translated into changed behavior vis a vis urban plants in Quito is an open question.