What is the Amazonian Platform?
The Amazonian Platform for Forests, Climate, and Human Wellbeing is a collaborative agreement between the six provinces of the Ecuadorian Amazon and the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Amazon of Ecuador (CONFENIAE, which consists of 11 Indigenous Nationalities) to conserve and provide sustainable livelihoods for the Indigenous peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon. In the first phase of this pact, three provinces, Pastaza, Zamora Chinchipe, and Morona Santiago, have committed to effectively manage and protect 11 million acres of continuous forest, making up the largest biological corridor of continuous forest in Ecuador and sequestering an estimated 2.3 billion tons of carbon.
A little background
In 2017, Nature and Culture, collaborating with the Pastaza Provincial Government and the province’s seven Indigenous nationalities, helped create the 6.2-million-acre Pastaza provincial protected area. Early funding from the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force and others helped catalyze our success in Pastaza. Subsequently, we worked with the provincial government of Zamora Chinchipe to create a 1.1-million-acre provincial protected area in 2018. In February 2023, the provincial protected area of Morona Santiago, named “Tarímiat Pujutaí Nunka Reserve” (roughly translated as “Land of Wellbeing and Plenty” in the Shuar language), was declared, again with Nature and Culture support. This protected area added an additional 3 million acres to the Amazonian Platform.
All three provinces were accepted as members of the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF), allowing them access to international funds to accelerate implementation of the Amazonian Platform. Starting this year, Nature and Culture is expanding the Amazonian Platform northward, partnering with the provinces of Napo and Orellana to preserve an additional 3 million acres of carbon-rich rainforest, bringing the total platform to 14 million acres of continuous rainforest.
Benefiting front-line Indigenous and local people
The provincial protected areas of Morona Santiago, Pastaza and Zamora Chinchipe were created and are being managed to reflect Indigenous cosmovision and ancestral ecological knowledge and management practices. Territorial zoning and management priorities of Indigenous nationalities are being integrated into the protected area management plans, which is unprecedented in Ecuador.
However, the benefits of the Amazonian Platform reach far beyond land protection and management. Conservation funding is reaching front-line Indigenous communities but with an expanded vision of what conservation entails. Indigenous communities are engaging in local restoration efforts, accessing new markets for locally produced sustainable forest products they produce, and implementing community development projects such as solar panels as part of innovative conservation agreements.
As part of this initiative, the women of Waorani and Kichwa communities in Pastaza generate revenue from their chakras, or traditional Indigenous gardens, by sustainably producing ginger that is used in popular facial creams. Recognizing the benefits being enjoyed by the Indigenous communities of Pastaza, Indigenous Associations in the neighboring province of Morona Santiago advocated for Tarimiat Pujutai Nunka, their own protected reserve in Morona Santiago, with the goal of working on similar sustainable bio-economy projects.
Far-reaching impact from initial investment
The Amazonian Platform owes its success to early investments that have had a catalytic effect. Initial investment in Pastaza has yielded, to date, around $15 million in programmed conservation activities. This financial support is directly benefiting Indigenous and other rural communities in Pastaza, creating positive feedback loops that are inspiring conservation efforts in neighboring communities and provinces.
Model for inclusive, participatory processes
The Amazonian Platform’s inclusive, participatory model builds bridges between leaders from subnational governments, Indigenous nationalities, and multiple NGOs, and has proven to be highly effective. Historically, Indigenous-led organizations have been marginalized, with limited involvement in leadership roles and insufficient access to the funding allocated for conservation of their ancestral territories. The Amazonian Platform is actively addressing this historical inequity, and its commitment to inclusivity is evident in the bylaws of the Protected Area Management Consortium in Pastaza, where full voting rights are extended to all participating Indigenous Nationalities.
Additionally, Indigenous communities and the provincial government are using Free Prior and Informed Consent protocols to develop Conservation Agreements, which offer tangible benefits to communities in exchange for conserving parts of their territories, further enhancing the platform’s effectiveness.
Sustainable conservation funds
A sustainable trust fund mechanism (currently under construction and pending ratification) will allow future conservation funds to be distributed among the participating provinces. Involving the provincial governments, NGOs, and Indigenous representatives as voting members will facilitate transparency, equity, and accountability in resource allocation.
Regional collaboration for connectivity at scale
The Amazonian Platform is the primary initiative, driven by leaders from subnational governments, Indigenous nationalities, and multiple NGOs, dedicated to conserving the vital ecosystems of the Ecuadorian Amazon that are outside the National System of Protected Areas. The Amazonian Platform’s success lies in its regional collaboration among three (GCF) provinces, Pastaza, Zamora Chinchipe, and Morona Santiago. These three provinces are fostering conservation of intact forests at a landscape scale in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Thanks to the Amazonian Platform’s collaborative approach, there are now opportunities for expansion into at least two additional provinces to the north, including Napo and Orellana.
By replicating the successful model from Pastaza, the new provinces to the north aspire to join the ranks of GCF members, contributing to the enhanced connectivity and conservation efforts across the vast expanse of the Ecuadorian Amazon. The Amazonian Platform, a joint, sustainable, and inclusive agreement holds the promise of safeguarding this vital ecosystem for generations to come, promising a brighter and more sustainable future for the entire Amazon region.