Friday, June 15, 2012

Last Day at 9,350 feet

Our last day in Quito was spent learning about various NGOs that operate in Ecuador.

After a delicious breakfast at our hotel, we went to the conference room where we heard a presentation from Kate, a representative of Sun Mountain International. Sun Mountain is a small NGO based in Ecuador with the goal of promoting best practices in Environmental and Disaster Risk Management. In focuses on four broad areas: environmental management and assessment, risk management and climate change adaptation, institutional strengthening and capacity building, and sustainable agriculture and livelihoods. Sun Mountain is often contracted by other NGOs to conduct environmental impact assessments or development projects. One of the major themes of our class is the tension between economic growth and the well being of the environment, and this tension is what Sun Mountain is trying to resolve by mitigating adverse environmental impacts in aid projects. This NGO also has a very close relationship to USAID.

After our enlightening meeting with Kate some of my friends and I went out for lunch near our hotel. For $1.75, we got juice, soup, and an entree of chicken and rice. This sure is one thing I will miss about Quito! 

My friends at lunch!

Soon after finishing lunch, we hopped on the bus and went to the offices of Conservancy International, one of the largest and most influential environmentally focused NGOs in the world. It operates in all 50 states and 35 countries world wide. At their Quito offices, we met Galo Medina, the head of the Ecuador Branch, Daniel Cordoba, the project coordinator in the Amazon basin, and Ana Guzman, coordinator of the Latin American water fund.

Mr. Medina outlined the mission of the Nature Conservancy as "to conserve the lands an waters on which all life depends".  He also stated that they are dedicated especially to conserving the biodiversity of ecosystems. The Conservancy works with other NGOs and local and national governments to achieve its goals. It also works to promote the capacity of the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment.

Next, Mr. Cordoba outlined the problems facing the Amazon Basin. In Ecuador, those living in the Amazon Basin are poorer, face greater chance of tuberculosis, and experience higher levels of gender inequality. Furthermore, much of the area is being exploited for oil. There are two programs that the Conservancy has undertaken to protect this vulnerable environment. The first is to protect indigenous landscapes to conserve biodiversity. The second is the net zero deforestation project, which focuses on at-risk forests and improve land-use planning policy processes.

The class at The Nature Conservancy
Next we heard from Ms. Guzman, who runs the Latin American water fund. This fund takes money from public and private entities and funnels into preserving areas upstream of waterways to ensure quality of water for all. Here is a video about the water funds that Ms. Guzman showed to us. 

The Nature Conservancy: Water Funds Video

After leaving The Nature Conservancy, we went back to the hotel for dinner and to begin packing for our next adventure. Tomorrow, we say goodbye to Quito bright and early and say hello to the Galapagos Islands!

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