My work for Ecuador's forests

The photo image was taken in one of the world's most biodiverse forests - the Western Andes cloud forest of Ecuador.  Positioned directly on the equator, at 100% humidity year round, this is life on life on life ... trees, figs, moss, orchids, and more rare and endangered bird and animal species than anywhere else on earth.

I've been coming to Ecuador for four years for these forests - for this, and the Amazon rainforest on the other side of the Andes.  These sources of life are being threatened by oil, mining and deforestation.  Species are being lost forever every day.  Indigenous tribes are being forced into the mainstream economy simply to fight for their lands and cultures, but without resources they often struggle to make ends meet for their families.  

In 2013 I made a deep commitment that I would devote my life and time and energy to the forests, as without them we won't have a planet that is liveable for humans.  I've supported NGOs who work with indigenous people in Ecuador, including the Pachamama Alliance.  More recently I have been volunteering for the Rainforest Information Centre, an Australian based organisation supporting local and environmental groups on the ground in Ecuador and other parts of the world.  

This year I came to Ecuador with three purposes.   

The first was to honour an invitation to visit a remote Waorani community in the critically biodiverse and threatened Yasuní Biosphere reserve.   These families are setting up scientific and tourism projects as part of their native title and lands protection strategy.  They are warm, open-hearted and fiercely intelligent people who are straddling both worlds - the knowledge of the forest, the plants, animals, and livelihood; and the modern world of school and jobs and university.  It's a tough journey and they need all the help they can get.

The second has been to continue to support the Rainforest Information Centre.  I have been spending time in the Reserva Los Cedros cloud forest and the rural areas of northwestern Ecuador, gathering information about the extent of mining concessions and activity which are threatening environments and water supplies here.

The third has been to gather some short interviews with indigenous leaders from the Waorani and Sapara Nations, about the Rights of Nature in relation to honouring and protecting traditional lands.   Ecuador's unique laws affording rights to nature (Pachamama) started a global movement.  I will be presenting these interviews at the annual International Conference on the Rights of Nature organised by AELA (Australian Earth Laws Alliance) in Brisbane in October 2018. 

Why this crowdfund?

I have been devoting most  of my time to volunteer work now for one and a half years, with odd paid jobs here and there when I can get them.  I have been working through previously earned savings, and these are close to finishing.  The main needs right now are:

1) To be able to attend the AELA conference in Brisbane on October 28-29.  Air fares from Hobart to Brisbane will cost minimum $500 return plus $50 for train fares and expenses, and even though I am presenting, I have still had to pay the conference fee ($150 concession).   $700.  (:

2) To replenish some costs of visiting the remote Waorani communities.  I was generous in supporting projects, families and political work, due to the critical needs they are experiencing.  However the reality is that unless I can adequately resource myself, I will be unable to return next year to help them.  I am asking, with gratitude, for $300.  (:

With luck (and hard work) next year I will return with sufficient funds continue these projects; but with your support I will be able to get through the "now".  

For future crowdfunds I am looking into creating a social enterprise model whereby I attract donations and allocate business earnings  towards specific rainforest projects in tropical South America.  Because this is what I want to invest my time in. 

Ultimately, this Earth work is priceless in value, because it's our air, our water, our web of life that we all are totally dependent on.  Thank you!
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Liz Downes
Tranmere TAS

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