Ecuador is one of the world's most megadiverse countries, but it also has one of the highest rates of deforestation in Latin America. Between 70 and 94,000 hectares of tropical forest are lost each year, estimates say. Despite a state policy of protected areas and economic stimulus for communities, reduction in the rate of deforestation has not advanced as quickly as some have hoped.
What's more, it has slowed in the last few years, especially in the regions furthest from the capital.
This project by Pulitzer Center grantee Rodolfo Asar seeks to explain why the reduction in the rate of deforestation has slowed in Ecuador's far-flung regions. These include the silent invasion of palm cultivation in Esmeraldas, the new road in Morona Santiago, and the failure of a colonization project in Sucumbios.
Changes in land use to introduce industrial plantations and cattle raising, the colonization of virgin forests, and logging are some of the main problems. But there are also new factors caused by the deepening political instability and economic crisis of the last two years. For example, the decision by the indigenous Shuar or Jivaro authorities, after a battle with the national government, to construct a new highway in their territory.
So what is the environmental damage being caused by industrial plantations and new highways? How is it affecting people's lives? What changes can already be noted in the climate of these regions?
Support for this reporting was made possible by the Rainforest Journalism Fund, in association with the Pulitzer Center.