Building a Life Plan to strengthen the community environmental governance of the ancestral marine and coastal municipality of Puerto Cabuyal (Ecuador)

Building a Life Plan to strengthen the community environmental governance of the ancestral marine and coastal municipality of Puerto Cabuyal (Ecuador)

This initiative promotes the self-strengthening of the coastal and marine territory of life of a small municipality – the Comuna de Puerto Cabuyal (CPC) – in the parish of Canoa, canton San Vicente, province of Manabí, Ecuador.  This is an ancestral community of artisanal fishermen that, as of December 2022, had a total of 146 inhabitants. For the last 100 years, women and men have lived in peace and quiet, valuing their interdependence with the ocean, beach, and forest.  Their territory of life is a coastal strip approximately 7 km long and 1 km wide – 410 hectares known as the former occupation zone of the northern Manteña culture of the chiefdom of Los Pasos (600 – 1534 A.D.).

The coastal and marine natural heritage of the Puerto Cabuyal municipality includes a wealth of endemic biodiversity, it houses one of the last remnants of dry forest on the northwestern coast of Ecuador. This forest provides important ecosystem services and socio-cultural functions but is unfortunately subjected to anthropogenic pressures and threats that fragment and degrade it, changing its land use to pasture or maize monocultures. Despite the natural wealth, there still are conditions of multidimensional poverty in the community, with deprivation of basic rights and services, limited access to safe water, poor sanitation, inadequate income, among others.

In January 2021, the CPC  established a partnership/collaboration with Fundación Ser Ambiente (FSA) to identify and initiate sustainable community development actions. These actions need to complement and harmoniously coalesce into a master plan based on the past, present, and future relationships between the community and its living territory – a ‘Plan de Vida’ to be built collectively and in a participatory manner. The key idea supported by the Paul K. Feyerabend Foundation is to strengthen the community environmental governance of the territory of life of the municipality of Puerto Cabuyal, building on a deepened understanding of its own situation (e.g. what about the local economy, biodiversity, climate change, gender…) and the various dimensions of its own social and ecological vulnerability.

The process of collective construction of the Plan de Vida will allow the creation of collective spaces for meeting and discussion with differentiated focal groups, such as women, the community school, the fishermen association, and young people.  It will also allow to gain access to different types of information and to value the human and natural potential of the community itself.  Maps and an updated diagnosis of the community’s territory of life will be created in order to reflect together and better frame future sustainable development and climate resilience projects. All activities will be accompanied by a communication strategy and plan. The municipality of Puerto Cabuyal is a member of the ICCA Consortium since 2021 and will use the Consortium’s guidance to the Self-Strengthening Process, including registering their marine and coastal territory of life in the global ICCA Registry

The initiative is supported by a local facilitating team, including women from the commune, the Association of Fishermen ASOPROCABUY, the Cabildo of the commune and the Fundacion Ser Ambiente as technical and administrative body. It is expected that the Plan de Vida will include actions for the defence, security and legal regulation of the commune’s territory, to safeguard the cultural identity of the community, to make use sustainably its natural and cultural heritage, to reverse unsustainable productive activities (monocultures), to conserve water sources, ecosystems and biodiversity, to generate new opportunities for women, and more… In short, the Plan de Vida is expected to be the dynamic and prioritised guide for the governance and self-determination of the municipality of Puerto Cabuyal on its marine and coastal territory of life.  Besides the plan, the processes of self-strengthening and creation of the plan will be, in themselves, crucial outcomes of this initiative.

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