Ecuador Placeholder

Community agriculture production and adaptation of conservation and sustainable management

About the Implementing organization

Name: Pueblo Originario Kichwa de Sarayaku

Country: Ecuador

Year of establishment: 2007

Type of organization: Community-based association or organization / Legally recognized non-profit status / Indigenous group or organization


Sarayaku launched its Living Forest initiative in force at the COP 21 Paris Climate Summit 2015 and the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii in 2016. In Paris, Sarayaku brought a delegation of 13 women, men, youth, and elders to talk about the initiative both inside and outside the COP, brining with them an 800lb hand carved canoe built and transported to Paris as a vehicle for the proposal and to express that, from a climate perspective, the world is all in the boat, or canoe. In Hawaii, Sarayaku advocated for Motion 26, a designation for protection of sacred natural sites.

Kawsak Sacha (Living Forest) is a proposal for living together with the natural world that grows out of the millennial knowledge of the Indigenous Peoples who inhabit the Amazonian rainforest, and it is one that is also buttressed by recent scientific studies. Whereas the western world treats nature as an undemanding source
of raw materials destined exclusively for human use, Kawsak Sacha recognizes that the forest is made up entirely of living selves and the communicative relations they have with each other.

The ultimate goal of the proposal is to attain national and international recognition for Kawsak Sacha as a new legal category of protected area that would be considered Sacred Territory and Biological and Cultural Patrimony of the Kichwa People in Ecuador. But Kawsak Sacha is also a vision that guides Sarayaku's sustainable management of its forests and culturally appropriate development.

Nature Element

Forests / Mountains / Rivers / Wildlife

Type of Action

Protection / Sustainable use / Awareness and education / Advocacy for land & water rights

Sustainable Development Element

Food security / Water security / Peace and security / Climate action

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)


Environmental Impacts

As part of Kawsak Sacha, Sarayaku has implemented projects that have a direct environment impact towards the protection of their lands. One such project is the Borders of Life (Fronteras de Vida), which entails the planting of native flowering tree species along the borders of their 135,000 hectare territory. The trees will flower in 20 years, and required the development of a nursery to produce saplings to populate the entire demarcated land.

Another project is Atayak, an association of elders and youth, that has established a learning center and traditional medicine garden used to strengthening of their traditional wisdom and ancestral practices related to healing, plant medicine, and traditional agricultural practices.

A youth alternative energy and communications team also implemented a solar energy grid, an HF/VHF radio system, and produced several award winning documentaries that have helped raise consciousness about the role of indigenous peoples in forest conservation.

Sustainable Development Impacts

Sarayaku's work to defend it's territory has granted protection to critical Amazonian ecosystems and species. Because it is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, keeping extractive industry out has kept rivers and streams free of contamination, eliminated deforestation, and kept the forest intact and avoiding turning the world's greatest carbon sink into a carbon source. Using solar energy in the community is not only cleaner, but allows Sarayaku to be fossil fuel free and have a coherent message as they reject oil extraction on their lands.


Sarayaku's call for keeping fossil fuels in the ground and implementing the principles of Kawsak Sacha are uniquely scalable. Other indigenous groups are joining in those same demands with Sarayaku, and are calling for a moratorium on any new oil or mining extraction in Ecuador's southern rainforests.


Sarayaku continues to be an example to its indigenous neighbors. In their footsteps, other communities are developing and implementing solar and communications programs, and asking Sarayaku for training. Traditional learning centers are popping up in all areas of Ecuador's Amazon, and the Kawsak Sacha principle and concrete proposal for sacred site designation is catching on, given recent passage at the IUCN Congress, and several other indigenous groups are now echoing the call.

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