The Right to Say No, from Ecuador to Belgium
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For The Right to Say No
This visit is part of Catapa’s #RightToSayNo campaign. Because we believe that Danila, Nathalia and their communities have the right to say no to mining projects and that this right must be respected and protected. Unfortunately, this right of communities is often denied and violated: local communities are not consulted, their decisions are not respected and speaking out puts environmental defenders at risk. Danila and Nathalia have been fighting for the last year to organise a popular referendum in the city of Quito, in order to protect their region from new mining projects. A struggle that continues.
The capitalist economic system and consumerism cause an excessive need for natural resources. We believe that individual citizens can see this global picture and learn from our speakers and events. CATAPA offers Belgian citizens the opportunity to criticise this system and to unite in a movement that fights for an alternative system that degrowsand demines.
The fight against mining in the Chocó Andino
The Chocó Andino covers an area of 286,000 hectares, a dimension that represents more than 30% of the territory of the Pichincha province (and is comparable to the Province of East Flaanders). This land is recognized as a Natural Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. A Biosphere Reserve is an ecologically representative area of unique value, composed of terrestrial, marine or coastal ecosystems, in which the integration of the human population and its activities with conservation is essential.
The Chocó Andino is located 45 minutes from the city of Quito and extends over nine parishes within three municipal areas (Metropolitan District of Quito, San Miguel de los Bancos and Pedro Vicente Maldonado). The forests of the Chocó Andino are home to a biological richness unique in the world, numerous animal and plant species typical of the Andean region, some 270 species of mammals, 30% of the bird species found in all of Ecuador and 15% of the plant species.
The Chocó Andino de Pichincha Biosphere Reserve is the food supply of millions of inhabitants of Pichincha. It is an area where tropical fruits, dairy products, sugar cane and its derivatives, cocoa, coffee for export, orchids, bromeliads, tilapia, palm heart, among other products are produced. The area also represents the fastest growing area for the production of specialty coffee for export in the country.
This large natural reserve is threatened by the activities of mining concessions approved by the country’s government. In addition, communities have also denounced illegal mining activities. These activities pose a great danger to the region, both for its flora and fauna, as well as for the communities that live and develop productive activities in harmony with their natural environment. Water and river pollution, destruction and demolition of thousands of trees, with the consequent loss of biodiversity that this entails. In addition, these forests protect thousands of people living in the lowlands from possible floods, and each hectare of forest within the reserve is capable of absorbing up to 250 tonnes of carbon. Therefore, the defence of this natural territory is a great tool in the fight against climate change.
For more than 30 years, communities have been promoting sustainable development in the territory, spreading environmental awareness and working on governance schemes and participatory dialogues to demonstrate that humans and nature can coexist. To defend their home and the high biodiversity of the territory, the communities of the Andean Chocó are working to get a popular consultation approved to shield the territory from mining.
Danila Andagoya lives in Pacto, one of the parishes within the Chocó Andino Biosphere Reserve. Since 2020 she has been a member of the Chocó Andino Youth Network, motivated to defend, promote the cultural richness and protect this megadiverse territory. In her work, she is a high altitude coffee producer, and has worked on projects with foundations that support the conservation of the region’s forests.
Nathalia Bonilla has been a member of Acción Ecológica since 2004, where she has been working to defend the forests and the peoples and cultures that inhabit them, focusing mainly on the women of the Amazonian communities and the indigenous peoples in isolation communities (the Tagaeri-Taromenane). Since 2017, her work and research focus has shifted to the Afro-descendant peoples who inhabit the forests and rivers of the Chocó-Pacific region, from where she derives the need to read the context from the perspective of structural racism and environmental racism. She has been president of Acción Ecológica at three different times: 2016, 2020 and 2022.
The Chocó Andino Youth Network was created in 2016 with the intention of raising awareness of the richness and biodiversity of the territory and showing alternatives to extractivism. The work of the network is carried out by young volunteers who live in the territory. The work is divided into five lines of action: sustainable production, activism or defence of the territory, communication, gender and culture.
Acción Ecológica has been working for 36 years to defend nature and the people who live in it. Its work is based on the principles of active non-violence and its members identify themselves as activists. The work of Acción Ecológica gives a voice to nature through investigations, denunciations, and work with indigenous, peasant and Afro communities. A necessary work that demands the fulfilment of environmental justice, which also involves an anti-racist struggle.
At CATAPA, we believe it is essential that citizens are informed and aware of the social and environmental impacts experienced by the peoples of the south. Impacts that are and have been generated by the extraction of natural resources, with the sole purpose of feeding a system of consumption that is destroying the planet. We also believe that it is vital to know that there are other ways of life where humanity and nature can coexist and take care of each other. We also believe that it is important to work together with communities in the south to create other ways of thinking and to address the current environmental crisis.