Pambiliño Reserve – a story of balance
Last year, IAFN launched a new instalment of its demonstration sites program. In our 2014 call for proposals, we invited applications from around the world for new sites where people would restore degraded ecosystems using analog forestry. We received many excellent proposals and have been privileged to support some truly remarkable work around the world. The following is a short update from one of our partners in Colombia:
A place where people come together to balance the ecological functions of the forest, the production of food for self-sustenance, education, and local community initiatives. This place is Reserva Pambiliño, located in the Chocó bioregion of Ecuador at the foot of a mountain 550 metres above sea level (masl). Pambiliño is a project that principally focuses on conservation and ecological restoration.
Reserva Pambiliño works closely with the Mashpi community. One initiative we’re working on is strengthening the Community Tourism Association of the Río Mashpi. Activities have included the construction of camping areas and training events with community members on topics related to tourism. We’ve also held various workshops on topics relating to cacao cultivation and sustainable activities that expose community members to alternative economic possibilities. Pambiliño also maintains a close relationship with the communities of the area and is an active member of community assemblies and the Committee for the Sustainable Use and Conservation Areas.
Working in cooperation with governmental and non-governmental organizations, and in a permanent collaboration with the Fundación Imaymana, Pambiliño has been a key player in the designation of the Sustainable Use and Conservation Area (Áreas de Conservación y Uso Sustentable, ACUS), which is 33,000 hectares in size and was recognized by the Municipality of Quito in July 2010. The ACUS territory covers a range of altitudes from 550-1800 masl, and a limitless diversity of ecoregions that vary between cloud forest and lowland rainforest. Pambiliño has also promoted the protection of four important smaller watersheds in the area surrounding the Mashpi, Guaycuyacu, Sahuangal, and Pachijal Rivers, and currently carries out biological monitoring activities within the ACUS.
In Pambiliño, we’ve applied the analog forestry methodology to restore riparian forests, and degraded soils in former pastureland have been transformed into rich soils that support the production of 140 species of trees and edible plants. These species are distributed among demonstration sites which exemplify the potential of human coexistence with nature in which food production, on-site education, and the ecological functions of the native ecosystem are balanced.
The restored parcels have been designed with a dominant species, such as cacao, coffee, or cardamom, in combination with other native and exotic species. The native species include large trees such as the sande tree (Brosimium utile) or the copal tree (Dacryodes cupularis). The seeds of these trees of these trees were collected in the native forest, while seeds of introduced species were exchanged with the Río Guaycuyacu Reserve and other local inhabitants. These introduced species include varieties of zalak, or species of Eugenia, Garcinia, or Musa, among others.
Currently, there are 3 restored parcels, which add up to a total of 4 hectares. The oldest restored area, 6 years old, was restored thanks to a small water source which supplies water for human consumption as well. Another parcel of intermediate age is dominated by fine aromatic cacao, and was planted two and a half years ago, which currently produces a large variety of food products, even as the cacao trees are just beginning to give fruit. Finally, a third parcel, dominated by cardamom production, is currently being established. The main challenge in this parcel is the low fertility of the soil, as the land consists of a pasture with slopes of between 60% and 70% inclination. To address this, we’ve designed terraces with tree species that act as green fertilizer that are established by means of planting stakes along contour lines, which will function as living barriers to collect organic matter and avoid excessive nutrient loss by runoff. Each plant also has its own localized terrace for the same purpose.
These three parcels make up a living and learning space for dozens of students, local inhabitants, and visitors who come to Pambiliño. Analog forestry is a tool we use in Pambiliño that is essential for transferring knowledge, since it helps us to conceptualize natural and dynamic processes. Moreover, analog forestry has allowed us to record the ongoing process of forest restoration that we’re experiencing. In this way, analog forestry has become an ideal tool for us in Pambiliño for transferring our experimental knowledge in ecological restoration, using concepts that facilitate learning about the architecture and functions of the forest.