Sustainable management of natural resources

Project description

Title: Sustainable management of natural resources (GESOREN)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Ecuador
Lead executing agency: Ministerio del Ambiente
Overall term: 2004 to 2013

Management team of the biosphere reserve at Sumaco, Napo Province, Ecuador © GIZ


Ecuador is the country with the greatest biodiversity for its surface area. About 18 % of its land area is given over to conservation areas. In contrast to this, the rate of destruction of the forests stands at around 200,000 hectares a year – equivalent to 1.8 % of the country’s land mass. The reasons for this are a high dependence on raw materials, a weak national regulatory framework and the economic situation of the poor. In order to secure a livelihood for themselves in the short term, small farmers mainly use chemical fertilisers and pesticides on their fields. There is a lack of alternative, economically viable and ecologically appropriate production, processing and marketing systems that not only help to conserve biodiversity, but also contribute to improving the living conditions of the population.

In addition, in many cases civil society and provincial or municipal administrations are not sufficiently involved in the decision-making and participation mechanisms put in place to ensure the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources. Although there are numerous protected areas, natural resources are not protected in a sustainable way, which is resulting in the increasing loss of biodiversity.


The poor rural population supported by the project applies sustainable natural resource management strategies and methods and increases their income.


The ‘Sustainable management of natural resources project (GESOREN)’ is part of the German development cooperation programme to protect the environment and conserve natural resources. It has four components:

Developing institutions and strategies for the conservation of natural resources
Support is given to various partners to develop instruments for planning, evaluating and monitoring protected areas. The project provides expertise and experience with dialogue and coordination processes on environmental topics. In addition, legal and technical recommendations are drawn up for designating and establishing protected areas.

Valorisation of natural resources and environmental services

The project advises small farmers and producers’ associations on the promotion of value chains, in particular for cocoa, coffee, timber and fruit. The topics covered include ecologically sustainable cultivation methods, increasing production and quality, organisational development, marketing and compliance with quality standards in order to obtain certification as a Fairtrade and/or organic producer. In addition, the project offers advice on development partnerships with the private sector and public institutions as well as food security.

Local governance of nature conservation and eco-corridors

The capacities of civil society and provincial and municipal administrations are developed to enable them to undertake activities and assume responsibility for the conservation and management of natural resources. The project also supports the development of participation models, such as dialogue platforms, and encourages networking between relevant actors. The programme component is being implemented by the consulting firm COMO.

National framework for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) and adaption strategies

The project provides advice to government institutions and non-governmental actors on developing a coherent, institutional and legal framework for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).

It also supports the implementation of financing models and measures to enable the sustainable use and conservation of natural resources in protected areas and their buffer zones. This includes, for example, introducing a system for making compensation payments to landowners for environmental services, such as maintaining water storage capacity by protecting areas of land.

The project operates at all social and political levels. For example, it is supporting the Ecuadorian Ministry of the Environment in the implementation of both the National System of Protected Areas (SNAP) and sustainable forestry and agricultural policy. The project is also working to strengthen and advance the organisational development of environmental organisations and regional authorities in order to improve their provision of services. Development partnerships with the private sector are also very important. Direct cooperation between producers’ groups and companies improves technologies, productivity and marketing, and raises income.

Results achieved so far

In Morona-Santiago Province two municipal protected areas covering a total area of almost 50,000 hectares have been established in collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment. This is a pioneering step, because the centralised government had hitherto been responsible for all national protected areas.

By 2007, conservation agreements had been signed with three of the indigenous Chachi communities in Esmeraldas Province placing 7,200 hectares of natural forest under strict protection. In return for leaving this land fallow, the communities received compensation payments from the project and from an environmental protection organisation. As a result of the success of this measure, the Ministry of the Environment adopted this method of conserving natural resources as a template when developing its national Socio Bosque (Forest Partners) programme in 2008. Conservation agreements have now been signed with nine other Chachi communities, more than tripling the area of protected land (from 7,200 hectares to 23,800 hectares). Socio Bosque makes annual payments for environmental services to the 12 communities, benefitting more than 1,100 families.

A range of governance and financing mechanisms that guarantee the sustainable use and conservation of natural resources have been developed and implemented in cooperation with various partners. These mechanisms include founding a cocoa association in Sumaco as well as establishing a trust fund for financing the conservation of watersheds and biodiversity in the páramos in Tungurahua Province. These are Andean highland ecosystems which are home to vegetation that plays a particularly important role in the storage of ground water.

Overall, 7,000 hectares of land have received organic certification and are being used sustainably within the value chain framework. 700 small producers are now Fairtrade certified and a further 2,000 are working through the certification process. Case studies show that members of small farmers’ organisations have increased their income as a result of improved production and quality, certification and easier access to markets within the context of value chain promotion.

The Export and Investment Promotion Corporation (CORPEI) has adopted GIZ’s (until December 2010 GTZ’s) instrument for establishing development partnerships with the private sector. At the beginning of 2007, CORPEI started implementing development partnership measures independently. By November 2010, CORPEI had implemented 15 such measures in cooperation with GESOREN. This is a remarkable institutional success.

Ecuador. Quality control of cacoa beens © GIZ

As a result of cooperation between private companies and small producers’ organisations, ecologically and sustainably grown products have been successfully marketed and it has been possible to break into the niche markets for Fairtrade and organic products. Small producers’ have seen their incomes increase thanks to direct marketing and the higher prices paid for these products. They now no longer rely on the illegal use of protected natural resources.

By 2009, a total of 42 measures had been implemented in partnership with the private sector and public institutions. The private sector has contributed over half of the financing of these measures the then GIZ contributed 31 %, and third parties have put up 16 %.

Additional information