In the Ayampe River watershed of coastal Ecuador, local communities take pride in their land and its unique species, like the Esmeraldas Woodstar. Trash clean-ups, tree plantings, and recycling are activities that unite community members in preserving the health of their environment.
Barely bigger than a bumblebee and lighter than a dollar bill, the Esmeraldas Woodstar is a striking bird. Fewer than 1,000 individuals are thought to remain, making its conservation an urgent priority.
Local people call it “Estrellita,” meaning “Little Star.” It nests along freshwater streams on Ecuador’s Pacific Coast, near the village of Ayampe. Here beachfront development is rapidly destroying habitat, threatening the woodstar’s breeding habitat, the local way of life, and even sources of the communities’ fresh water.
In 2012, ABC supported Ecuadorian partner Fundación Jocotoco in acquiring a 38-acre reserve along the Ayampe River to protect the most important known breeding site for the Esmeraldas Woodstar.
An effort was also launched to involve local communities in the project on several thousand acres of communal land so that the bird, the watershed, and the community all benefit.
These communities continue to take part in an array of programs that Jocotoco is implementing with our support.
The Pechiche Festival is held annually in Ayampe to celebrate the Pechiche tree, a species favored by the Esmeraldas Woodstar for nesting and for the nectar of its flowers. The tree also bears a tasty fruit that is being used by a local women’s group to make and sell marmalade.
Because of its value for both birds and people, the community is planting 10,000 of these trees throughout the Ayampe River basin. (Read more about ABC-supported habitat restoration activities.)
Community trash cleanup days have become a regular event around the Ayampe Reserve, particularly along the beaches where plastic waste is washed ashore. The “Children of the Sea” Recycling Program was borne from these events and involves the school children of nearby Las Tunas.
The children are dedicated to maintaining a “zero waste zone” in their community. Over the last three years, more than 1 million plastic bottles have been collected and recycled by 50 kids, working with 20 adult volunteers. The bottles are re-purposed into artisan crafts, such as handbags, and sold by the women’s group.
The Ayampe Birdwatching Club was formed to teach school children about birds, which could enable them to become community bird guides as adults. Ayampe Reserve manager Byron Delgado leads these outings for the kids.