An Example of Governance and Participation of Indigenous People and Nations in The Management of the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, Ecuador

Published: 26 September 2017
Last edited: 27 July 2018
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Several factors contributed to the consolidation of the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve in Ecuador. One of them was the empowerment of indigenous organizations to establish "Use and Management Agreements" with the State. Besides that, the government defined policies for the conservation of protected areas, such as the Socio Bosque Program, the National Environment Fund, and investments in sustainable tourism. Finally, the availability of funds and technical assistance from international cooperation was key to support an initiative integration across borders (Colombia–Ecuador–Peru).


South America
Scale of implementation
Freshwater ecosystems
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Access and benefit sharing
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Forest Management
Indigenous people
Infrastructure maintenance
Protected area governance
Protected area management planning
Sustainable financing
Sustainable development goals
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 11: Protected areas
Target 17: Biodiversity strategies and action plans


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The main threats to conservation in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve are oil extraction activities, timber extraction, illegal hunting, illegal traffic of wild species, agriculture under the monoculture model, the expansion of agricultural areas and colonization.

The increase in tourism is also a challenge to the Reserve, as it is located at an important point of entry for the Lower Amazon, and it contains important natural and cultural values that are exploited for tourism.

In the socio-environmental area, there are eleven indigenous communities of five different nationalities living inside the Reserve, with whom it’s necessary to reach agreements for access to land ownership and sustainable use of natural resourcesin the territory. This is a challenge because the goal is to articulate the vision of territorial conservation and management of these indigenous communities and the State.


11 indigenous communities of 5 nationalities: Siona, Secoya, Cofan, Kichwa and Shuar. An indigenous population of approximately 600 people within the reserve, and a peasant population of 8,120 inhabitants within the area of ​​influence.

How do the building blocks interact?

The knowledge blocks presented in this solution have contributed as a whole to improve the administration of the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. The availability of financial resources and technical assistance have improved all aspects of the area. This was achieved thanks to the existence of a National Environmental Fund that is specifically aimed at protected areas, to the strengthening of policies that promote investments in tourism development, to the international cooperation established through a tri-national initiative, and to a national incentive system through the Socio Bosque Program. To these elements, we add the existence of co-management agreements to promote the empowerment and participation of indigenous organizations in the area.


  • The Natural Resources Use and Management Agreements allowed to trace boundaries for the indigenous population territory, establish the limits of the protected area, and promote the legitimization of the indigenous population rights to live in the Reserve and use their natural resources under special conditions.
  • Government policies at a national level, along with technical and financial support from the Tri-National Program helped strengthen operations and management of the area, with improvements in infrastructure, increased effectiveness of the control and surveillance program, strengthening of sustainable tourism, and of the productive chains in the buffer zone.
  • The increase in local participation through the Use and Management Agreements celebrated between the communities and the authorities, the inclusion of indigenous communities in the Socio Bosque Program for conservation incentives (promoted by the Government of Ecuador,) and the involvement of indigenous communities in tourism activities have allowed for a sustained co-management within the protected área, in accordance with the use regulations for natural resources within communal spaces of the Reserve.
  • The involvement of the local population in several initiatives has contributed to an improvement of the living conditions of their members.


Luis Borbor

“The Cuyabeno Reserve had what I call a consolidation process from the inside of the protected area out. It began with the delimitation of the indigenous territories inside the protected area and the establishment of the boundaries of the Reserve. After that, several processes of area management strengthening have occurred, with the addition of several strategic allies.

Thus, this consolidation began with the communities inhabiting the lower region of the protected area. As a result of the negotiation processes and signature of the first Natural Resources Use and Management Agreements in 1995, these communities began defining the boundaries of their territories and started to be part of the Reserve co-management.

At the same time the expansion of the protected area began. At first, it occupied 250 thousand hectares, it later grew to 650 thousand hectares, and after a process of rectification of its limits, an area of 590,112 hectares is finally established, as is stated in the 2012 Management Plan.

After this step, the physical delimitation of the area was done and the attempts to consolidate the upper region boundaries began. Three activities were done for this purpose: resolution of land ownership conflicts within the Reserve, issuing deeds in the Forest Heritage within the outer area of the Reserve, and the control and surveillance of the area with the support of local communities.

At this point the development of the Tri-National Program initiative began, first through conversations between the heads of border protected areas in Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia, and from that on, in a meeting in Leguízamo, Colombia, where the problems of the region, their environmental, social, and cultural wealth, and the importance of guaranteeing their preservation were discussed. During the conversations, it became evident that the three areas had very similar situations and problems, which derived in the possibility of creating a mega-reserve integrated by the three protected areas. This proposal was later introduced in a workshop celebrated in Leticia, Colombia, gathering support from many international organizations to consolidate the Tri-National Program.”

Contributed by

Luis Alberto Borbor Laínez Ministerio del Ambiente

Other contributors

Ecuador´s Ministry of Environment (MAE)