Meet 23 Entrepreneurs Protecting and Restoring the Forests and Landscapes of Ecuador

August 17, 2021

by Maria Franco Chuaire, Mary Gronkiewicz, Jerin Tan

Meet 23 Entrepreneurs Protecting and Restoring the Forests and Landscapes of Ecuador

Home to lush forests, impressive mountains, and the iconic Galapagos Islands, Ecuador is recognized as one of the world’s most biodiverse countries. However, unsustainable agriculture, extractive practices, and deforestation threaten its ecosystems and the people who call them home.  

Revitalizing degraded land can protect the country's natural wonders, fight climate change, and create socioeconomic benefits for local communities. There are hundreds of entrepreneurs in Ecuador looking to seize this opportunity, but they need financing to take their businesses to the next level. 

World Resources Institute (WRI), CONDESAN and Helvetas present the first cohort of the Land Accelerator xEcuador, a two-month training program for business leaders working on conservation, reforestation, agroforestry, and other regenerative practices.  

Leaning on the local support of Catapulta, who identified more than 110 projects and businesses, the accelerator supports both Initiative 20x20, an 18-country coalition working to protect and begin restoring 50 million hectares of land by 2030 in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Andean Forests Program

The Land Accelerator xEcuador has connected 23 entrepreneurs with a team of dedicated mentors and technical expertise to strengthen their value propositions and business models. Through this work, the program seeks to contribute to the sustainable rural development and restoration goals set by Ecuador’s National Plan for Forest Restoration (2019-2030) and its commitments to Initiative 20x20 and the Bonn Challenge

The 10-week program ends with two Impact Days on August 30 and 31, where the entrepreneurs will present their business models to a group of impact investors, financial and technical experts, and the Ecuadorian government. Get to know the entrepreneurs below! 

This initiative is funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SDC). 

Who are the entrepreneurs? 

Asociación Anagavec

Michelle Meneses, | Pichincha, Ecuador

Anagavec promotes the sustainable development of the native Andean agave, or twazar, plant. Accredited by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, it works with entrepreneurs and a network of nurseries in the Callejón Interandino area to improve production processes, recover soils to reduce pressure on the biodiverse Páramo ecosystem, and generate income for local communities.


Small Tourism Entrepreneurs Association (AsoppetourEC) 

Leyla Simbala and Verónica Monroy, | Imbabura, Ecuador

AsoppetourEC is developing a sustainable honey production and planting system with Imbabura Province’s San Clemente community. By growing native plants whose pollen feeds bees, the organization seeks to expand its capabilities to produce food, medicine, and cosmetics from honey.


Nueva Esperanza Artisan Agricultural Production Association (ASOANE) 

Romel Jumbo, | Pichincha, Ecuador

ASOANE specializes in premium chocolate made from special Fino de Aroma cacao. It sources from sustainable plantations that preserve the native species of the forests in the Chocó Andino Biosphere Reserve.


La Vieja del Monte Association 

Andrés Endara, | Carchi, Ecuador 

La Vieja del Monte seeks to recover and protect Mirador de Huaca Hill, located in one of the last remaining guandera forests in the world, by creating a guided hiking trail that combines tourism and education to boost the local economy.


Union of Cacao Producers in Esmeraldas (UPROCAE) 

George Fletcher, | Esmeraldas, Ecuador

UOPROCAE unites 450 premium cocoa producer families from four divisions of Esmeraldas Province. By using regenerative agriculture techniques to grow crops that repair soil, water and biodiversity, the Association conserves the remnants of the native forest and connects species living in dozens of micro-watersheds. UPROCAE farmers enjoy higher prices thanks to numerous certifications and its participation in niche markets. 


Aves y Conservación 

Rolando Hipo, | Pichincha, Ecuador and Imbabura, Ecuador

Aves y Conservación works to conserve and restore the Andean forest in the northern highlands of Ecuador’s Pichincha and Imbabura provinces. It focuses on the production of flowers and other ornamental plants and the conservation and restoration of high-altitude polylepis forests (along with the area’s endemic bird species). It creates nurseries, plants trees, and turns plant waste into organic fertilizers. 


Bosque Protector San Jacinto 

Carmen Trujillo, | Imbabura, Ecuador 

Bosque Protector San Jacinto is promoting ecotourism and environmental education with a hiking trail that snakes around 150 hectares of primary forest in Chinambí in Imbabura Province. The experience includes nightly accommodation, an introduction to local cuisine, and tours exploring the rich botanical and cultural landscapes. 


Conservación de Páramos Rasococha 

Ivonne Rueda, | Carchi, Ecuador 

The project is based on conserving, protecting, and managing the watersheds and the Páramo forests of the western Andes Mountains. It unites the neighboring communities of the Carchi Province through conservation and sustainable production. 


Ecoaldea Shandia 

Gerson Andi, | Napo, Ecuador

Ecoaldea Shandia promotes community-based tourism, introducing visitors to the local residents and culture of Ecuador’s Napo Province. The company also grows native forest species and organic cocoa through its own reforestation program, directly benefiting 95 families living on 50,000 hectares.  


Eco Finca 

Hernán Benavides, | Carchi, Ecuador 

Eco Finca is a climate-smart model farm that uses silvopasture and food forests to foster a local circular economy. It fills compost bins with solid animal and vegetable waste to create fertilizers for the farm’s pastures and gardens. Eco Finca also offers ecotourism opportunities in agriculture production, sustainable gastronomy, and outdoor adventures. 


Finca Pingüino 

Soa and Simón Bédard, | Manabí, Ecuador

Finca Pingüino is a permaculture initiative dedicated to reforesting and conserving 11 hectares of land in Tabuchila, Manabí Province. It has planted 1,700 native and exotic trees for sustainable timber over the past seven years, providing a long-term complement to the area’s typical short-cycle plantations. To expand their work, Finca Pingüino is working with neighboring communities in Canoa to create corridors that connect regenerative farms and biodiversity corridors. 


Fundación Altrópico 

Marcos Jiménez, | Pastaza and Napo, Ecuador

Fundación Altrópico provides technical restoration assistance to three rural organizations led by the Indigenous Kichwa people. It aims to restore more than 7,600 hectares of land and build sustainable production systems of three plants native to Ecuador: guayusa (a tea alternative), sacha inchi (an emerging superfood), and annatto (a spice and coloring agent).  


Fundación Forever Lung 

Andréa García, | Manabí, Ecuador

Fundación Forever Lung promotes the conservation and restoration of tropical rainforests in Manabí Province with native Tagua palms, whose seeds are used to make buttons and craft art. It works with the local communities, who collect the seeds, to promote inclusive and sustainable business models. 


Fundación SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras 

Mariana Almeida, | Sucumbíos, Ecuador

Fundación SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras plants, collects, and sells bamboo in degraded areas of the Amazónica de La Paz, a private ecological reserve that includes 300 hectares of primary forests. It sells raw bamboo and manufactures lamps, boxes, kitchen utensils, and artisan tableware in partnership with the Siona, Cofan, and Quitu Indigenous communities. 


Granja “El Abrazo del Bosque” (EAB) 

Lorena Perez and Felipe Segovia, | Pichincha, Ecuador

EAB promotes sustainable land management practices in the buffer zone around the Piganta Protective Forest in Pichincha Province. To protect this highly biodiverse area, the business operates ecotourism experiences, produces artisanal dairy products, and cooks Andean cuisine with products from the local farm, forest, and orchards. 


Hacienda Palmira Choco Andino Productivo 

Santiago Vergara, | Pichincha, Ecuador 

Hacienda Palmira cultivates chocolate in the UNESCO-protected Andean Chocó Rainforest biosphere reserve northwest of Pichincha Province. There, the company revitalizes deforested land at high altitudes and conserves primary forests, aquifers, and soils. 


Manejo de las Abejas Meliponas 

Bryan Tene, | Carchi, Ecuador 

This initiative, proposed by Carchi’s La Libertad Parish Board, aims to transform corn and coffee crops, preserve natural ecosystems, and support local Melipona stingless bees through sustainable honey production. 


Nindalgo S.A. 

Jorge Barba, | Cotopaxi, Ecuador 

Nindalgo manages sustainable cattle ranches in Cotopaxi Province that use rational grazing techniques, cultivates nitrogen-fixing legumes to restore soil health, and reforests the land with native tree species.


PANC Ecuador 

Nina Duarte, | Pichincha, Ecuador

PANC Ecuador is a center for experimentation, research and education on non-conventional food plants like banana flower and mountain cabbage. In addition to selling these underused plants, the center provides training on their production and consumption. It is based in the Chocó Andino de Pinchacha Biosphere Reserve, where food forests home to dozens of edible plants make for sustainable alternatives to conventional agriculture in this area of high ecological sensitivity.


The Meli-Puyango Las Meliponas Association 

Milton Guaicha, | Loja, Ecuador 

This project aims to maintain and preserve the native bees of the Las Meliponas region by conserving and restoring their native forest habitats. Working directly with 230 beekeeping farmers, the Association is dedicated to producing honey, pollen, and propolis medicine. The Association’s raw materials suppliers, partner beekeeping organizations, and connections with local fair-trade stores play a big part in the group’s success.


Cerro Seco Association for Recovery, Conservation, and Sustainable Development

Marcelo Luque, | Manabí, Ecuador 

Cerro Seco is working to restore the Sucre and San Vicente cantons in the North Central Coast of Manabí Province. It aims to promote sustainable resource use among the local communities, capture around 329,000 metric tons of CO2 per year, expand ecotourism in the area, and produce and commercialize environmentally friendly ingredients for the local restaurant scene. 


Río Muchacho Organic Farm 

Dario Proaño, | Manabí, Ecuador

Río Muchacho Organic Farm has been dedicated to ecotourism, regenerative agriculture, food forests and permaculture for 32 years. This has helped the Chocó-Tumbecino ecosystem to recover, boosted food production, helped wildlife to thrive, and expanded ecotourism. 


Sendero Interpretativo Peribuela 

Rolando Lomas, | Imbabura, Ecuador 

Sendero Interpretativo Peribuela is developing an informational hiking and camping trail in Imbabura Province’s Peribuela protected forest and promoting sustainable agriculture done with traditional techniques. 


Contact and to request more information on any entrepreneur, slides, or a personalized presentation.


Impact Days

At the end of the program, these organizations presented to a virtual room of investors. Hear more about their project goals: