Solidarity and our plants help us to face the pandemic

Photo: UNDP ABS Project

In Ecuador, indigenous peoples and afro-descendants are the fundamental actors for the conservation of our natural resources and all that knowledge derived from their practices and coexistence with nature.

More than 20% of the Ecuadorian territory is within the 59 protected areas of the country and, as repetitive as it sounds, they are mega biodiverse spaces that preserve unique flora and fauna species and, of course, a human conglomerate that is the direct guardian of the natural heritage.

There is a lot to say about ancestral knowledge and the use that communities have given to genetic resources from plants and animals.

Submerged in the virtual modality, as a pandemic completely modified our forms of interpersonal communication, we ask ourselves about the communities with which we work and those we learn from, how are they living in the middle of the world that should have been confined, this time on a voluntary basis?.

For us, the mestizos, this practice has been difficult to carry out on a day-to-day basis, as we live in a chaotic dynamic due to uncontrolled coexistence in the cities and, in our imagination, are the local communities used to living like this?

Through the Global ABS Project (Access and Benefit Sharing of Genetic Resources) and in coordination with the National Service of Intellectual Rights (SENADI), we share a virtual space with four leaders, who shared their experiences and demands in the midst of the health crisis.

“My Pukara Quinche community, in this humanitarian crisis, has increased the use of medicinal plants considering that several of them have antifungal, antiseptic properties such as marco, ruda, santa maría, ashna yuyo and eucalyptus that, when used in infusions, contribute to reducing the symptoms of COVID-19. In addition, a large community structure has been installed with community councils to block main roads at the entrances of the communities and locate checkpoints to prevent access to third parties outside the community and monitor members of the community are kept in their homes and avoid contact with urban places, as is the case of Riobamba, the closest city ”, Sumak Bastidas — Cacha community, Chimborazo province.

“Although we are experiencing difficult times, the Afro-Ecuadorian peoples listen to each other, talk to each other and share our traditional knowledge all the time. We are a united people and we have looked for ways to keep in touch. We use plants, animals to cleanse the spirit and our body. Bitter plants are the ones we have used the most for sprays and baths. I learned to use radish leaf for its nutritional properties and to raise defenses. Economically, we have worked from solidarity, sharing, those of us who have a little more contribute with those who have less, and we have fostered the generation of home gardens. Irma Bautista, Río Verde community, Esmeraldas

“We have gone to our plants to alleviate these moments of pain. Our traditional knowledge has turned to generating solutions with our plants. Local governments, at the entrance of the communities, have restricted the passage and have placed disinfection points, but control is difficult. We believe that we have a variety of plants that can be investigated as medicine, as they have kept us strong and it is this knowledge that we want to keep from generation to generation “, Luis Aguavil, T´sachila nationality, province of Santo Domingo de los T´sáchilas.

“We live from agriculture, from daily work, we live by walking and this confinement has blocked us in all the activities we do. I live from the fight, from the demand, from the claim of our rights and that’s why I went out daily. This virus affected us in every way. It is known that State aid does not reach us in Indigenous communities on time, therefore, what has helped us to survive is organization as a community. Our way of care is with plants, with infusions, sprays and rituals, they are our caretakers. Our solutions will always be in that immense variety of plants that we have in the moors and in the way in which we strengthen our relationship with Mother Earth. We hope this is an example for all of us to value our ancestral knowledge “, Ana María Guacho, community of San Luis, province of Chimborazo.

Written by Paola Guijarro, Communications Assistant of ABS and PARG -UNDP Projects.

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About Global ABS Project: It is a three-year initiative, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), led by the Ministry of Environment and Water and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and which has the technical and financial support of the United Nations Volunteer Programme (UNV).

The initiative promotes the full and effective implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on access to genetic resources in 24 nations, including Ecuador, with the general objective of assisting countries in the development and strengthening of their national Access and Distribution.

UN Development Programme (UNDP) Latin America & Caribbean / Programa de la ONU p/ el Desarrollo (PNUD ) América Latina y el Caribe