African Palm in Bellavista


Photo: Alex Goff

By Alex Goff, Field Coordinator Where forest once stood, now there is just palm. Families living in the African palm fields of Bellavista embody the complex issues facing the Secoya nationality at this moment in time. External and internal pressures on the forest environment have made it difficult for many Secoya to live well off the land alone. Forced insertion into the market economy has confined them within a complex cycle of dependence on money for survival. In the community of Bellavista, deceptive loans and the promise of better economic opportunities led many Secoya to clear-cut forest in order to plant African palm, used for biofuel and palm oil found in much of the processed foods consumed in the United States. Days are now spent harvesting palm fruit to pay off loans and a hefty government fine for cutting down rainforest. Aside from deforestation, African palm production results in pesticide runoff into rivers and streams, affecting the local water supply. The stream pictured here, now essentially an irrigation canal for the palm plantation, was the only source of drinking water for this woman and her family until recently. Because of this community’s hard work, they now drink clean water from the rain catchment system next to their home. The Secoya, like all nationalities of Ecuador’s northern Amazon, face very difficult challenges. However, watching them work together to build a movement for clean water inspires hope for the future.