Touch the Jungle is a rain forest wildlife and habitat protection project sponsored by the US nonprofit Earthways Foundation. Our goals of protecting wildlife and their threatened rainforest and cloud forest habitats necessarily involve supporting local people in their efforts to do the same. Wildlife cannot survive without habitat. Their habitat cannot survive if the protection of local people, and local people cannot survive without wildlife and the forest. Yet extreme poverty causes many communities to accept the offers of mining and timber companies (which are invariably destructive to the environment) just to provide their families with the necessities of life. Touch the Jungle's goal is to support vulnerable communities with essentials such as health care, housing, education, and food security while helping them develop environmentally-friendly sources of income such as organic agriculture and ecotourism.
Touch The Jungle's Ecuador projects began in 1995 in the Chocó rainforest in north-eastern Ecuador in the village of Playa de Oro. With our help, the village designated all of its 25,000 acres
of primary rainforest as a reserve for margays and other endangered
jungle cat species. In return, we helped the village start a low impact ecotourism project.
From 2007 onward, the community of Playa de Oro began managed the reserve and ecotourism itself, with support from the European Union, and Touch the Jungle moved on to work in central Ecuador's Intag Valley, high in the Andes.
Intag, still located in the Chocó
Bio-region, climbing in altitude, the Rainforest
transits into Cloud Forest and the Tropical Andes. The various
communities of Intag have created eco-friendly economic alternatives,
such as organic coffee and other agricultural products, handicrafts,
alternative energy, and eco-tourism in order to preserve their
pristine environment as an alternative against environmentally
destructive activities such as mining. Touch The Jungle assists
those communities in these eco-friendly projects in various ways
to help protect the habitat and wildlife. In cooperation with a local grass-roots organization,
DECOIN, we are supporting other Intag Valley environmental and
education programs. These include helping build schools and providing
needed supplies to communities that are working hard to preserve
their forests, watersheds, and wildlife.
In 2014, Touch The Jungle
built a high school and vocational trade school, in Apuela for the local young people to earn
not only a high school diploma, but a useful trade as well, such
as organic agriculture, animal husbandry and watershed management.
Simultaneously, Touch the Jungle supports a small primary school in the mountains and transportation for older students in remote regions to the nearest secondary school in the valley.
When in 2020 the covid pandemic forced school closures and a complete lockdown of the Intag Valley, Touch the Jungle volunteers turned their attention to social justice projects. These have included the distribution of emergency food and seed packets, making families more food self-sufficient by incubating and distributing baby chicks, stimulating the local economy by repairing and/or rebuilding of cottages for the elderly and handicapped, classes on growing and using construction-grade bamboo, and financial aid for the Cielo Verde medical clinic. Earthways/Touch the Jungle also provides financial assistance to DECOIN (Defensa y Conservacion Ecologica de Intag) a local grass-roots environmental group that has been fighting for decades to block mining which threatens the Intag's cloud forest and water sources. https://www.equatorinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/DECOIN-Ecuador-1.pdf
From the outset of Touch the Jungle's environmental and social justice projects in Ecuador's Chocó rainforest, we have invited visitors to observe and/or participate in the work. You can contact project administrator Grace Lush if you are planning a trip to Ecuador in advance to arrange a visit to the project. As noted above, our projects are currently centered in the Intag Valley. They are detailed elsewhere in this website, and can be followed on Facebook.