In Ecuador, supporting indigenous organizations to reach new horizons

May 25, 2022
The Ecuadorian Amazon on the horizon, Pastaza, Ecuador. Credit: Pact

Venturing to reach a new destination or setting higher goals is not always easy. Clarifying one’s path takes time and effort but often bears fruit. This is a truth that three indigenous organizations in Ecuador can identify with. They recently began working with the Pact-led SCIOA project to strengthen their administrative and financial capacities to better serve their communities.

Funded by USAID, SCIOA (Strengthening the Capacities of Indigenous Organization in the Amazon) is increasing indigenous people's influence in the governance of the Amazon region in order to protect the environment and the rights of indigenous people. Through SCIOA, Pact and its partners are building the capacities of indigenous organizations to access and manage financial resources and take ownership of their own development planning and priorities in the rainforest of Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Suriname and Guyana.

In Ecuador, SCIOA’s activities are implemented by the local partner the ESQUEL Foundation. The organization has more than thirty years of experience in Ecuador and has established itself as a leader in innovation and social development projects, focusing its work on developing skills, inter-institutional alliances and citizen participation.

Guided by the Pact’s team, ESQUEL participated in a workshop to learn and adapt to the local context two key capacity development tools, the ITOCA (Integrated Diagnosis of Organizational and Technical Capacity) and the OPI (Organizational Performance Index). The use of the tools is progressive, both for the partner and for the indigenous organizations.

“We were able to understand the ITOCA and practice,” says Paulina Cáceres, coordinator of the SCIOA project at ESQUEL Foundation. “The ITOCA is a participatory tool that can be adapted to the context.”

These are the three indigenous organizations in the Ecuadorian Amazon with which Pact and ESQUEL will now work to build their capacity:


ASOTEX 'CHAMBI' members take part in an ITOCA workshop. Credit: Pact

Tena is the capital of the Napo province. In the words of its inhabitants, it is the gateway to the Amazon in Ecuador. A few minutes from its urban center is the Chambira community, made up of the Quichua people, and in its center is the ASOTEX 'CHAMBI' workshop, an association of indigenous women clothing manufacturers with more than 20 years of history, completely led and composed of women united by the conviction of collective strength.

Norma Creta, president of the organization says, “Thanks to these workshops with Pact and ESQUEL, we know that we will continue together and move forward with our organization.” ASOTEX 'CHAMBI' participated in the first phase of the ITOCA workshops, which included an auto-analysis of their current situation and opportunities to continue growing. For the participating women, this is an opportunity to recognize themselves within the organization, to continue protecting their indigenous culture and to encourage a more active role for them within their community.


Workshop activities with ACIA participants, and ACIA's president, Diana Tanguila. Credit: Pact

The Association of Indigenous Communities of Arajuno-ACIA is located in the province of Pastaza in the Amazon region of Ecuador. It is an organization made up of 27 indigenous communities and has a history of more than four decades. Leaders have been born in an organization that demands the defense and autonomy of their territories. This is the case of Diana Tanguila, current president and the first woman to lead the organization.

“The challenge is to have better administrative management of the organization and support the communities in different activities,’’ she says.

At ACIA, they see the beginning of the project as an opportunity to continue strengthening their administrative and financial capacities and thus continue serving the common purpose of local communities for the protection of their ancestral culture and defense of their territories.


Saúl Licuy, president of TSATSAYAKU. Credit: Pact

TSATSAYAKU organization is located in Napo Province. It is recognized for producing organic chocolate and a variety of local products. At the organization, women play an important leadership role to promote the defense of their culture and traditions and, at the same time, the autonomy of their territories where they grow most of their products.

The three indigenous organizations have a horizon toward which to walk, with challenges as well as rewards. For one year, the organizations will receive the necessary tools to continue strengthening their administrative and financial capacities. With support from SCIOA, they have an opportunity to move closer to their dreams and aspirations, which have kept them strong and resilient for years.