Terra Ecuador’s team is delighted to invite you to discover the community of Yunguilla, located in the Choco Andino cloud forest on the western slopes of the Pichincha massif, near Quito.
A project for environmental protection and community well-being
On Tuesday June 06, 2023, we set off on a field reconnaissance trip to discover a rural community. The aim of this team field trip is to visit and make contacts, learn about our contacts, accommodation options and the activities we’ll be proposing to our future travelers, so as to be able to advise them as best we can on the product and find out if the offer might be right for them, depending on their desires, needs and motivations.
This latest field trip took us to the community of Yunguilla, 1h30 from Quito by car. Located in the north-western region of Pichincha, in the cloud forest, the community is around 800 years old and is descended from the Yumbos people, once traders between the Pacific coast and the high plateaus of the Pichincha region.
After the devastation caused by deforestation in the 1970s and 1990s to produce coal, the community (currently 57 families) organized itself around various missions to protect the environment and the organic/circular development of the local economy. Ecosystem preservation and environmental conversation missions were launched in 1998 with major reforestation campaigns.
The community is located within the Chocó-Andino biosphere reserve, and is home to numerous animal species, including the spectacled bear. The last time this species visited the community was in 2018, when a bear and her cub were spotted high up in a tree.
This endemic Andean bear is in danger of extinction, and reforestation and the maintenance of biodiversity are essential to its preservation in the region. This is particularly true of the corredor de circulation, which enables the animals to move between the high and low parts of the Choco Andino as they search for food during the different seasons in the Andes.
As part of this commitment to the environment, as for our Terra Ecuador agency, the community of Yunguilla has been certified by the German company for responsible tourism, TourCert. Yunguilla was the first community in Ecuador to be certified by TourCert in 2017.
Yunguilla’s mission is:
“To be an organized community, with an optimistic environmental conscience, that cultivates its values, with trained people who plan to improve the quality of life, generating their own sources of work, that their products are of quality and improve their health and education to create an image of sustainable development.”
In this spirit of social development, only people from the community can live and work there. A circular economy has been set up with the same aim of generating direct and indirect benefits, enabling young people to settle down and improving the common well-being (living environment, standard of living, infrastructure, quality of the environment, local identity and traditions). The community’s products are only sold locally within the community. Most of the products consumed in the community are locally produced.
Responsible tourism at the heart of the community project
Since 1998, the community has been welcoming international tourists to discover its culture, products and daily life. Since the first group of Dutch travelers came to visit the community, many activities have developed around agrotourism and the community agency.
This economic development of tourism has favored the development of the community, and is today mostly led by women, since more than ¾ of tourism employees are women.
During your visit to Yunguilla, you’ll have the opportunity to discover the dairy products factory, as well as the jam factory.
- The dairy products factory is open every day and is run by a local woman. The milk comes from local family cows, and production varies according to the quantity harvested. You’ll have the chance to get your hands dirty and participate in local production, as well as being able to taste it.
- The jam factory is open two or three times a month. Blackberry, strawberry, cape gooseberry and chigualcán (mountain papaya) jams are made here. You can also take part in the jam-making process during your visit to the community.
Both products are made from 100% natural, fresh, locally-grown ingredients, with no inputs.
As you continue your tour of the community, you’ll discover what they call “La casa de los abuelos”, in French, “La maison des grand-parents”. This house is a reconstruction of the houses where the grandparents lived when they were young. Here you can meet the community’s “abuelos”, listen to stories of their past, their songs and anecdotes, and (re)discover the environment in which they once lived.
You’ll continue your journey with a hike through the rainforest that surrounds the community. Along the way, you’ll come across many plants and landscapes characteristic of this region of Ecuador: mountains, high plateaus, “neblina” or “fog” and a few rays of sunshine.
You’ll also have the opportunity to share moments with the community by helping to teach French or English in the village school. You can also play soccer with the community’s youngsters and share a moment with the locals.
You also have the option of sleeping in a private home, for added comfort, or with a local family, who will be delighted to share a moment of life with you and welcome you into their home.
If you’d like to discover community travel in Ecuador and travel differently, don’t hesitate to contact us!