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Urbanizing the Ecuadorian Frontier: Links between Rural and Urban Places in the Northern Oriente

Project Overview

Funding Agency: Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Begin Date: July 1, 2004
End Date: June 30, 2005

The tropical rainforest of northeastern Ecuador (the northern Oriente) is an area of complex interactions among a number of important and diverse stakeholders -- (a) spontaneous colonists who have in-migrated from other regions of the country and settled on household farms; (b) newly emerging communities and market centers that have consolidated services, offer off-farm employment to colonists, and affect land use/land cover through direct and indirect ways; (c) indigenous people who follow traditional practices, but are increasingly affected by the rise of commercial agriculture, oil production within their historical territories, and a transition to a consumer-based economy with links to local communities; (d) oil exploiters who build roads and lay pipelines for petroleum extraction in colonist and indigenous areas, thereby opening up areas for settlement and development including the establishment of towns; and (e) conservation and protected areas established by the government to impeded development and retain biodiversity in a rapidly transforming frontier environment.

The basic intent of this research is to examine the effects of urbanization and the nature of rural-urban links on land use/land cover (LULC) patterns in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The specific goals are four-fold: (1) examine the rural-urban linkages in the northern Oriente by considering the direct (e.g., expansion of the urban setting through peripheral growth and community densification through structural in-filling) and indirect (e.g., off-farm employment of household members from nearby farms, and increased land fragmentation in hinterland areas) affects of communities on LULC change patterns; (2) assess the historical origins and morphology of communities, and their service and demographic characteristics, as centers of agricultural enterprises and/or oil exploration and their corresponding links to rural populations; (3) examine the differences in household income levels and rural population densities at the sector level (i.e., a collection of farms that have been organized into development zones) on LULC change patterns; and (4) assess the feedbacks between new roads and the location of protected areas on community characteristics and LULC dynamics.