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  • Writer's pictureSantiago Rodríguez Girón

Association of Crabbers 6 de Julio

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

Seeking the balance between mangrove protection and economic benefits for a better standard of living in the community.

Description of the study case

The Association of Crabbers (mangrove crab collectors) 6 de Julio has existed for 20 years. 150 people belong to the Association, which has statutes and an organization based on collaboration and respect. The majority of the members belong to the Montubia ethnic group of Ecuador.

The association was created because of the need of the inhabitants of the sector to protect the mangrove and find sustainable and environmentally sustainable sources of income. This association works in 1,926 hectares of mangrove swamps under concession from the Ministry of the Environment.

To ensure conservation and sustainable productivity with crabs, the association dictates certain rules that all members must comply with, such as minimum catch size, maximum daily harvest quantity, respect for closed seasons, monitoring of the mangrove, catching only males, among others. Additionally, they carry out reforestation activities in the mangrove.

The work of harvesting crabs has been inherited from father to son. However, sometimes this activity is not enough as a means of economic sustenance, among other reasons, because they have distribution problems and do not have processes to generate value-added products based on crab.

For this reason, crab collectors can usually be found on the road, selling the live crabs in the form of bundles or "atados" (a set of 12 to 24 crabs tied together and forming a kind of bucket). Therefore, the Association has long considered receiving visitors as an alternative to generate more profit through gastronomy and tourism.

They recognize their lack of knowledge in tourism management so they fear making mistakes and discouraging the members of the Association to participate.

To this end, the Ministry of the Environment and the NGO Nature and Culture International (NCI) have advised them on the development of a route through the mangroves. The cost of the route is $25 dollars and includes: tour, collection of shells and crabs, and lunch based on what was collected.

Some tour operators in Guayaquil have wanted to negotiate with the Association, but the Association believes that they want to pay them very little and the value offered is "not even enough for gasoline".

Some members of the Association have even been certified as local guides. However, few visitors get to have this experience in the mangrove. These are mainly national visitors and sometimes guests of the Kaluz Inn, which is located in the area. Visitors learn about the possibility of this visit through a sign located on the access road to the territories where the Association operates.

The organization is aware that they lack promotion and strategic alliances. But even more importantly, they recognize their lack of knowledge in tourism management so they fear making mistakes and discouraging the members of the Association to participate.

Among other initiatives to address this problem, they have planned observation visits to other community tourism projects, such as the one on Puná Island. While in other productive aspects they aspire to find the technical and financial support to develop products with crab pulp.

Another important weakness is the lack of gender equity in the roles and management of the Association, since women's participation is still limited to certain activities. On the other hand, along the main road, brothels and motels proliferate, also due to the lack of development opportunities.

Source: initial information on the Pilot Project generated by the international team of the PREIT-Tour platform in May 2020.

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