Corridors of Connectivity

Joan Hanawi - Ecuador

March 28, 2012

Scribbling away furiously, I was doing everything that I had learned not to do in school. I was attempting to copy down every single word my boss said, trying to notate what he was saying without truly processing. However, the sudden silence made me pause.

“You know what an eco-corridor is, right?”

Not your typical desk job!

Sheepishly, I shook my head “no” in response to my boss’s question as he began to laugh. “You’ve been taking notes this entire time, but you don’t even know what you’re taking notes on!” In my first month at my apprenticeship with the German International Cooperation (GIZ) at the Ministry of the Environment, I had been tasked with creating various databases and organizing file archives. My boss had been in the middle of explaining the need for more research into the effectiveness and management of eco-corridors, as our office was searching for a way to create one to connect a national park and a biosphere reserve. “An eco-corridor,” he continued, “is a natural space that is used to allow for the safe movement of wildlife between two areas. They’re also known as corridors of connectivity because they connect the life between two sites.”

With this new definition in mind, I set out to create a database full of all the eco-corridor research I could find. I wasn’t expecting to have much authority in my position, which pushed me to put all of my efforts into whatever tasks I was given, even if that meant simply making databases. But that also turned out to be the last database I created, as my apprenticeship started to evolve into its own version of a corridor of connectivity.

Community visit to Serena in order to assess water quality and lay groundwork for a piping system

I came here originally with the job description to work as the coordinator of the environmental magazine, Huellas del Sumaco, and that’s exactly what I’ve done. And then some. Working with the German International Cooperation has opened up so many opportunities that are unimaginable for an eighteen year old straight out of high school with no college degree. My work here started with Huellas del Sumaco in its production and distribution, but definitely hasn’t ended there. I have had the honor of meeting leaders in both the local and international community that are working for the conservation of tropical forests, responsible governance of natural resources, and the growth of sustainable development measures, as they are the authors of our articles in Huellas del Sumaco. However, after finishing the final 2011 publication, my apprenticeship carried me to the city, as I was able to bring the work of the Amazon to Quito, going to organizations and schools to share about our activities in the rainforest. I’ve attended an MUN conference, facilitated a Peace Corps information session on protected areas in Ecuador, assisted in the instruction (and consumption!) of artisanal chocolate making courses, visited communities, hiked through pura selva to measure pipe lengths to create water systems from local rivers to communities, and, most recently, presented at an international forestry transparency conference in Quito and then brought the members of the workshop to Tena to see the projects discussed in person.

In a way, my position here with GIZ and the Ministry of the Environment has allowed me to open corridors of connectivity into the people, culture, and environment of Ecuador, and there’s no type of future salary that will ever pay as well as the benefits I’ve reaped from this job.

Bolier Torres (left), my incredible boss and Anibal Gomez (right), one of the kindest coworkers anyone could ever ask for.

Joan Hanawi