Ecuador is a land full of wonders. It has palm trees growing at an altitude of 3000 metres and is home to ⅙ of all bird species in the world. It is abundant in natural resources, and the highly fertile volcanic soils produce harvest as often as 3 times a year with fruit like strawberries available all year round. Ecuadorians are very friendly and peace-loving people. Ecuador is indeed one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with unique and diverse landscapes.
Ecuador is located between Colombia and Peru on the Pacific coast and straddles across the Equator. The palpable force of mother nature can definitely be felt here. There are 55 volcanoes in the Andes highlands alone, in which 18 are classified as active. Ecuador’s unique location, topography, climate and ethnic groups (35% live in indigenous communities) make it one of the most diverse countries in the world. There is something utterly unique to experience and discover in every corner. The Yasuní National Park located in the Amazon lowlands has the highest biodiversity in the world. The coast of Ecuador is home to extensive mangrove forests, and the Galapagos Islands are the birthplace of the theory of evolution.
For generations, Ecuador has been the top exporter of bananas. They produce more than 20 types of bananas which are often used in their cooking. Banana plantations are found at altitudes from 0 up to 2000 metres and even at coastal areas. Besides bananas, other fruit and vegetables produced in Ecuador are also incredibly delicious. Exotic fruits like tamarillos, naranjillas and dragonfruit are often used to make mouth-watering juice.
The Best Cacao
Ecuadorians call it “Cacao-Nacional” while experts call it Arriba-Cacao. Cacao seeds are what chocolate is made from, which gives it a rich, velvety flavour. Cacao plantations are found in the Amazon and coastal region. They grow at altitudes from 0 to 700 metres. Ecuadorians have produced chocolate with great success, as exemplified by Pacari – an internationally renowned Ecuadorian chocolate manufacturer. Chocolate produced in Ecuador often contains over 60% cacao. This percentage is an excellent indication of the chocolate’s quality.
The Curse and Blessing of Ecuador’s Crude oil
Due to its prime location, Ecuador has some of the richest soils with plenty of natural resources. This was proven once again when a significant amount of crude oil was discovered in the Amazon lowlands. Revenues from oil production make up a large proportion of the state’s budget. The nationalization of the oil sector in 2006 increased expenditure on education, allowing the introduction of minimum wage and help implement measures to combat poverty (see below). However, the history of oil production is often plagued by bad management, corruption, and environmental pollution. When the oil is extracted from underground, the environment is often contaminated with chemicals and oil. The building of oil extracting infrastructure usually involves deforestation which causes severe damage and pollution to nature.
The Shrimp Boom
When you fly over the coastal region of Ecuador, you will have a magnificent view of enormous pools located along the coastline. These natural pools are used for shrimp farming, and they run over 180,000 hectares. Shrimps are an integral part of the Ecuadorian diet, and it is comparable to sausages for Germans. Furthermore, Ecuador is the second largest shrimp exporter in the world. Shrimp farming pools were created through deforestation of mangrove forests, which is now prohibited.
Roses from Ecuador
The most beautiful roses in the world are found in Ecuador. Ecuador is the fourth largest exporter of roses which began in 1985. 2 million roses are exported yearly. Ecuador is continuously in the limelight of international debates surrounding environmentally and socially responsible flower production.
The Republic of Ecuador’s political system is a representative democracy. Since 1832, Ecuador has gone through more political changes than any other countries in the world. Coups and revolutions seem to be part of the Ecuadorian DNA. Most presidents do not survive more than a year in office. This is a lesser known fact about Ecuador as the revolutions are often very peaceful. The founder of Galapagos PRO, Beate Zwermann, has personally experienced 2 of such uprisings in Ecuador. When around 16 million Ecuadorians are unsatisfied with the government, they will march through the streets in Quito. Corruption and mismanagement of resources have plagued the country for years.
Despite having adopted the US Dollar as their official currency to ease inflation, that does not mean that they are Pro-America. At least not in the present. Under the governance of President Rafael Correa, the US-Ecuador relationship has grown distant. Furthermore, with the help of NGOs (Non-Profit Organisations), the country has reduced its foreign debt, which freed it from western economic imperialism. A commission was set up to examine the country’s debt and go through all credit agreements. It aimed at was to uncover illegitimate debts and to terminate them. Since then, Ecuador has difficulty finding a place in the international market. Most loans used for renewing Ecuador’s infrastructures came from China. In less than 10 years, transport infrastructure throughout the entire Ecuador completely. Ecuadorians now enjoy new streets, power lines, airports and a new underground train line in Quito. This drastic improvement allowed the economy to flourish. President Correa established taxes, worker’s rights and reduced extreme poverty in Ecuador up to 45%. All of this was paid for by the oil beneath the Amazon rainforest. Lenin Moreno, the former foreign minister, is now the successor of Correa. He provides trust and stability to his citizens. Although Rafael Correa’s government was not free from corruption, anyone familiar with Ecuador before 2000 will be amazed by the massive progress that the country has made in just a few years.
How should one wash their hands? What is the right way to set the table? How should trash be separated? These ‘burning’ questions were all answered by the ‘educational television’ in Ecuador. This was accompanied by the construction of public toilets, the introduction of waste separation and disposal using Europe’s UMV recycling model. Visitors will find Ecuador very clean today. The area in front of every door is swept, and public trash bins help to sort trash for recycling. National parks and public areas are clean and well kept too.
If you want to get to know the locals, you can first try speaking to the friendly shoe polisher at San Francisco Plaza in Quito. They are mostly youths who are eager to tell you their life stories while they swing their brushes enthusiastically. You can also try the benches at Grande Plaza, where aspiring politicians and preachers gather to give speeches.
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