Estero de platano

Estero de Plátano - An overview of the community

The community of Estero de Platano is situated on the cabo San Francisco in the province of Esmeraldas in north-west Ecuador. The village lies in a beauiful bay in one of the last remaining areas where the original rain forest stretches down to the sea. It is about an 8 hour journey from Quito.

The Cabo San Francisco is an area of great biological importance which is under constant and increasing threat from the expansion of cattle farms and illegal logging, consistently reducing the remaining areas of forest. The area offshore has been declared a marine reserve (the Galera-San Francisco Marine Reserve) with greater biodiversity than the Galapagos islands.

The community lives from small plots of yucca, maize, plantain, cacao and coffee, cultivated in the jungle and artesanal fishing.

There is a local school with 120 children right beside the sea, and a small health subcenter staffed most of the time by a regular doctor and a nurse.

Yanapuma started to work with the Estero de Platano in 2008. Our current projects are:

  • Sponsoring 13 children to study at secondary level as a means of increasing the educational level of the villages of Estero de Plátano and Quingue so that they will be better able to set up and run small tourism-related businesses.. This program also involves coordinating with the local college to ensure that the education they receive is of the optimum quality, and sending volunteers to the community to help the children with homework and deepen their educational experience.
  • The development of crafts production through a group that is learning to produce crafts from local materials.
  • Helping to develop tourism, working with a group of families who initially are hosting visitors in their own homes. We aim to help them develop various touristic activities around the ocean, beach and jungle.
  • Waste management and recycling: We are working to set up a recycling project in the community and to educate children about these issues. There is some movement in the local municipality to work on waste and recycling. It is relatively easy to set up a project in the community, but if there is no way of removing the collected material the whole project will fail.
  • Health promotion: We are in contact with the local doctor and nurse to help with suitably qualified individuals who can work with local families and in the school on health, hygiene, nutrition, etc.
  • Spanish classes: In order to encourage tourism in Estero de Platano we have made it a destination for our "traveling classroom" with the option to spend a week or more studying Spanish in this beautiful location.
  • Working with youth on issues of sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as encouraging them to develop a marimba and cultural group to recover and express their cultural traditions.


The principle challenge to development in the communities along the coast is an entrenched individualism, centered on the family, that makes collaboration and organization difficult. While the world is changing rapidly around them with the arrival of a hard road, and with outsiders trying to buy land for development, the community still lacks the ability to organize themselves to defend their own rights and protect their own future.

In addition, the relaxed attitude to time and flexible notions of what constitutes commitment further reduce the community's ability to respond to the challenges that they face. We have noticed that the village is becoming accustomed to receiving help in the form of "projects" from a variety of organizations, and are often looking for the next project before thinking about acting. We are consciously working to avoid this kind of dependency on the part of community members.

Volunteering/Cultural Exchange Opportunities

Long-term volunteers are needed to help those attending high school with their learning and homework, to teach English in the school, and those with appropriate experience to help in the medical center with health promotion, screening, etc. As we start to expand our work there we also need researchers to gather basic information about the community and others to help in the areas of agriculture, sanitation, water, etc.

Estero de Plátano is a great place to learn Spanish. Visitors are welcome to spend a week or more with the community, experiencing their very laid-back lifestyle, and exploring the beach, jungle and ocean.

Our projects in Estero de Plátano

Scholarship program in Estero de Plátano