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Creating a Conservation Agreement

Within the Socio Bosque program, the Sustainable Use and Mangrove Custody Agreements (Socio Manglar) empowers local communities to serve as “custodians” to protect mangrove ecosystems while gaining exclusive access to the sustainable extraction of high-commodity resources, such as red crabs and black cockles. Mangrove forest concessions emerged in 1999 as
a complementary strategy to the national protected area policy strategy. This innovative strategy supports the conservation of mangrove forests by providing legal security to traditional mangrove users, conceding them land rights concessions and thereby promote the participation of local communities in the conservation of mangroves.

Conservation agreements are the tools to plan the field actions required to promote the ecological change desired (conservation, restoration). In Ecuador mangrove conservation agreements were implemented in year 2000 and are called Mangroves Use and Stewardship Agreements (MAAE 2014). Because mangroves are owned by the State, the Ministry of Environment and Water gives the exclusive right to local communities for use and custody mangrove areas.  

Step 1: Implement mangrove conservation agreements

Design the conservation agreements: For the implementation of the mangrove conservation agreements initiatives should: Conservation agreements (CA) are voluntary for all parties, and the design and negotiation processes must be transparent and inclusive of all. The main steps of the CA model are summarized as follows:

  • Choose sites based on a rapid feasibility analysis conducted prior to agreement design

  • Begin engagement by building a relationship with interested resource users in a transparent and participatory manner

  • Build on this relationship to design and formalize an agreement that is:

    • a) win-win (benefits both biodiversity and resource users) and

    • b) quid-pro quo (provision of benefits depends on conservation performance)

  • Before implementation, build socio-economic and biodiversity baselines and define a monitoring system for both and throughout the implementation of the agreement apply biological and socio-economic monitoring systems

  • During the implementation phase, meet commitments punctually and facilitate the resource users in meeting theirs

  • Consider an initial short-term “trial” agreement to allow both parties to evaluate and refine agreement for the long termIf a long-term agreement is sought, work together to secure long-term financing

  • Throughout the process, help improve the model through participation in a global learning network of implementers

Discussions with the community: During this phase it is important to consider the Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) right and guidelines. The main activities are:

  • Gather information

    • Understand the current local context

    • Understand legal and customary rights

    • Identify and respect traditional decision-making structures

  • Collaborate on design and implementation

    • Develop a culturally sensitive approach

    • Ensure full and effective participation

    • Ensure information exchange

    • Reach consent on course of action

  • Ensure accountability

    • Incorporate FPIC into grievance mechanism

    • Monitor and adapt commitments


Design the management plan and agreements with technical support: The management plan is a quick document (30 pages) that is easy to follow for the local communities and helps in the reporting process.   The main steps for the development of the management plan are:

  1. Involvement with the Community

  2. Design of the Diagnosis: Biophysical, socioeconomic and policy

  3. Design of the management programs with activities

  4. Design the Community regulations and sanctions

  5. Socialization and approval in assembly

Create the file with all the supporting information: The file that the communities must present to the National Environmental Authority have to contain:

  • Written request addressed to the National Environmental Authority

  • Certified copy of the legal instrument by which the applicant organization was granted legal status

  • Certified copy of the appointment of the board of the applicant organization

  • Management plan of the requested area

  • Internal regulations for the use of the area, which must contain the rules to be followed and the sanctioning measures that the organization will apply to offenders in case of non-compliance

  • List of beneficiaries, with identification number and signatures of each one of the beneficiaries, declaring their full knowledge and compliance with the internal regulations

  • Feasibility report of the administration of the area, if the requested areas are within protected areas of the National System of Protected Areas

Signature of the agreement: Usually, the communities and the National Environmental Authority prepare an event for the signature of the agreement. It’s important to national representatives to go to the area to promote the conservation of each site. There are 59 conservation agreement (called AUSCEM) currently cover 60,217 ha of mangroves. However, a significant area of current mangrove areas and their traditional users are not covered by active AUSCEM, leaving them at risk of encroachment and uncontrolled resource exploitation

Step 2: Monitoring and organizational strengthening

Participatory Monitoring of fisheries: Communities are demanded to provide in by annual basis information on the fisheries activities in their area. The participatory monitoring that was established in a Ministerial Agreement demands for information according to the structure:

Information of the community (or association);

  1. Initial training for the community;

  2. Feedback given to the community;

  3. Georeferencing of crabs or black shells extraction areas;

  4. Population density studies;

  5. Reproductive aspects;

  6. Document management of the information received.

Organizational strengthening: Organizational strengthening and experience are key aspects for the success of the conservation agreements and the incentive payment schemes. Training must be focused on the following issues:

  • With the community: Key aspects of the conservation agreement (activities that they can and can’t do in the area), decision making process and participation in the community assemblies, role of men and women in the fisheries and the conservation agreement, diversification of economic activities.

  • With the leaders: legal requirement, accounting, reporting process, 

Step 3: Develop incentive payment scheme (Socio Manglar)

Structure, value and objective of the incentive: The Socio Manglar payment is based as a cost-effective incentive, it is structured in a way that maximizes the number of hectares that enter the program and be inclined to minimize costs of transaction and equity. The amount of the incentive is established based on the following (MAAE 2014). A fixed annual amount according to the area included in the Mangrove Sustainable Use and Custody Agreement. This is as follows:

  • 100 to 500 hectares receive $ 7,000 USD

  • 501 to 1,000 hectares receive $ 10,000 USD

  • Greater than 1,000 hectares receive $ 15,000 USD


Only in cases where the Ministry of Environment approves a concession for less than 100 hectares this concession may also participate in Socio Manglar, and in these cases they will receive an incentive equal to category 1. A variable amount depending on the number of hectares within the concession, which has been set in $ 3 USD / ha / year. This value corresponds to approximately 50% of the variable operating cost observed by hectare and the other 50% corresponds to a contribution from the beneficiaries of the agreements. The total amount of the annual incentive will be transferred in two installments for 50% of the incentive each year, in the months of May and October. The incentives will be credited to the communities through the transfer to their bank accounts that has to be from an institution of the national financial system.


The objective of the incentive is to support the partner in all aspects that may contribute to a successful execution of the management plans of the Agreements. The following items should be considered in the budget and annual investment plan:

a) Investments and operating costs associated with control and surveillance.

b) Expenses associated with administrative management.

c) Expenses associated with technical assistance for the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the management plans.

d) Organizational strengthening.

e) Total or partial financing of productive or social projects for the benefit of associates.


Creation of the file for application: Preparation of the investment plan and accounting, the file that has to be presented to the Ministry of Environment and Water need to have the following requirements:

  • Legible copies of ID of the legal representative of the community

  • Copy of document that validates the legal representative

  • Legible copy of RUC (that agrees with the legal status indicated by the property title presented)

  • Certificate of active bank account in the name of the updated collective property.

  • Legible copy of the Property Title with "inscription in the Property Registry"

  • Copy of the certificate of legal existence and legal status granted by a public entity.

  • Georeferenced map of the area to be conserved (to be prepared with PSB field technician)

  • Minutes of Assembly and Registration of Attendance with the following information: a) Approval of entry to Socio Bosque b) Approval of Participative Investment Plan.

  • Updated Property Liens Certificate

  • Copy of Community Statutes


Requirements for signing the Agreement: In addition to the requirements for the application and once it has been accepted by Socio Bosque, the interested party must submit the following requirements prior to signing the Agreement.

  1. All the requirements of the application (it is a verification of the entered file).

  2. Minutes of the highest body of the organization in which they express their consent to enter the Program, signed by the secretary, original and copy.

  3. Account certificate issued by a financial institution in the name of the organization.

  4. Participatory investment plan for at least the first year of use of the incentive that will be obtained from Socio Manglar duly approved by the highest body of the organization.


Investment plan: The Socio Bosque Program will carry out a biannual monitoring regarding the fulfillment of the Investment plans. Participants must report semiannually the progress in their fulfillment, in accordance with the formats that, for this purpose, the Ministry of the Environment establishes, through the Socio Bosque Program. The Socio Bosque Program will analyze and evaluate the investment plans and accountability reports of the participants through an instruction manual that includes technical criteria for administrative-financial management; Additionally, the Program may request changes in the allocation to the investment areas, being able to establish a limit percentage to the organizational administrative expenses and additional requirements according to the technical standards issued by the Program's management.

The investment plans and the rendering of accounts must be approved by the assemblies of each organization. Copy of the minutes of said assemblies must be sent to the program.

The delivery of the accountability reports with the respective endorsements that sustain them will be the enabler for the transfer of the next installment of the incentive.


Approval and execution of the incentive: Of existing CA, many are vulnerable because income from sustainable resource use still does not meet basic needs, even for those benefiting from SM agreements and incentive payments. In 2020, SM payments to users will total US$ 379,563. But currently only 33,467 ha of mangroves under 25 CA are benefiting from SM incentive payment agreements, leaving significant scope for expansion within remaining active CA (26,750 has) as well as in potential new areas.


Reporting: to the association, community and MAAE: In the event that the participant decides to leave Socio Manglar before the term stipulated in the agreement, and without breach of the obligations set forth in literals a), g) and h) of section 8 of this Operating Manual, the person in charge of the Program Socio Bosque will present a technical-economic report of the particular case, by which it will be established that the beneficiary must return the unjustified funds to the Ministry of the Environment. In the case of non-compliance with the obligations and consequently early departure, the beneficiary, after a technical report from the SGMC, must return to the Ministry of the Environment in accordance with the expenses that are motivated by the Ministry of the Environment not justified and in accordance with the following category of permanence in the Socio Manglar chapter:

a) From 1 to 5 years, refund of up to 100%

b) From 6 to 10 years Restitution of up to 70%

Step 4: Evaluate the impact of the incentive

The incentive agreements have a duration equal to the conservation agreements. In the case of Ecuador that is 10 years. These agreements need to have evaluation in different areas: geographic evaluation and socioeconomic evaluation,


Geographic evaluationThe Ministry of the Environment develops on-site inspections at any time to verify the conservation of the mangrove and the data consigned in the declaration delivered by the participants, as well as to monitor compliance with the obligations signed in the conservation agreements. In addition, the Ministry of Environment will carry out verifications through remote sensors and other available techniques, to verify the permanence of the vegetation cover and will maintain a cartographic database of the areas and will record the results of the monitoring.

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