Believe it or not I started writing this on May 1st, International Workers Day, while thinking about our foundation´s tag line “For Birds and Nature, Empowering People.” Noble sentiment perhaps, but how is it on the ground that we empower anyone I asked myself, you know, in that way that the coronavirus lock-down has given us all more time for introspection and one would hope, honest assessment.
Let´s start close at hand with the people we see all the time and who you´ll see repeated throughout our website and blogs as the months go by, our staff. One way we empower them that´s tangible, measurable, isn´t that we´re doing anything extraordinary, just following the law. As a high percentage of our readers are in the US and in Europe, many might be surprised to hear just how progressive and intelligent Ecuador´s labor laws are. Even minimum wage workers are guaranteed full health care, dental and a package of financial services, loans and an old-age pension. Of course the actual coverage is better in some regions of the country than others, and often there are wait times to get an appointment with a medical specialist, but generally the system works and we´re all the better for it.
OK, that´s nice and maybe meeting our obligations as employers doesn´t sound like much, but it´s relatively expensive. Did you know that real labor costs in Ecuador are nearly three times higher than those of Colombia and Peru, our two Andean Community neighbors? Imagine how tough this must be for certain businesses to compete, the agro-export sector for example. Or how tough it can be to compete with local production costs being what they are and with Ecuador´s international borders so porous. We share mountainous and jungle covered borders with Colombia and Peru and huge amounts of contraband flow up and down the Andes, everything from potatoes to parrots to prohibited alkaloids. This doesn´t directly affect the conservation work of our foundation, but could prove devastating for our neighbors and friends as the country tries to move out of the COVID shut-down without too many obvious answers to how to get people back to work. – Sorry for the tangent.
Another way we empower our staff is by providing access to training and job skills development, sure there´s a lot of enlightened self-interest at play here, but we´re also beginning a new training program where all team members will set personal goals and pursue a combination of online courses and various events with experts, like recently, May 22nd, when we hosted the visit of agronomist and nursery specialist Diego Cargua to keep the gang learning.
Through various projects and efforts over the past years we´ve hosted trainings in dendrology; tree climbing with ropes, harnesses and other protective equipment; agro-forestry; bird and wildlife illustration; the hydrology of tropical mountain streams; the carbon cycle in tropical forests, always with a proactive policy of gender inclusion in support of Sustainable Development Goal #5, Gender Equality, from the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Not that we´ve placed great emphasis on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, but sure we´re happy to see when what we´ve been meaning to do anyway is aligned and has a name, a code, even a logotype.
So now that we´ve just finished the month of May, here we wanted to salute our staff whose pictures you see distributed throughout this post.