Eco-Pueblo Project &
Spanish School
Pucará, Intag River Valley, Imbabura

Pucará is a small agricultural village of 300 people at
2081 meters in the Intag River Valley, in Cotacachi
County, Imbabura. The valley is located on the western
slope of the Andes between Cotocachi and Los Bancos,
and is swathed in cloud forest and small farms. The Alto
Chocó cloud forest of the valley is one of the world´s ten
most bio-diverse ecosystems, and is deemed a
Biodiversity “hot spot” by UNESCO.

The valley was a pre-conquest trading route and
sparsely inhabited until a seasonal road was
constructed in the 1960s. The opening of the valley to
vehicles brought colonists desperate for land and the
area quickly grew a reputation for its excellent soil and
hot climate: perfect conditions for a wide variety of
market crops. Because the valley traditionally connected
the coast and sierra, colonists from both regions
arrived, forming a fascinating mix of Afro-Latino,
Otavalo, and Kayambi cultures, traditions, languages,
and agricultural techniques.

Today, the Intag valley has gained a reputation for its
staunch resistance to mining interests and an
investment in sustainable development and eco-tourism.

For more in depth information click here:
Pucará: A Guide for Visitors

There are three ways to volunteer in Pucará:
  • as a part of a pre-organized group
  • as an individual assisting with the implementation
    of the town Eco-Pueblo model (see below).
  • as a volunteer coordinator for Pucará´s new
    Spanish School (see below).

Volunteer Groups
The first option is ideal for larger groups of volunteers
where we help with a variety of different infrastructure,
education, and agro-projects including organic
community gardens, medicinal gardens and the
construction of basic, low-cost housing for economically
marginalized families. Volunteers can participate in the
community homestay program, living with local families,
or stay just down the road in cabins next to volcanic hot
springs in Nangulví (right) where the local youth
organization has developed  cooperatively-operated
cabins and restaurant.

As of 2010, the housing project, organized by Inter-
American CASA, has constructed 12 low cost homes in
the village. Each home costs approximately $1850 and
the land has been donated by the local church.

A Housing Committee representing the different sectors
of Pucará democratically decides which families receive
housing and in what order. To receive a house, family
members are expected to donate 250 hours of social
capital, or unpaid community service work. In this
manner, a sense of project solidarity is rooted in the
community and all recipient families have a concrete
investment in their new home.

Volunteers help with the whole construction process:
digging foundations, mixing cement, laying blocks, and
pouring concrete floors. This project is an excellent
opportunity for students or volunteers interested in a
real, meaningful, solidarity-based volunteer experience
in a beautiful location.

Volunteers also have the chance while in the Intag
Valley to talk with youth, activists, and community
groups on a variety of subjects including sustainable
development planning, politics, small-scale agricultural
models, and cooperative enterprise and micro-credit

As  2010 came to a close, volunteers and community
members had already completed twelve houses and a
200 square meter community center complete with
bathrooms and kitchen facilities! The “centro
comunitario” was also supported by funds from the
municipal government of Cotacachi.

Eco-Pueblo Project
For the last decade, the Intag Valley has been
threatened by various transnational corporate plans to
develop huge, open-pit copper mines in the middle of
the Alto Chocó cloud forest, one of the most bio-diverse
places on the planet. The only thing that has stopped
this from happening has been the incredible, grass-
roots, anti-mining movement of poor campesinos. For
updated info on the struggle click here:

The mayor of Cotacachi County, Auki Tituaña, passed
an ordanance declaring Cotacachi a
Cantón Ecologico.
This means it is against municipal law for any business
to engage in activities that harm the environment, and
explicitly states that citizens´ right to a healthy
environment and drinking water supercedes corporate

Realizing that catalyzing sustainable economic
development is a crucial part of the anti-mining strategy
(the mining companies promise jobs, infrastructure,
etc.), the region has seen a renaissance of eco-tourism,
organic agriculture, and micro-business projects.

Seeing the importance of sustainable development, the
community of Pucará has the vision of making it’s new
neighborhood a model for poor, rural communities
seeking better living styles and alternatives.

As a result, in 2006 the community decided to implement
an “eco-pueblo” model for the new neighborhood under
construction. Viewing the construction of 10 houses as
an opportunity to develop a new model for rural, low-
income housing, the people of Pucará are investigating
ways to implement sustainable energy technology,
ecological design, and permaculture concepts into the
long–term planning of the new neighborhood. Plans

  • Rain-water catchment systems

  • Solar water heating

  • Community organic gardens

  • Medicinal gardens to serve as a free "green
    pharmacy" and accompanied by a public
    education effort to recuperate ancient knowledge
    of local medicinal plants.

  • Native species reforestation and water source

  • Ongoing recycling program and waste
    management strategy

  • Gray-water catchment that will feed in to a series
    of Tilapia fish ponds to provide a food and
    economic resource

  • A large green space in front of the community
    center will be left open to serve as a community
    park complete with benches, landscaping and
    community gardens.

  • Implementation of agro-ecological farming models
    on small parcels of land including participation in
    the local, organic, fair-trade coffee cooperative.

  • Development of community tourism in the cloud
    forest utilizing licensed native guides.

  • The establishment of a Spanish School as an
    economic project aimed at Pucara's youth to be
    partially administered by a volunteer coordinator
    (see right).

For more in depth information click here:
Pucará: A Guide for Visitors


Peter Shear for more information:

in Ecuador: 086-849-950

Intag Spanish School

Soon after building the first houses
that were to become the Eco-Pueblo, it
quickly became apparent that without
the institution of successful,
community economic development
projects the houses would be
abandoned in another generation, as
people would be forced to follow their
parents as emigrant workers in the
cities and abroad.

The Intag Spanish School is the first of
several economic development
projects to be launched as part of the
Eco-Pueblo Project.

The first six teacher´s, accredited by
Ministerio de Educación,
recieved their licenses in March 2008
(photo above with Instructor).

The Intag Spanish School needs
long-term volunteers to act
as Inter-Cultural Coordinators:
helping with promotion, translation,
cultural and tourism programs,
homestay program, website, and


to learn more about the Intag Spanish
School and its programs.

Click here for a detailed Plan
Eco-Pueblo in Spanish, including
project budgets and Economic
Development projects.
Inter-American Center for the Arts, Sustainability,and Action

Centro Interamericano para las Artes, el Sustento, y la Acción