Fourth in a series on tackling poverty while protecting the environment.  Read the intro

The settlement of Cristóbal Colón, like most tiny towns scraped into the backcountry, was rough. There were no jobs in the rural community in western Ecuador, so people were leaving to eek out a meager existence in the capital. Houses were empty and alcoholism was a serious problem, Maria Quezada, a longtime resident of Colón, told me. “For those that remained there was only one option: clear the forest and establish plantations,” she said.

Most of the surrounding Chocó rainforest had already been chopped down for cattle ranching, cocoa plantations, and plywood companies. So when a timber company cut a logging road into the forest near the town, the area was primed for deforestation.