There are approximately 9 million hectares [22 million acres] of forests in Ecuador, mainly in the Amazon region and in protected areas. Intensive changes in land use in the country have been driven mainly by an expansion of the agricultural and livestock frontier, felling and marketing of timber, urban expansion, and internal migratory processes (Añazco, Morales, Palacios, Vega, & Cuesta, 2010).
Nearly 70% of the forests outside of protected areas are on collectively held indigenous lands or in the hands of small farmers. These circumstances mean that the various indigenous nationalities constitute major actors to be taken into account when drafting regulatory measures and bolstering forestry governance. It is even more important to consider that forestry decision-making within the communities must also be made transparent. Although types of leadership and organization vary among the nationalities, there is no mechanism to ensure that forestry authorizations requested by the upper echelons have been socialized at the grassroots level. There is also no mechanism to establish transparency and ensure the equitable distribution of benefits from forestry product exploitation.
Despite the importance of its forests, the country does not have reliable, up-to-date information that enables their management and sustainable use. Thus, there was no official data on the rate of deforestation available at the end of 2010. A similar situation pertains with respect to information on landholding and forestry use, among other key elements. Although some sort of information does exist, in particular with relation to forest use, it is not made available to the public at large.
The country has had a Law of Transparency and Access to Public Information (LOTAIP) since 2004, but it has not been sufficiently applied by the civil society organizations (CSOs) interested in sustainable forestry management. Generation of a regular report on forestry transparency is an opportunity for civil society to demand publication of and access to information, and thus to contribute to participation and accountability respecting the management of forest assets in Ecuador.