Local Development in National and Regional Contexts: The case of Coca, Ecuador
This study will examine the socio-economic conditions of Francisco de Orellana, a town carved into the Amazon jungle of Ecuador, which began as a tiny village containing no more than a few small buildings, and grew over the course of fifty years into a hub of oil production. Commonly referred to as Coca, the town has attracted people from across Ecuador and across the globe who have learned of the rich resources offered by the zone in which Coca sits. Skyrocketing growth has resulted in a high degree of disorganization in both infrastructure and administration. Coca's growth has yet to even level off, but is expected to decline at some point in the future as its natural resources are depleted and oil companies withdraw from the zone. Residents of Coca face myriad issues as realities of daily life. In addition to a severe lack of such basic services as running water and proper sewage, they are experiencing the consequences of a rapidly growing city. Some of the effects are air and noise pollution, unsanitary living conditions, deforestation, high cost of living, an unstable job market, and dependence on government and industry. Perhaps the most daunting issue is the looming threat of depleted oil wells, which would translate into a loss of a major source of employment and income for many of Coca's citizens. Securing a new economic base has already been identified as a primary concern by local officials. In addition to presenting the reality which residents of Coca are presently experiencing in relation to basic services, infrastructure, industries, and government of Coca, this study will address a number of more specific issues. The study will draw connections between the community and its own development, the role of the petroleum, agricultural and ecotourism industries in Coca's development, and the future expansion of these and other economic bases. This monograph will attempt to provide possible explanations for the manner in which Coca has grown, as well as suggest elements to complement the development path of the coming years. It will discuss the prominent role of local government in the socio-economic development of Coca, which will include extensive descriptions of the projects which have been initiated by the city. The development which Coca has experienced in the past several years will be contrasted with the process of development undertaken by both a local indigenous community, to illustrate the impact of unity, and the Provincial capital of Tena, to discuss social development programs. The ultimate goal of the monograph is to offer a complete picture of the socio-economic development of Coca and the issues which it faces as its local government strives to offer a better quality of life for its citizens. The data included in this monograph is a compilation of informal and formal interviews, extensive observations and personal experience, a survey soliciting visitors' views and opinions, documents collected from local and provincial governments, and books focusing on the zone. The study was conducted during a ten-week period between September and December 1995.