A small group of Ecuadorians, united under the name of Itapoa, are buying up remaining land in the Choco Rainforest of Ecuador. Only 5% of its original size, very little of which is protected, the Choco once covered the northern lowlands from the base of the Andes to the Pacific. Logged and cut for banana production, the area is now being transformed into a sea African Oil Palm Plantations. Remnants of this little-known forest persist in the few roadless areas at the base of the Andes, which continue to be difficult to access.
Community members who are onboard to save their forest have developed sustainable ways of earning a living including growing cacao on their land and selling the beans to French chocolate manufacturers paying four times the amount for organically grown products. In order to be included in the local cooperative and reap these financial benefits, co-op members must leave at least seventy-percent of their natural vegetation intact or grow that equivalent back as secondary forestland.