Designing a sustainable future for the Galapagos Islands

(c) UNDP Ecuador
(c) UNDP Ecuador

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on the lives of all inhabitants on the Galapagos Islands. In reaction to economic hardships, some inhabitants were making decisions such as fishing protected or endangered species, demanding direct international flights to the islands with limited controls over invasive species, and the creation of home gardens without concern for flora selection, to name a few.

These decisions exert pressure on the vulnerable ecosystems of these precious Islands, endangering the conservation efforts of its unique biodiversity and endangering its future as a tourism hotspot.

Not only are the inhabitants of the Galapagos out of work, but the lack of tourism, which generates financial support for conservation spending, has also decreased significantly, increasing the pressure on the human–environment interactions in this UNESCO Heritage Site. It is calculated that at least 80% of local people in the Galapagos Islands where affected during the pandemic.

This emergency exacerbates pre-existing marginalization, inequalities, and vulnerabilities among local people. Equality and inclusion are topics to be addressed to reduce the gender gap within the economy increasing the human demand for a narrow range of goods in Galapagos such as oil, food, and invasive species, tied to mainland cargo and transportation.

A response to save livelihoods & biodiversity


In that context, UNDP Ecuador, through its BIOFIN project and several partners, launched its crowdfunding campaign “Save Galapagos Islands, empower its people” in November 2020. 

The first phase of the campaign was a call for emergency support for livelihoods recovery of the population through a “cash for work” mechanism where 115 participants supported beach cleaning activities in the main inhabited islands.

For the second phase launched in May this year, and in coordination with the Local Government of the Galapagos Island, 90 participants from the local community participated in a ‘cash for training’ process where participants from the most affected economic sectors will access a two-month training program.

Selected participants will obtain tools and guidance to improve their green businesses to withstand the current situation and thrive in the long-term, using UNDP methodologies for small entrepreneurs and digital tools considering the current impact for the pandemic.

The entrepreneurs will also receive a part-time salary during their involvement in the learning and mentoring stages.

The training will cover various fields, such as digital marketing channels, financial advice, new payment methods, sound environmental practices in their business, and other relevant topics.

The campaign will end by July 31st where a total of 208 participants, and their families, will benefit from the generous contribution contributors to the crowdfunding campaign, expecting also to promote a more sustainable development in this unique archipelago.

For more information on the campaign please visit: