Our Community

The community of Mandari Panga began in 1980 when a group of families led by Modesto Jordán Illanes Vargas (who died in 1997) and his wife, Mrs. Damiana Santamaría, decided to leave their home in the community of Canelos because of persecution by the Huaoarini, who had killed members of the community. They originally came from small communities in the Pastaza and Napo provinces, whose residents belonged to the Naporuna and Canelo ethnic groups who had called the banks of the Pastaza and the Napo rivers their home for thousands of years.
The group finally set up their new home on the left bank of the Tiputini river, just outside of the boundaries of what is now the Yasuni National Park, which was officially formed in 1989. All of the founders initially formed an association to administer their territory as common lands, but in 1989, some of the original members disagreed with this arrangement and left to form their own community.
The community of Mandari Panga, named for a native plant with leaves that extend across the ground, is the original settlement and still manages its lands communally. Since 1994 the community has had legal title to their land, but individuals are assigned an area to live, do not have rights to sell, and have restrictions as to what they can do with the land they live on.

The community is administered by a General Assembly, the highest authority to deal with issues of commune organization, development, improvements (construction and improvement of the communal house, communal dining room, education, mingas of cleaning of the neighborhood roads and Sports fields) and project management. All actions and decisions are approved by the general assembly. They meet every two months and extraordinary meetings can be called at other times.
Every year, during the last month of the year, new community directors are democratically elected. The council is made up of a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, trustee and three members. Internally the council chooses representatives to manage the areas of health, education, environment, agriculture and tourism.
When adverse situations present themselves in the community (accidents and illnesses), members work to help one another, and the community maintains solid friendships with the neighboring communities of Pompeya, San Francisco Chikta, and the associations 12 of February, Mocache and Charapa.


The commune does not have a medical clinic, currently members of the community must go to Coca where they have access to free medical care provided by public hospitals.


90% of the population of the commune is of Kichwa descent, and still speak the native language. They follow the traditional customs of their ancestors, living from hunting and fishing and from the production of their farms where they cultivate products such as cassava, bananas, potatoes, papaya, corn, cocoa, guayusa and coffee principally for the consumption of their families. Chicha prepared from cassava (ancestral drink of the Amazonian kichwas) is prepared in the traditional manner. Every year on the anniversary of the founding of the commune, the women produce their best crafts and perform dances to the sounds of drums played by their husbands.


The members of the Mandari Panga community typically dedicate their time either to their work within the community such as tending to their small farms, or they leave the community, sometimes for several days, to work in nearby towns typically as day workers in construction or other areas.

Community Needs and Projects

The Mandari Panga project, while privately operated, was created with the idea of using the profits from the camp to directly benefit the local community and to improve the quality of life for its people, both in the short and long term. The project operates under a signed agreement with the community, which includes direct payments to the community for services provided, transparency in income and expenses, and contributions to community projects. These projects will be focused on improving the following situations in the community:
In 1997, the two classrooms of the Bilingual Intercultural Community Educational Center (CECIB) Modesto Jordán Illanes Vargas were built in the community center. This school currently provides initial education and the first six years of general education, but it serves the 40 girls and boys of the Commune with only one teacher for the 6 levels and only two classrooms.
Many boys and girls from the community do not even complete these first years. On average, of 10 children who begin their studies, only 7 finish. There are many reasons for this, including the location of the school in the town center and financial resources of the community residents. Families are dispersed along the Tiputini River, meaning that for students who live several kilometers downstream, they require between 2 and 3 hours of paddling in small canoes upstream to arrive at 8 am and start classes. When it rains, it is difficult to travel by river or land, often meaning students do not attend school.

Parents do not encourage their children to study because they do not have the financial resources to pay for transportation either to the school in the town center, or to the high school in the neighboring Santa Rosa Community.

This project hopes to improve the infrastructure of the community school, improve access to both the local school and the distant secondary school, and in general assure that all youth in the community has the opportunity for a quality education.

The community currently has 89 members of working age, but of those, about a third do not have productive work. Of those who do work, many must travel for hours for temporary, low paying jobs in the city of Coca often for only a few hours a week. Most members of the community work on their land in small scale agriculture.

The goal of this project is to offer another employment option for the members of the community, one that offers relatively good pay and does not require hours of transport. Work at the camp will be on a rotating basis, with the idea of training many members of the community to work at the camp. The project also aims to encourage more small scale organic production of traditional agricultural products to be used in the food at the camp, also providing more income for the community members.

  • In 2014, the electric company placed posts and cables to provide service to the commune, but currently only the town center uses this service and only about 40% of the residents have access. Once the installations are completed and meters are placed in the dwellings, electricity will be supplied to 70% of the population. However, many residents will not be able to afford the service.
  • There is no landline phone service. Cellular phones are used by those who can afford them, but coverage is poor in some parts of the communtiy.
  • There is no drinking water service or any kind. For consumption, rainwater collected from the zinc roofs is used, which descends through a gutter to a plastic tank and is consumed without being treated. Rivers are used for bathing. In summer river water is consumed.
  • There is no garbage collection service, so organic garbage (mostly) and inorganic garbage are dumped in vacant lots, hollows or broken terrains.
  • None of the homes in the community have any kind of toilet. In the school there is a latrine with a septic tank, but it is not in use.

With the profits from the Mandari Panga camp, we hope to invest in infrastructure improvements in the community to slowly improve all of the above situations, with the goal of improving the health of our residents and better protecting the fragile environment.

There is currently no health clinic, but a medical brigade from the Ministry of Public Health sporadically comes to the community for a day to attend to the health needs of the entire community. If there is an emergency, the patient is transferred to a small clinic in Dayuma, and in more serious cases they travel to the hospital in Coca.

Traditional medicine is practiced in the community. For pregnancies, a midwife attends to the mother in her home. In case of snakebites, a mixture of native plants are used including kurarina (Potalia amara), for ajirinri (Zingiber officinale), campyak (Herrania balaensis) and others. Medicinal plants are also used to cure colds, respiratory problems, fever, headaches, stomachaches and soreness.