Ecuador is home to the tallest mangroves in the world: The Cayapas Mataje Reserve. Its soil is filled with small black cockles — a culinary delicacy prized in Ecuador — and the arduous task of searching for and picking those shelled creatures from the mangroves falls on the shoulders of children, who use their long limbs and agile bodies to scale the spindly branches of the trees and mine the thick mud that surrounds them.

Pickers, also known as concheros, can earn up to 8 cents per cockle. The average conchero gathers 50 to 100 cockles a day, a staggering toll if one considers searching for a mud-covered cockle shell amid hundreds of jutting tree limbs while enduring the changing conditions of the mangroves’ environment.

Photographer Felipe Jacome spent several trips over the course of a year documenting how children as young as 10 go about navigating Ecuador’s spider web of trees limbs “exploring the relationship between childhood, manual labor and this unique ecosystem.”

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