Posts Tagged ‘Ecuador’

Ekorural, a Groundswell partner organization based in Ecuador, along with Wageningen University’s Communication and Innovation Studies Group, and the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences recently won a grant from WOTRO, a division of The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research that supports scientific research on development issues, in particular poverty alleviation and sustainable development.

The project partners will explore how scientific insights can strengthen and complement the most promising positive deviance (i.e., uncommon but successful behaviors or strategies of farmers that enable them to find better solutions to a problem than their peers, despite having no special resources or knowledge) in ways that address both people’s immediate and long term needs. Among other things, the work will seek to develop and test methodologies to identify and strengthen positive deviance in resource poor households that effectively respond to food security priorities. Building on earlier studies and recent stakeholder consultations, the project will focus on positive deviance in two strategic areas for enabling farming families to defeat poverty and hunger:

  • Creative utilization of water for food production in the context of growing climate variability; and
  • Strategic utilization of food production for family nutrition, in particular for assuring the health and well-being of vulnerable mothers and infants.

The re-positioning of agricultural science around endogenous potential in Ecuador holds global implications. The food crisis and growing international interest in local food as a means to addressing resource constraints and climate change guarantee that this project will be closely followed by serious foodies.

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2009 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD)

2009 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD)

In the Andes, there have been fundamental changes in production patterns as a result of the different processes of land reform in the region and “agricultural modernization”. Today, the environmental context and local culture are no longer the main determinants of production systems, but rather the habits of unknown consumers and their food demands are determining what farmers grow and when and how they grow it. This has shaped current production systems, usually characterized by monoculture, total farm mechanization and dependence on agrochemicals to offset their ecological ill effects.

The 2009 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) questions common assumptions about the link between agricultural production and economic welfare and family nutrition, and provides evidence that externally driven systems – such as those that have increasingly displaced traditional systems in the Andes – often result in unfair prices, social inequality and environmental degradation. The report calls attention to proposals that allow us to overcome our conceptual barriers with respect to production and supply, consumers and producers, urban and rural populations, and the circulation and exchange of goods.

Woman washing vegetables early on market day.

Woman washing vegetables early on market day.

Ekorural, Groundswell’s partner in the Andes, recently completed its own research on food systems in the Andes, which confirms the important influence consumers have on agricultural production systems and indirectly on the wellbeing of rural families. On account of these findings, Ekorural’s work now operates based on the underlying assumption: In order to transform Andean agricultural systems to be more productive, equitable and sustainable, we must not only look at rural areas and agriculture but also at urban areas, because consumers drive agricultural development.

During the past two years, Ekorural has identified, aligned itself with and committed to supporting unconventional initiatives, such as Canastas Comunitarias, that have developed around the theme of healthy food and people through the alternative circulation of agricultural products. The Canastas and other similar short-circuit food initiatives, under which you might find country fairs, CSAs, farm shops, community food baskets, etc., are a great opportunity to transform agriculture, heal the environment and live healthier lives.

People are the decisive factor for agriculture and represent an opportunity for change. What people buy and where they buy it strengthens different types of agricultural chains, and influences how healthy (or unhealthy) the agricultural system is. Follow Ekorural’s lead, support your local family farmers!

Learn more about Ekorural and Canastas Comunitarias.

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Groundswell members listening to Pacho Gangotena explain key elements of his organic production system.

On Tuesday, as part of the 2010 partner conference, Groundswell members visited Pacho Gangotena’s farm in Puembo, Ecuador. We were just the latest of some 19,000 farmers that have come to learn from Pacho over the past two decades. Pacho is among the most influential actors in the organic agriculture / agroecology movement in the Andes.

In addition to inspiring thousands of farmers through these exchange visits, Pacho’s tireless work off the farm has helped create a network of thousands of small farmers as well as a number of influential farmer organizations, including the Coordinadora Ecuatoriana de Agroecología (CEA) and Corporación de Productores Biológicos del Ecuador (PROBIO). Pacho is also credited with inspiring Ecuador’s food soverighty movement, which recently won passage of the first Food Soverighty Law in the Americas.

Ekorural, a Groundswell partner organization in Ecuador, regularly collaborates with Pacho and his allies to grow and strengthen the country’s agroecological food movement.

See more photos of our visit to Pacho’s farm on the Groundswell Facebook page.

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While global leaders negotiate new treaties in Copenhagen, small-scale farmers are already living the impacts of climate change. Groundswell is helping rural communities adapt to climate change and overcome poverty at the same time.  By expanding the use of agroecological approaches and strengthening local markets, small-scale farmers are helping to cool the planet.  Soil rich in organic matter is one of the best ways to sequester carbon; agroecological approaches don’t require as much oil to produce fertilizer and other inputs; and local markets reduce carbon outputs from transportation. A case in point is Groundswell’s work with Ekorural, our local partner in Ecuador.

Alonso Juma demonstrating a water harvesting technique.

Alonso Juma demonstrating a rainwater harvesting technique. Alonso lives in Ecuador's Chota Valley.

Over the centuries, Andean farmers have adapted their farming practices and domesticated robust plant and animal species (potato, quinoa, llamas) to meet the challenges of their harsh mountain environment. However, even these expert farmer-innovators are increasingly suffering crop failure as their time-tested adaptations prove inadequate to climate change’s severity and swift onset. A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as well as other climate research, paints a bleak picture for Andean agriculture. Most glaciers are predicted to disappear in as little as 15 years, posing major challenges for those who rely on this water for food production and livelihood, rainfall is expected to be more severe and less frequent (producing droughts and flooding), and soil erosion and outbreaks of disease and pests are predicted to rise. In sum, climate change will substantially increase the uncertainty for rural communities in the Andes.

Many externally proposed solutions to climate change, such as weather forecasting models and drought-tolerant crops, are of limited use in highly variable mountain environments.  This is why it is critical to go directly to farmers and their communities for ideas on how to best address climate change. Farmers told us that water represented the greatest barrier and opportunity for weathering climate change, and, after studying pending threats, they prioritized an initiative, called Katalysis, that would allow them to capture and use rainwater and rehabilitate biological and natural resources, while increasing their production and food security.

Rather than bringing water from distant sources which can be prohibitively expensive and difficult to replicate, Katalysis focuses on helping farmers to maximize the use of the water that surrounds them, and to creatively use plants and animals to generate new wealth for their families and farms.  Katalysis builds on the ‘discovery learning’ tradition of Farmer Field Schools, in which farmers share their experience, strengthen their ecological literacy through learning experiments, and identify ways of improving agriculture through group problem-solving. The focus gradually shifts from solutions for individual farmers to community-level and watershed level change.

While there will be no silver bullet in rural people’s struggle to adapt to climate change, this sort of people-centered approach holds great potential. So far it has proven to be highly effective in the Bolivian and Ecuadorian highlands, successes which have earned Katalysis finalist positions at the World Bank’s 2008 Global Development Marketplace as well as the 5th World Water Forum (2008). This work was also featured in the International Institute for Environment and Development’s recent publication “Community-based adaptation to climate change”.

Learn more about Katalysis.

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