Being in Ecuador gave me my first chance to pay a visit to one of the Visit.org projects, a social impact platform which I am an ambassador for.
Ecuador is a land of climate diversity with a naturally warm and rainy climate due to its location on the equator making the foothills of the mountains a prime spot for cultivating produce in its fertile soil. Heading into the Andes Mountains, I was visiting FBU, a foundation and nonprofit which has been working in the rural areas of Ecuador since 1953.
Their mission – to encourage participation of communities and the local population in the process of building and strengthening their identities. I was visiting the project to find out how.
My tour promised hiking the trails of the protected dry forest whilst immersing myself in the forests and culture of the Ecuadorian Andes. All this whilst supporting the surrounding communities before enjoying Ecuadorian hospitality and culture over dinner. I was sold.
FBU is located in Tabacundo at an altitude of 2600 metres. Their goal is to help in local reforestation processes with a view to conserving natural resources. The Foundation is 60 years old and Alfredo has been here for 15 years. Drawn to the project to make a difference to the planet and the people, he has seen changes to the production of agriculture in the community and change to conservation.
“More people care about the land and have more awareness and knowledge after being at the Foundation,” he says.
People come from all over Ecuador to attend the classes. The FBU has been working in coordination with the Ministry of Education since 1998, and when the schools start again, the Foundation will work with the students and go to smaller schools on a plot of land and start up an organic agriculture plot.
The community of Picalqui has 120 families. The land is fertile, making it easy to grow produce which the families sell at the local organic market.
There are many different types of corn sold here and our first stop is a visit to Aida. Aida sells maize, avocado and fruits here every Friday as well as making the 2 hour journey to Quito to sell her produce. After a very quick conversation in Spanish, Aida kindly gave me some freshly picked corn that we would cook later and eat as popcorn.
Next we pass potato fields and I get introduced to Monica, an ex-student of the foundation, a prime example of the Foundation’s influence on the community. Working alongside Monica in the fields are her family, growing potatoes and beans. No pesticides are used within the community. Everything here is grown organically and Monica proudly tells me it takes 6 months to grow potatoes and just 4 for the beans. It is her first time at growing potatoes and she is putting her learning into action. They all have their own personal farms and swop their home-grown produce within the community.
The mornings are the quietest times with less people in the community. In the morning the younger generation generally work in the city whilst the older ones stay and look after the house and kids.
The community is very self sufficient and united. There is a lot of communal work and the people regularly help each other. We pass the community centre, an important centre for the locals. Alfredo tells me that here they have free computers for the community but no one to teach them how to use them.
September is the celebration for harvest in Quecha. Alfredo proudly tells me that just last week they celebrated San Pedro, an event traditionally for harvest with dancing, traditional dress, pipe flutes, and chicha (their traditional drink).
As well as growing their own produce, the women prepare food and sell it within the community.
After our walk into the community, we returned to the Foundation to witness a group of indigenous called the Onu, having a class in the Foundation’s grounds. Every month for one week a group come here from the south of the country and become certified over a period of 2 years. They take the knowledge back to their community and teach them how to be sustainable and conserve without chemicals.
FBU’s mission is to “enhance the creative abilities of men and women in the field, and to build organisational and technological proposals that improves their living conditions, and respect for nature. “
After visiting this amazing project, I have seen for myself the rewards that this community is reaping from the education and sustainability which the project has provided.
If you are in Ecuador I definitely recommend visiting the project for an insight into agriculture in the Andes. FBU offer tours any day by appointment which start in the morning. Tours take place in Spanish. Click here for more details and search for Ecuador Nature Tour: Experience the natural beauty of the Andes. The tour costs from $40 per person.
Visiting the Ecuadorian Amazon
If you prefer to visit a project in the Ecuadorian Amazon, the Runa Foundation is a nonprofit organisation which works with indigenous groups to develop business plans and generate capital to start their sustainable businesses. You can join a local Amazonian community for their morning ritual and gain insight into their rich cultural tradition. Find out more here by clicking on Ecuador Discovery Tour: Amazon Fair Trade.