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The closer the better

Once we get closer to rural areas and communities, we will see, understand and value our dishes in a more responsible and sustainable way.

Photo of Klelia María Guerrero García
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Municipality of Quito, Secretary of Productive Development and Competitiveness

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Government (City, State, National, etc.)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Centro Latinoamericano para el Desarrollo Rural - Rimisp Ecuador

Website of Legally Registered Entity

https://www.quito.gob.ec/index.php/secretarias/secretaria-de-desarrollo-productivo-y-competitividad#objetivo

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Quito, regions north-central (Nayón, Zámbiza, Llano Chico y Calderón) and north-west (Nanegalito, Pacto, Gualea y Nanegal).

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Ecuador

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

The north-central and north-west regions in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, cover an area of aproximately 950km^2.

What country is your selected Place located in?

Ecuador

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I was not born in Quito, but this city is the place I feel like home now. The selected areas represent the most fertile and diverse part of the city in terms of weather, altitudes and products that can be cultivated/produced. When I visit these areas, they remind me of the small town I grew up in. They make me recall the happinness I felt every time I saw a seed turning into a fruit, or when I ran through a field feeling one with nature, admiring it, loving it. However, during the last decades, the urban area has been conquering these areas at an alarming pace. The problem is complex, the city planning has many limitations, and the fact that not many farmers -nor they children- see agriculture as the treasure it is, make a transition to a diffrent paradigm an important challenge.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Quito sits on a very heterogeneous ecological mosaic that consists of seven ecosystems including the tropical rainforests at 500 meters, passing through the entire ladder up to moorland rainforests at about 4,790 meters above sea level. Due to the unmatched diversity of these ecosystems and to the number of species of both flora and fauna in such a small area, the region has been referred to as the world's capital of diversity.

In spite of having such richness of natural resources, the rural areas of Quito are also the poorest, particularly when considering a multidimensional index that explores the deprivations the citizen faces as for the access to goods and services that cover basic needs. According to this index, while the rate of poverty in urban areas of Quito is around 26%, in rural areas it reaches almost half of the population. Parallel to poverty, bad working conditions and high levels of stability are among the factors that discourage small farmers and their descendants to continue with agriculture as their primary economic support.

As a result, migration from urban to rural areas has been continuously rising. The devaluation of agricultural work, the search for higher incomes and the expectations of better opportunities are some of the reasons behind the phenomenon of rural-urban human mobility, that in Quito corresponds to 84% of the migrant population.

This reduction of agricultural work and its value, plus the ever growing urban population that Quito attracts as the capital of the country, make it more difficult to supply food for everyone even if leaving aside quality factors.

The problematic gets to a higher dimension when considering the culture and traditions related to our food. We have a different dish for each holiday as Fanesca for Holy Week or Colada Morada for the Day of the Death. Similarly, in these areas, seasonality of harvests is not only practiced but appreciated; for instance, it is impossible to think of December without thinking of mangoes or tangerines. Therefore, saving and strengthening the diversity of fruits and vegetables that this marvelous area has to offer, is a task with high potential in social, economic, cultural and environmental aspects.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

950

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

290000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Even when it is true that intermediation has the potential to provide better access to food, in Quito the level of intermediaries’ intervention is such that it increases producers’ prices on 63%. Apart from the income effect that this produces, the instability of sales and the problems with land tenure, characteristic of a big portion of the population of small farmers, limit their access to credits and therefore their possibilities to improve their production and be more competitive. Having a longer production-supply chain is counterproductive in environmental terms, not only because of the limited access to technology and better practices, but also because they require more stages of transportation and tend to involve the use of more polluting packaging.

When looking at health problems, consumers’ nutrition is not only limited by financial resources but also by scarce knowledge about how to have a balanced and responsible diet. For instance, a national survey confirmed that the low levels of protein, fruits and vegetables consumption, accompanied by the high ingest of processed carbohydrates and saturated fat, are some habits found in the local population. As a result, Quito shows high levels of double malnutrition, with many children paying the price of undernourishment (in particular among indigenous population and during the first year of life) while others are facing undesired weight surplus (64% of people between 19 and 59 years old).

This situation needs urgent action, not only because of the products per se and their effects, but also in terms of the culture and traditions that are involved as mentioned before. Finally, even when there have been a couple of approaches to improve the situation, up until recently most of the policy initiatives have been developed from policy-makers and politicians, without really consulting the vision of producers and consumers, actual protagonists of the story. Thus, such approaches have only instead of intervening structural issues.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Although global inequality is now more about disparities in opportunity than about disparities in income, disparities in income are still an issue in the north-central and north-western areas of Quito. The advantage is that, thanks to social media and the fast worldwide communication of our century, people are far more aware of them and therefore desire to take action in order to improve the situation.

In that sense, the project “The closer the better” intends to shorten not only physical but also and social distances between small local producers, the civil society and all the stake-holders around the food system. The first step to get there is by helping them having a closer connection to consumers and enterprises that could by their products. This option is not considered now because this big retailers and food processors have quality standards that a small farm by itself is not able to comply. When potentiating associations between them, guiding them to productivity improvements and providing more conditions so that they can access to credits, not only their income but also the concept around small agricultural production will improve.

At the same time, helping them through this path will give the municipality and other contributors the scenario to ask for production practices that are friendly with the environment, and even the inclusion of circular economy. Finally, the systematization of data around the supply and demand will provide continuity avoid the dependence of the municipality actions and generating more informed and empowered communities.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Local agricultural producers are proud of their lives and able to reach the same opoportunities from where they are. The project is working in a cooperative and sustainable way. Consumers are well informed and communities are highly empowered. Policy makers and civil society share a common interest and, together, build up learning communities that expand and evolve over time.


Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

The most notable trends in the configuration of the agricultural space in Quito are the expansion of the urban stain and the inadequate use of land with an agricultural vocation (over and underutilization), affecting mainly the production of fruits and vegetables. The conquering occurs mainly in the valleys, which are the areas of greater urban growth in the city. The pressure of the growth of the urban area on the agricultural frontier is aggravated by the inefficient use of the lands that are still predominately used for agriculture.

Quito sits on a very heterogeneous ecological mosaic that consists of seven ecosystems including the tropical rainforests at 500 meters, passing through the entire ladder up to moorland rainforests at about 4,790 meters above sea level. Due to the unmatched diversity of these ecosystems and to the number of species of both flora and fauna in such a small area, the region has been referred to as the world's capital of diversity.

In spite of having such richness of natural resources, the rural areas of Quito are also the poorest, particularly when considering a multidimensional index that explores the deprivations the citizen faces as for the access to goods and services that cover basic needs. According to this index, while the rate of poverty in urban areas of Quito is around 26%, in rural areas it reaches almost half of the population. Parallel to poverty, bad working conditions and high levels of stability are among the factors that discourage small farmers and their descendants to continue with agriculture as their primary economic support.

As a result, migration from urban to rural areas has been continuously rising. The devaluation of agricultural work, the search for higher incomes and the expectations of better opportunities are some of the reasons behind the phenomenon of rural-urban human mobility, that in Quito corresponds to 84% of the migrant population.

This reduction of agricultural work and its value, plus the ever growing urban population that Quito attracts as the capital of the country, make it more difficult to supply food for everyone even if leaving aside quality factors.

The problematic gets to a higher dimension when considering the culture and traditions related to our food. We have a different dish for each holiday as Fanesca for Holy Week or Colada Morada for the Day of the Death. Similarly, in these areas, seasonality of harvests is not only practiced but appreciated; for instance it is impossible to think of December without thinking of mangoes or tangerines. . Therefore, saving and strengthening the diversity of fruits and vegetables that this marvelous area has to offer, is a task with high potential in social, economic, cultural and environmental aspects.

Although global inequality is now more about disparities in opportunity than about disparities in income, disparities in income are still an issue in the north-central and north-western areas of Quito. The advantage is that, thanks to social media and the fast worldwide communication of our century, people are far more aware of them and therefore desire to take action in order to improve the situation.

In that sense, the project “The closer the better” intends to shorten not only physical but also and social distances between small local producers, the civil society and all the stake-holders around the food system. The first step to get there is by helping them having a closer connection to consumers and enterprises that could by their products. This option is not considered now because this big retailers and food processors have quality standards that a small farm by itself is not able to comply. When potentiating associations between them, guiding them to productivity improvements and providing more conditions so that they can access to credits, not only their income but also the concept around small agricultural production will improve.

 At the same time, helping them through this path will give the municipality and other contributors the scenario to ask for production practices that are friendly with the environment, and even the inclusion of circular economy. Finally, the systematization of data around the supply and demand will provide continuity avoid the dependence of the municipality actions and generating more informed and empowered communities.

Local agricultural producers are proud of their lives and able to reach the same opoportunities from where they are. The project is working in a cooperative and sustainable way. Consumers are well informed and communities are highly empowered. Policy makers and civil society share a common interest and, together, build up learning communities that expand and evolve over time.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

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