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0 Latitude Food Webs: A multi nodal approach to regenerate Food Systems in northern Ecuador

Farmers, consumers and chefs participate through a collaborative market system to create a network that regenerates the food system

Photo of Javier Carrera
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Grupo Allpa, a farmer-led organization working on ecological and social regeneration in Ecuador since 1998.

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

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

Red de Guardianes de Semillas (Seeds Guardians Network), a Network of regenerative farmers with leading farms and projects in all the selected provinces; Gastronomic Ambassadors of RGS, a Network of chefs and other professional cooks; El Wayruro Organico, a Farmer Business Organization and organic store; Quito Eterno, a Small NGO of cultural and pedagogical managers; Clínica Ambiental, a Network of farmers centered in the regeneration of the northern ecuadorian Amazonia; Biogranjas, a Network of farmers in the province of Cotopaxi.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

https://www.grupoallpa.org/

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

  • 10+ years

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

Quito

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 food basin of Quito, including the Provinces of Pichincha, Cotopaxi, Imbabura, Sucumbíos and Esmeraldas. Also the Galapagos Islands.

What country is your selected Place located in?

Ecuador

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

I am an Ecuadorian farmer and social leader, and I live in the rural area of Quito. Growing up in my country has meant being confronted with poverty and lack of opportunities. With our team, formed by agroecological farmers, we have managed to build a strong network of pioneer families centered in ecological and social regeneration, proving that real change is possible when we join our forces through a collaborative effort. We need to bring this effort to the next level, joining with more stakeholders of the Food System, specially now that Ecuador is going through a hard economic and social crisis. It is our mission to provide the population, specially the youth, with opportunities for regenerative development. 

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.

The Foodshed of Quito is one of the most diverse and fertile places in the world. We joke that nobody has ever died of hunger here. This however is changing fast: destruction of the environment caused by land exploitation, the imposition of a globalized diet combined with the abandonment of local economies are destroying the traditionally healthy and sustainable Food System of the region. 

Geographically, this region includes the amazonian rainforest, the cloud forest, the coastal lowlands, the temperate highland valleys and the cold highland moors. It goes from sea level up to 4.000 meters. The archaeological record shows us that this region has been connected as a food and commerce basin for thousands of years; this connection is essential  to ensure the well being of the population, based on the access to a diversity of climatic floors with their foods. 

We have included the Galapagos Islands because they are also at latitude 0, because they are economically connected to the Quito food basin, and  because they have extreme food insecurity, with more than 95% of the food imported.

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

62295

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

4150950

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

Current:

Environment: The region is in a process of desertification. Annual rainfall has decreased significantly in the last decades and soil erosion is already very evident. In the highland valleys most of the forests have been cleared. The rivers have reduced their size. In sunny days, radiation from the sun commonly goes above 11 degrees, and extreme temperatures are becoming common. 

Diets: Traditionally, ecuadorians are very attached to their healthy and diverse diets, but in the last decades globalized diets have imposed themselves, causing havoc in public health. There is still a strong love for traditional food but most youths and people in the city are ignorant on how to prepare it. 

Economics: Local economies have been taken down through centralization and consolidation in the food sector, often with the help of the State. Small farmers still produce 70% of the food in the country, but their activities are completely unsustainable from the economical point of view. This farmers are subsidizing the whole Food System through their poverty. The current market systems don't provide positive opportunities for small farmers and agroecological producers.

Culture: There is a lot of culture still in the Food System, but it is not being passed by the elders to the new generations. The food culture of the region is amazingly diverse, healthy and delicious.

Technology: Most new technologies coming into the region are of big industrial scale. There is need for the development of small scale and environmentally friendly techs, based on traditions and oriented towards the sustainability of the local economies.

Policy: Right now 3 new laws are affecting the Food System, giving total support to big industries and imposing an impressive amount of costs and bureaucratic red tape to small producers. Civil society is trying to fight back, asking for alternative regulations for organic and small farmers and producers. 

Future challenges: 

If we don't achieve a degree of change in the issues above, the Food System in the region will be endangered and unsustainable, and food insecurity will be one of the more important social issues by 2050. The current crisis is going to deepen. But so will the reaction of the diverse stakeholders affected. 

Climate change is a global issue that is not directly under the region's control and that will affect negatively any solutions we build up. 



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

Our strategy connects 5 nodes of stakeholders around a common market.
Node 1: Farmers
Node 2: Market
Node 3: Chefs
Node 4: Cultural managers
Node 5: Consumers
Environment: Land exploitation is the main contributor for environmental damage. Our team has been developing  and teaching regenerative systems since 1998. The project will work at the farm and community level, through pioneer farmers who show successful models. We will form groups of study with the farmers, certify them with state-approved permaculture titles, and connect them through the market.
Diets: We have created a network of high profile, young chefs who love traditional foods, fair trade and agroecology. Together we will develop a new cuisine, adapted to the needs of the modern household, respecting the traditional ways but also incorporating new techniques. We go for natural, whole foods provided by our farmers.
Economics: It is crucial to develop a new market system, under our direct control as farmers. In 2019 we bought El Wayruro, one of the most important organic sores in Quito, and turned it into a cooperative and a market hub to manage a region wide commercialization circuit. Since 2014 we have been applying our own Participatory Certification System, supporting farmers and ensuring quality for consumers. We aim to maximize profit for farmers, to scale up sales, to sustain the certification  system, and to improve the variety and quality of the products sold.
Culture: We have been promoting cultural identity for years, as part of regenerative systems. Now we aim to intensify this labor and bring it to the core of the city of Quito. For this, we aim to use digital social networks; to publish an online free magazine at www.allpa.org ; o film a tv series of which the first two episodes are already produced; and we have joined with Quito Eterno, a high profile group of cultural managers. Workshops with chefs, guided tours on the city and the farms, and meetings for cultural exchange are part of this strategy.
Technology: We believe in a technology that is locally-based, easy to produce and repair, with simple tools and systems to help the farmers. We aim to facilitate the sharing of models between farmers as part of their training.
Policy: Our team has been a leading force in the dialogue with the State regarding  3 laws that affect the Food System. We coordinate a team of advisors, lawyers and social movements' representatives to push for better regulations, more suited to the cultural, social and economical realities of the region. We have a Demand for Unconstitutionality accepted in the Constitutional Court against the Law on Seeds and Agroecology, and now we need to work on the cases of the Agricultural Sanitation Law and the Health Code.
Ultimately, the multi nodal approach aims to turn farmers, chefs and consumers into aware stakeholders and active advocates of regenerative systems, helping us achieve our goals regarding policy.



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.

Until now all these stakeholders have been functionally disconnected. By using our expertise to bring them together, we will achieve several goals in a systemic way: improve farmer's knowledge of agroecological production, improve farmers income, supply the chefs with a diversity of high-quality products, teach urban consumers about food quality and food preparation so they consume a more diverse and nutritious diet, sustain the certification system and the technical assistance to farmers through a percentage of the sales, and turn farmers, chefs and consumers into active advocates.

This will create a strong sense of community and collaboration, attracting more people in a spiral of growth. The core group of consumers and chefs will expand into several hubs in different metropolitan areas, with more selling points and local activities, and also expand to other cities, creating a nationwide movement. In the countryside, a number of the first group of students will turn into teachers and train new groups of farmers every year; this will change the landscape of food production and regenerate the land and the local economies. Local government will be attracted to join the effort. 

All this will be possible with adequate the new laws and regulations the core group will push for . As a crucial bonus, participants will be trained as policy advocates, improving the practice of democracy in the food sector.

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

It's 7am and Esperanza wakes up in her apartment in Quito. The night was a bit cold, and she thanks the alpaca woven blankets for the heat they give her. She thinks briefly about the families of weavers she met a few months ago in one of the visits organized by her Network. A life so different, there in the high mountains, and yet woven to hers now thanks to these products that flow through the network of commerce and relationships .
After preparing a substantial breakfast, with totally organic products, Esperanza packs the 10 loaves of bread she baked at night to deliver to neighborhood families, embarks her little son on the bicycle and takes him to the local school. Like all of them, this school practices education based on respect and the children develop with freedom and joy. And they also receive a good lunch, as the parents negotiated with the school.
After delivering the bread and on the way to work, Esperanza reflects on the development of the city in recent years. The big economy, energy and climate crisis of 20 years ago was a great blow, but it could have been much worse, if the citizens had not risen with very concrete proposals to improve their quality of life. The streets look almost empty  now compared to the cacophony of cars she met in her childhood; now its mostly bicycles and public transportation that runs on electricity. Many moved to countryside, and those who stayed do not commute great distances to work. There are many green areas and in many of them there are blooming food gardens and orchards.
After work, Esperanza goes to the local cooperative store. Not for the first time she thinks about the role that these self-managed spaces played in educating the population and offering viable alternatives to the mass products of the past. Thanks to this, many people like Esperanza transformed their consumption patterns, became producers of some healthy products, and integrated into an economic circuit that was gradually building change and had clear responses at the time of the crisis.
On the weekend she and her family join in a group-funded collective transport. They go to a productive farm near the city to learn about raising chickens and self-production of fungi. It is not that she thinks of doing these activities in the short term, but it is an opportunity for her son to interact with the animals, and the child loves the countryside. On the way Esperanza talks with an older lady about the transformation of the landscape: the monocultures of yesteryear have been replaced by a mosaic of meadows and orchards in rotation, surrounded by live fences full of fruit trees. Higher up, the steep slopes are increasingly forested and as they know, wildlife is returning fast. All this has helped mitigate the effects of climate change in the region.
They pass through some vibrant and beautiful villages, where  young couples have moved now that economic conditions allow the development of a local economy, with good life opportunities. The expansion of cooperative trading systems in the hands of producers and interest in local and healthy diets are also responsible for this. Esperanza thinks that her son may join this exodus when he grows up, as there will be more activities and opportunities far from the city.
The visit to the farm is as always very inspiring. Esperanza wonders how it is that in the past people accepted to consume poison-fed, tortured chickens from horrible concentration camps. Now the animals run free and without fear among the bushes, pecking for bugs, as is their right. It is one of the many agroecology strategies that have not only allowed the regeneration of Nature in the region, but also considerably improved the quality of food for the population. Part of this has been the recovery of food traditions, of which young people are very proud. Of course, new things are experienced, but always based on nutritional principles that have been proven for thousands of years. Plus, most homes now produce at least part of their food.
The same principles have been applied to other areas of products and services. With the facilitated marketing by cooperatives, shoemakers, weavers, tailors, and many other artisans have reappeared. The normal thing now for mothers is to be treated by midwives and give birth at home, while hospital transportation is always available in case of any difficulty. Doctors focus on preventive health, relying primarily on the benefits of good nutrition and physical activity and turning to medical technology only in the cases where it is truly necessary. Public health has never been better.
At the end of the visit they are shown a press for adobes. It is such a simple technology, basically a press that removes moisture from the block, making it more resistant. This type of technology, easy to replicate and repair, has invaded fields and cities, facilitating the activities of the population. They coexist without problem with the new decentralized communication networks, which allow high interconnectivity to citizens, facilitating work and education. It is a pleasant and useful mix between basic and complex technologies.


None of this would have been possible if people like Esperanza's parents had not started a struggle to change the laws 30 years ago. At that time the picture was grim but many people were already aware of the need for change. The families of pioneers in the countryside and in the city set the tone, demonstrating how change was possible and demanding laws that support this change to spread to society. Cooperative stores were essential nodes in that change, bringing products and services full of life to the sick heart of the cities. A profound change was made there, and then watered through the streets and fields, not a revolution but an evolutionary leap towards a humanity capable of regenerating the planet and learning to live sustainably, with social justice.

Now for a more detailed explanation of the vision:

Environment: The region today is dotted by small family farms and indigenous communities. In our vision for 2050 this is till the distribution pattern of the land, but some key things have been incorporated thanks to adequate advocacy: better access to irrigation, better education for farmers, and a redesign of the production system. A transition in which dozens and then hundreds of farms incorporated a permaculture design has led to new policies that demand reforestation and hydrological management of the hillsides, the extinction of monocrops, a ban on agrochemicals and the implementation of ecologically oriented production models. This is transforming the landscape fast.

Diets: Current work with the food culture (research, alliances with chefs, etc.) has lead to young people recovering the knowledge of food preparation, using time tested techniques and combinations to maximize nutrition with cultural identity. Organic consumption has become the norm. Most households produce at least part of their food, for example greens and herbs, making food security less expensive. Even in the core of the cities there are lush gardens and people make ferments like bread and yoghurt at home as part of their daily routines.

Economics: The expansion of cooperative market systems and the impulse for the consumption of local products can improve farmer’s income, providing with opportunities. As a result of this, youth is returning to the rural areas. Health costs are low because adequate diets keep people healthy. 

Culture: Cultural activities are widely available both in the cities and in the rural areas. Fairs, ritual and big communal festivities never died completely, but now the youth are coming as part of them in force. There is a strong sense of cultural identity and at the same time technology keeps access to the global village open.

Technology: Technology is being produced at the local level to answer to real needs in the most adequate way, and is accesible to everyone.

Policy: Advocacy has become pretty common, with citizens having a more active role in the creation of laws and regulations. Corruption is low.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

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  • Conference/event
  • Prize partners

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Photo of Village Development  Center (VDC)
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Thank you so much for the Food Extension Initiative.

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