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SEICAS: Experimentation, Research and Training System on Agroecology and Health

Building an agri-food system with justice, balance and harmony between the productive, economic, social, human and ecological dimensions.

Photo of SEICAS ECUADOR
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

CESA: Central Ecuatoriana de Servicios Agrícolas (Ecuadorian Centre of Agricultural Services) http://cesa.org.ec/

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.

Programa Andina Ecosaludable, Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar (PAE-UASB) Agronomes et Vétérinaires Sans Frontières (AVSF) Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Universidad Central del Ecuador (FCA-UCE)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

https://www.uasb.edu.ec/web/area-de-salud - https://www.avsf.org/es/posts/976/full/ecuador - https://www.uce.edu.ec/web/fa

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

  • 3-10 years

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

Quito, Pichincha

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?

Pichincha Province, located in the north of Ecuador in the geographical area known as Sierra, covering a total area of 9,536 km2

What country is your selected Place located in?

Ecuador

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

SEICAS is an inter-institutional meeting space with multiple dimensions: research-production-commercialization-education, which was created to address the problems of producers and consumers where the local ancestral knowledge, the academy and the national and international NGOs that have been working on agriculture and health meet. Physically, SEICAS develops its actions in the La Esperanza estate, located in El Quinche with an average temperature of 17 ° C and an altitude of 2,619 meters above sea level that favors agricultural production. Likewise, its location is just 25km from Quito, the capital of Ecuador, headquarters of the Universidad Andina Simón Bolivar (UASB), Universidad Central and national public entities, Quito is also the meeting point of production with city consumers.

La Esperanza farm is owned by the UASB which in partnership with CESA develops activities aimed at producing, researching, training and experimenting on agroecology and health with regional reach.

The territory in which the farm is located corresponds to a space that links actors who have adopted a conventional production pattern (agrochemical package) according to agroindustrial models. With SEICAS we want to change this reality from experimentation, research, and training with a concrete proposal that links and strengthens the organizational processes of producers and consumers of the territory, incorporating dialogue and ancestral and intercultural knowledge to reach an agroecological proposal replicable in the country

 The challenge we have in SEICAS is to develop a sustainable farm, through the production of a diverse range of agroecological foods of high organoleptic characteristics and high nutritional quality and favorable impact on the health of producers who are in permanent contact with chemical-free land, providing healthy and nutritious food to consumers in El Quinche and Quito.

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.

Ecuador is considered a megadiverse country; it houses more than two-thirds of all the planet's biodiversity.

Ecuador has a wide range of fauna and flora ranging from the amazon jungle through the Andean mountains to the pacific coast. In 2013, the Ministry of Environment of Ecuador (MAE) through the Ecosystem Map of Continental Ecuador identified 91 types of ecosystems, 45 of them in the Sierra. Ecuador occupies the first place in the world in terms of biodiversity by relating the number of vertebrate species per 1,000 km2 of the surface.

The Temperature in the Pichincha province, which is in the Andean mountains, ranges from 16.5 to 18.5 degrees Celsius and has a year-round spring climate. It is also the second-most populated province in Ecuador, with approximately 3 million inhabitants (63.8% in the urban area).

Ecuador has 14 different indigenous groups and 14 ancestral languages; Spanish, Kichwa and Shuar are the most spoken. The people in Pichincha are friendly-warm people who always open their hearts to foreigners and travelers who pass through.

While there are industrial farming corporations, they don’t dominate Ecuador’s food system. Small producers have an important part to play in national food production. Individual farmers are very important in the production of corn, beans, potatoes, and vegetables for the domestic market. Their participation is also important in the production of cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry. Small producers from the coast of Ecuador with land between 5 and 20 hectares are also important in the production of cocoa, coffee, hard corn, rice, and plantain, in addition to many of the farmers' productions.

The diverse food culture in Ecuador has a mestizo identity (mixed race) as a result of the culinary contributions brought to the Continent since the 16th century and its combination with native products and preparations. Plantain is widely used in cooking and can be seen in many dishes from fried maduro in the street (grilled on a BBQ), bolones and tigrillos which are mashed into a breakfast dish, patacones which is fried and can be eaten with different sauces and soups. This is an example of a single fruit providing so many meals for Ecuadorians.

Many traditions and customs are still maintained as the rites of Holy Week, Christmas, New Year and carnival parties. There are also some lesser-known local festivals connected to religious and indigenous traditions that can be observed all over the country at various times. Ecuadorians don’t need an excuse for a party.

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

9536

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

3228223

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

Environment:

• The degradation and contamination of soils and water is the most serious environmental problem that affects 48% of Ecuador's surface after five decades of mono-cultivation, use and abuse of pesticides and other agrochemicals, agricultural mechanization in areas not suitable for use, among others.

• Deterioration of the conditions of the agricultural ecosystem and the 4 “S” of life: sustainability, sovereignty, solidarity and integral biosecurity (Breilh, 2019). Due to the implementation of conventional agriculture for years characterized by mono-cultivation and the use of agro-toxins, water and soil have deteriorated and climate has changed. Not to mention the multiple impacts on human health.


Technology:

After many years of growing the same crops in the same places, farmers have simplified the processes and applied harmful techniques imposed by agricultural corporations in order to grow bigger and faster crops, which are damaging the soil and health of both producers and consumers.


Economy:

The small individual farmers don’t have access to major markets; some of their problems include the scale of production, lack of basic business skills, weaknesses in negotiation, low-cost access to market information and exploiting possibilities of generating added value for its products and services.


Public Policy:

While the rhetoric of politicians publicly supports sustainable farming, time and time again conventional agriculture is reaping the benefits of the policies. Ecuador has a constitutional framework on food sovereignty that is not applied in public policy.


Diets:

We have an unbalanced diet in which the consumption of refined carbohydrates predominates, with low consumption of fruits and vegetables, and fiber. The Ecuadorian people aren’t getting enough micro-nutrients, which is leading to a rapid increase in diet-related diseases. Cheap fast food, the lack of education, the lack of public policies in school-meals and food-fashion trends not supporting agroecological food.


Culture:

Cultural challenges due to globalization: Ecuador imports not only food but food cultures from all over the world. The popularity of international food and massive consumption corporations that are producing and promoting low-quality high-volume products are also reducing the demand for local products and traditional food.

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

SEICAS’s vision is to expand around Pichincha province while coming up against the previously mentioned challenges:

Environment:

  • Working with farmers around Pichincha educating them about the dangers of mono-cultivation and helping them to implement unique sustainable farms where the soil will not degrade while taking care of the natural resources, respecting the characteristics of every territory and its microsystem.
  • Our vision is to help as many farms as possible successfully transform into a sustainable state.


Technology:

  • We are already applying farming techniques from ancestral knowledge combined with modern knowledge from research. Our vision is to learn more from local farmers and apply more of these Andean techniques, working with farmers, technicians and the universities we are partnered with to develop the most sustainable farming techniques.
  • Our vision is to spread this knowledge with other farmers in Pichincha and do University research to publish the results of these techniques.


Economy:

  • Our vision is to enable commercialization channels such as short-circuits; we already have a model of selling our products in Quito and are looking for other commercialization alternatives which if they are successful will be shared with other agroecological family farmers.
  • We want to develop more local fairs where producers and consumers can directly interact and generate consciousness about the conditions of the food.
  • Our vision is to see many agroecological farms selling their products for a fair price all over Quito, generating employment and paying everyone a fair salary.


 Public Policy:

  • The universities and the NGOs which we are partnered with currently have access to policymakers in this country. The next step is to research and collect data that can influence and persuade the policymakers.
  • Our vision of the future will include such policies as the expansion of agroecology as a defense of nature, access to land, food sovereignty, education, food and public health and promotion of fair trade.


Research and Training:

  • Social Innovation to face socioeconomic challenges in Quito: the research and training promoted by SEICAS with allied universities and NGOs (internships, courses, workshops, seminars, forums, masters) are some of the elements to address this challenge.         


Diets:

  • Our vision is to research and collect data about the importance of healthy eating and the impacts on health. The results will be published by our partnered universities and will be used to create public campaigns about the importance of eating agroecological.        


Culture:

  • This is connected to our previous challenge about diets. The same researches and results will be used in the education of eating locally produced agroecological food products.
  • Our vision is to educate as many people as possible: farmers, technicians, retailers and consumers and to recover the traditions around the food that are significant for Ecuadorian identity.

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.

By 2050 we dream of a Food System in Ecuador that sustainably provides healthy food to its population based on an agroecological production where:

 

The state will:

• overcome the gaps between different levels of political management

• have sufficient financial, technical and material resources to strengthen a National Agroecology Program with research and an Agroecology Development Plan

 

The universities will:

• apply the agroecological model of sustainable research and production as an academic institutional policy

• articulate an academic network with research models adjusted to the agroecological conditions of the farm and the environment, of the commercial and market perspectives with a balance between the technical and the social

• have indicators that allow a detailed record of technical, economic and environmental behavior

• investigate appropriate technologies to improve the productive processes of farmers that rescue the traditional knowledge and values of the farmers, agroecological and solidarity culture

• train technicians in the new approach to agriculture and in the knowledge of new technologies

 

Producers, Social Movements and Consumers will:

• consolidate the leadership of social organizations around the need to build a new partnership project

• affirm their presence in local, regional and national spaces, being recognized as eco-healthy and socio-ecological territories

• generate strategies to reverse illegitimate regulatory changes such as the one that wants to legalize the introduction of transgenic seeds

• socialize the practices and experiences of agroecological production, storage, and marketing

• be aware of what they buy and consume, aiming at consumption of agroecological products and reducing the environmental impact

• value the efforts of the local farmers

• improve their quality of life and enjoy good health

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

Can you imagine a world rich and biodiverse enough where 10 billion people interact and live together in a sustainable way? Can you imagine 2050, where we consider in a balanced and harmonious way, the coexistence of the economic, human and ecological dimensions? Can you imagine a world where we respectfully treat the Pachamama and all that we inhabit in it? Can you imagine a healthy world? ... Call us romantic because we believe in that world.


We are SEICAS, an agroecological production and training and research project in agroecology and health that began operations at the La Esperanza farm located in El Quinche in the province of Pichincha-Ecuador in July 2018. We have 11 hectares of agricultural land, a house, a shed and offices, a small residence for students and volunteers and a greenhouse.

We are several people and institutions that work for this dream: 6 people directly linked to the production and commercialization work, 2 universities (Programa Andina EcoSaludable from Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar that focuses on collective health research, and the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences from Universidad Central del Ecuador which decided to boost agroecology 5 years ago) and 2 rural development NGOs (Central Ecuatoriana de Servicios Agrícolas and Agronomes et Vétérinaires Sans Frontières), in addition to volunteers, activists and other national and international allies.

With this project we want to have a positive impact on the employees of the farm, consumers of Quito, farmers in the Pichincha province, the country and why not outside our borders, Ecuadorian and Latin American undergraduate and graduate students, international volunteers, researchers, agricultural technicians, political leaders, NGOs and activists interested in agroecology.

Our general objective is to plan, execute and document an agroecological production system framed in the principles of sustainability, sovereignty, biosafety and solidarity in such a way that the project is an alternative of production and commercialization of food that protects the life of human beings and nature, counteract the effects of climate change and become a proposal for participatory and transformative learning.

We want to develop an alternative of agroecological production and short circuits commercialization of bio-safe foods; disseminate the interpretive framework, methodology and tools of the project to the communities of the sector, local government, agricultural producers and farmers, agricultural technicians, and undergraduate and graduate students in a dialogic and participatory manner; and establish concrete tools for the recovery of ecosystems that allow the cultivation of vegetables and animal husbandry in a way that respects their biology and nature.


At SEICAS we work for the promotion of agroecology, food sovereignty and collective health from six axes:

1. Production: We are producing love, color, taste, and life. We currently have about 100 products for sale among vegetables, aromatic herbs, fruits, honey, grains, potatoes, cereals, bio-preparations, and free and fertile seeds. In the near future, we will have fruit trees, corn, chicken eggs, guinea pigs and sheep.

2. Commercialization: We commercialize in short circuits (direct sale to the consumer) through the following channels: fair, restaurants, baskets and stores as spaces to raise awareness among the citizens of Quito about agroecology, its challenges, and benefits, which allows an economic and human valorization of our work.

3. Communication: In addition to the commercialization and communication channels previously mentioned, we are on Facebook and Instagram as SEICAS Ecuador, on the web pages and social networks of our allies (CESA, PAE, AVSF), in four international volunteer platforms and we also participate in spaces of dissemination and political influence (classrooms in universities, radio programs, agrarian forums, water forums, agroecology conferences, international agroecology, and gastronomy meetings, etc.).

As SEICAS we are supporting the dissemination of knowledge in agroecology, health, agri-food system transformation, among others through classes, courses, and workshops at Universidad Simón Bolívar. Similarly, we are supporting the implementation of an interuniversity master's degree in agroecology (Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Universidad Central del Ecuador, Escuela Politécnica del Litoral y Universidad Técnica del Norte) that is expected to start in 2020.

4. Research: From the Andean Eco-Healthy Program of the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, with its team of researchers and laboratory CILAB Salud (Research Center and Laboratories for the Evaluation of Impacts on Collective Health), we systematize and generate scientific data on the quality of the food produced, the health of workers and consumers.

The socioeconomic, agronomic and environmental impact in partnership with AVSF, CESA, and CFA-UCE is also investigated.

5. Training: We receive national and international volunteers to share the work we do on the farm both theoretically and practically, groups of agricultural producers from different provinces of the country and other countries, groups of students from the Central University, gastronomic chefs and consumers of our products; In this way, we inform and disseminate our knowledge about agroecology and the objectives of the SEICAS project.

6. Public Policies: We are creating a master's degree in agroecology among several local universities, which will allow us to have a critical mass of thinkers who, from different research and teaching centers, can analyze new and different sustainable agriculture options to transform in public policies. We participate in political forums, academic publications and in alliance with NGOs (CESA, AVSF, and others), ministries and public institutions of different scales, we influence public policies.


We have been running for 18 months and we have already seen promising results:

Partial recovery of the biological fertility of the soil in 6-7 months starting from an agronomically bad situation (1% of organic matter and hardened soils); Improvement of biodiversity; Drastic decrease in pollution of the environment and humans; 6 permanent jobs generated; 100 healthy products (in 1ha) for weekly sale in Quito (vegetables, fruits, and honey); Implementation of a Bio factory; Hay bale production: 60% recovery of soil fertility and 15-17% sale; Implementation of the beekeeping activity; 70% of Pultry implementation activity; seed reproduction implementation since August 2019; sales between $2.500 and $3.000/month; Development of several short marketing circuits (10 gastronomic restaurants, 2 fairs per week, 1 clinic, UIDE gastronomy school, partner institutions, 3 stores, 2 hotels, several individual buyers in Tumbaco, Cumbayá and Quito); Alliances with small local producers: dairy products, fruits from the Ecuadorian Coast and Guayllabamba, food processor (jams, tomato paste, tomato sauce); 16 national and international volunteers (alliance with France Volontaires, VASE, SCD, VSI; presence of SEICAS in 4 volunteer platforms in social networks). In 2020, thanks to the alliance with France Volontaires and VASE, there will be 5 to 6 long-term volunteers (6 to 11 months) with financial participation; Training and visits of groups of agricultural producers from Carchi, Pacto, Píllaro, Baños, and Honduras, university students (UCE) and researchers (UASB), institutions (France Volontaires, VASE, SCD, AVSF), consumers, gastronomic chefs and a television channel among others; Participation in national events on Agroecology (EIAG, Research and Agroecology Forum, food system course at Universidad Simón Bolivar, Agroecology Conference in Píllaro); and presence in media (Ecuador TV, Gama Vision, Radio Minga por la Pachamama) and social networks: 1082 followers on Facebook and Instagram.


We need to unite more people

There is still a wide way to go. We want to expand agroecological production and commercialization, strengthen our communication tools to raise awareness among more consumers and bring them closer to producers; We want to expand our experimental network and become part of agroecological groups that bring together many more family producers and agricultural technicians from the province of Pichincha and its surroundings so that modern and ancestral technological knowledge continues to be disseminated and applied in other land extensions; We want to consolidate robust research data to disseminate and influence together the generation of new policies that materialize the application of agroecology in Ecuador and of course, we want to add efforts and experiences with international allies to build together the vision of an agri-food system where we all can consider in a balanced and harmonious way the productive, economic, human and environmental dimensions.

We know that there is not a single solution to the global challenges we are experiencing; however, we are convinced that the sum of efforts and experiences from different disciplines, institutions, organizations, and actors allows us to contribute important elements in the construction of a better ecosystem than the one we are currently living in.

We want you to be part of the SEICAS seed that hopes to bear fruit by transforming the food vision by 2050. Do you want to join us?

@PROYECTOSEICASECUADOR

Seicas.ecuador@gmail.com

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Thank you so much for the Food Extension Initiative.

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