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Bridging Land and Ocean Food Flows: Socio-Ecosystem health from small producer networks in Galapagos

Small scale land and sea producers, feeding healthy, sustainable and fair to the galapaguenian community.

Photo of Charles Darwin Foundation
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Charles Darwin Foundation

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Researcher Institution

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

Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands, Researcher Institution; Huerta Luna, Agroecology Farm/School/Community Seed Bank; Slow Food Galapagos Community, Chefs.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

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

  • Just beginning now

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

Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island. Galápagos Islands

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


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

Galapagos Province in Ecuador, 4 human-inhabited islands and 2 protected areas. The human inhabited area is 258 Km2.

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

We are the Galapagos community, Galapagos is our home and we feel the need of a healthier food system that supports the conservation of our unique ecosystems.

For over 60 years, the Charles Darwin Foundation has been the scientific institution committed to generating information and producing scientific knowledge to support decisions and policy making by the authorities. Throughout last decades, and despite robust information has been generated on the natural sciences perspective, little has been done within the social sciences dimension. Food sources (land and seafood) have mostly been studied as isolated resources, disconnected from the food system notion.  Now we are transcending to more comprehensive research in Galapagos that explicitly illustrates our human-nature-based relations, one of which, the food system is our most vital one.

Huerta Luna is a farm run on land inherited from family descendants from the first settlers of Santa Cruz Island. In 2014 its family felt the need to buy organic food and support sustainable producers. Nevertheless, we encountered that producers were no regenerative. It was impossible to find the origin of the food available in stores. There were no local farmer markets available. There were no written records of any farm nor were guidelines on agricultural practices, soil knowledge, or a local seed bank. Farmers claimed “organic” is a myth; “impossible in Galapagos.” Huerta Luna was born with aiming to demonstrate that smart regenerative agriculture is possible, but also is to build tools to facilitate the way for others join. We farm regenerative, run an agroecology school and a local seed bank.

We, CDF and Huerta Luna, see our islands as a place where to demonstrate the intrinsic interconnectedness of land and ocean, human health, and the ecosystems we aim to sustainably use. It is time where research needs to fuse with citizen’s entrepreneurship so to build the bridge that can effectively take Galapagos to sustainability.

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 Galapagos Islands, located 1000km off the coast of Ecuador, is an archipelago with 300 islands and islets, where only 3% of the total land area is inhabited by humans on four islands. The remaining land area is protected as the Galapagos National Park. The waters surrounding the archipelago make up the Galapagos Marine Reserve. The Galapagos is the first ever UNESCO World Heritage Site, leading to its conservation being a priority to Ecuador.        

In the four inhabited islands live 33,042 people, but less than a hundred years ago, it is calculated that less than 100 persons lived on each island. A walk through an inhabited island will cross multiple climatic zones/ecosystems. At sea, it is highlighted turquoise waters where sharks, sea turtles and rays are commonly seen. Green plantain, seafood and rice smell, decorate the days of the urban and rural Galapagos, complemented with the different finches’ beak everywhere. Further up and going through a lunar like topography, you can first find yourself through dry forests. Going higher up, there are thicker young canopies interrupted by pastures. Cooler humid air, manure smells mixed with scalesian perfume; plantain, coffee, sugarcane and corns crops in the midst of finches, giant tortoises, and simple farmer homes.

With a population composed of national and international migrants, the local Galapagos’ gastronomy reflects the mixed cultural traditions of food, paired with the produce available locally and with the “globalized” food trends. Seafood could be considered the most typical meal, but optimum quality livestock and poultry also are common meal ingredients for locals. Fresh salads are scarce. Dairy products are scarce and in general, local produce limited in diversity and availability.

Tourism is the main economic industry in the islands. Therefore, fishing and farming are no longer attractive, at least for a great sector of young inhabitants who shift to tourism which is a more prestigious activity. Yet, fishing and the conservation of marine ecosystems is at constant negotiation, where the consumers are gaining more prominence. Galapagos is already 90% reliant on fuel to feed itself due food and supplies imports, and so unutilized farming areas are opportunities to further do not rely on food imports. Remarkable farms are already proving so, and emerging chefs are creating with the forgotten/unknown wonders that can grow on these diverse climates.

  This is a recent ‘island-globalized’ society, thus it corresponds to an emerging cultural identity and hosting the hope to improve lifestyles. Galapagos also offers a global tourism hotspot, and also the hope of contributing to build a ‘sustainable island society’ where human evolution demonstrates the capacity of adaptation of the residents. This way resembles to be vital to the survival of the humans and to the viability of natural systems. Building a conscious sustainable relationship between ourselves, our Planet socio-ecosystems will be conserved.

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


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


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

Environmentally, the challenges for our vision are climate change, invasive species, the widespread use of agrochemicals, and overexploitation of fishing species. Those affect negatively mainly on food production. Nevertheless, we still do not know all the impacts in the whole food system of Galapagos.

Culturally, the main challenges are the low aware about conscious in production, trading and consumption of food. This is results in negative alimentary habits and health problems; Galapagos is the region with the highest obesity levels in Ecuador and whose top mortality causes are directly linked to poor diets.

Fishing is perceived as a “job for the poor” as it involves high risk and hard physical labor in exchange for low income. Hence the youth’s disinterest in pursuing fishing. Fishers are getting older and the seafood future in Galapagos threatened.

Yet we believe our greatest challenge is the ineffective communication between all the stakeholders of the Galapagos food system. Empathy and comprehensive understanding between all lacks as diverse backgrounds, family ties, and small-town politics become obstacles. Unhealed emotional wounds in small towns contribute to constant conflict highly restricts cooperation and hence, the advancement of any project.

Geographically, the isolation of Galapagos makes it the most expensive province of Ecuador, whose value chain relies on external supplies. Import and transport of equipment, involves high import taxes and limited shipping spaces. The intermediaries of the food value chain in Galapagos are who receive the highest profits and the participation of the small producers (land and sea) is very low. Currently intermediaries control prices and conditions demanding high volume instead of food produced with environmental and social responsibility.

Finally, our food system vision considers unnecessary to invest in high technology for food production because we are promoting permacultural/regenerative farming and artisanal fishing. Investing in high technology in Galapagos, has left us with waste disposal issues, and lack of prepared technical support. What we look for instead, is tech-related communication to bridge the gap between the stakeholders.

 All these challenged stated above refer the year 2020. For 2050, the challenges stemming from geographic will remain (waste disposal, vulnerability to invasive species) will remain, as well as climate change, whose specific impacts we are unable to predict now. We assume that our vision can address intrinsic challenges and improve food production and consumption resulting in less overexploitation, gaps in knowledge, poor diets and unconscious intermediaries. Yet, conflict and communication challenges are a part of life and will remain; our goal is for our vision to ease its resolution and set the basis for keeping collaboration spite of personal feuds (while they heal).

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

Our food system vision for Galapagos is based on the development of conscious behaviors network among producers, intermediaries and consumers through a permanent flow of communication of knowledge and education. These was thinking to address the challenges previously identified.

The communication flow between stakeholders will produce new knowledge on abundances of fishing species and impacts of climate change and marine invasive species in ecosystems and food production in Galapagos. This communication flow will also enhance the perception of fishing as important job due its contributions to the culture and food security of Galapagos.

However, the main challenge that will be address is the ineffective communication between all the stakeholders of the Galapagos food system. The communication flow will have three important features: constancy, empathy and comprehensive understanding between all. To achieve this, is indispensably to heal emotional wounds.

Therefore, we expect that all the participants of our vision go through a process of self-knowledge. We will use participatory methodologies that involves tools and technics of emotional heal such as focusing/U theory/mindfulness. These methodologies have been proven its success in conscious food production.

The conscious production and consumption of our food system vision will be the spearhead to address other challenges. For example, a conscious consumption of food will improve the diets and health; we hope contribute to reduce the obesity levels of participants within the network of our vision. In addition, a conscious consumption will create demand of food produced with social and environmental responsibility; so this will create a business niche for a conscious value chain of food in Galapagos. We expect that this will be the financial sustainability of our network.

There still challenges that our vision will not address completely, such as climate change and technology. However, we are sure the communication flow of our network will figure out how to adapt the production of food (land and sea) to the impacts of climate change. There will be also creative solutions for technology issues.

 In conclusion, our food system vision of Galapagos includes a network of producers, intermediaries and consumers with conscious behavior and a permanent communication flow with empathy and comprehensive understanding between the stakeholders. All this was thinking to address the most important challenges internals of Galapagos and externals.

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.

It is instantly evident, just as the animals and the world-famous landscapes, so is the feeling of interconnectedness of its community with the ecosystems. They are aware, sucking you into this consciousness that our consumer choices determine the health of this place and oneself, motivating you to replicate them.

Through the landscape, hundreds of small producer farms populate its multiple climatic zones. Yet, it is not easy to determine where production is as it is integrated with lush forests that interconnect with the designated protected areas. Its people are aware of the importance of this corridors, because their own food is produced here, but also, the practices used strengthen the island’s ecosystem resilience.

When arriving to the seascape, also, hundreds of small producers use knowledge, gears and techniques to maintain healthy marine ecosystems with abundant diversity and riches. Fishermen act on their knowledge complimented by science, so to fish the right species at the right time on the right sites. 

The offer of conscious food is widespread, and it complements the community’s demand for food whose origin cares for the ecosystems’ integrity. Conscious demand automatically transmits to the island’s visitors, who are motivated to follow. These offer-demand dynamic funds its continuity, and is facilitated by aware intermediaries and permanent flows of knowledge and effective communication. The island’s thriving economy is based on conscious visitors of its healthy ecosystems, where human food systems strengthen its health and that of its local community.

 Land and sea healthy ecosystem food flows result in physical human health that give way to awareness of one’s emotional health. Individuals care for their spiritual, mental, physical and social health by realizing informed positive consumer choices that affect the whole system ensuring its continuity.

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

Our vision’s engine is a mass of conscious wholehearted consumers who drive a switch to economic incentives and production patterns. We all have agency power over the food system, and our vision is to enable the consciousness and understanding of the many manifestations/roots of the problem, while providing the tools to realize change, and the inspiration so the courage to act is manifested by individuals from different spheres of the community. 

Change starts with oneself:

Reason, facts, institutional acts come forth through different individuals whose personal stories, hurts, principles, and emotions deliver the ultimate outcome. A major obstacle in our community are personal feuds/hurt hearts blocking change. Our vision’s innovation is to embrace our humanity and highlight its essentiality.  Using focusing/U theory/mindfulness techniques in co-creation dialogue spaces, our vision aims to promote healing the inner-self so to develop the empathy and open-mind necessary for true collaborations to take place. We believe the level of cooperation necessary for integrated system-based solutions can’t take place if we continue to disregard the pivotal obstructing role broken spirits and violent childhoods have on our food system. Long term change needs first a change of heart when looking for solutions that also are financially sound.

Co-creation spaces:

Using the human center techniques in 2020 two main co-creation spaces operate: 1) Regenerative agriculture expansion and, 2) sustainable fisheries. These include stakeholders (science, producer, consumer, chefs, intermediaries, policy makers) discussing solutions that can financially sustain regenerative farmers and sustainable fisheries.

In 2020 they focus in:

1) Adapting/implementing menus with products that grow well in the different climatic zones of the Galapagos inhabited islands, have demonstrated successful growth without agrochemicals, bountiful production of seed and resilience to climate change.  Increasing the demand for these incentivizes more farmers to produce them, and in these spaces, organization for the collaboration of farmers is also taking place.

2) Generating an effective information system (and the information required to back it up) on the state of fisheries that steers the market’s offer and demand. The elaboration of mass reaching consumer guides which informs buyers which species needs a break, which can tolerate extraction, at what size and time-frame, etc.

 The pivotal role of chefs/customers and by communicating adequate messages concerning healthy food systems, could be done through delicious plates:

There is a saying that “scientists are from mars, policy makers are from venus,” just like John Gray’s 90’s book argues, if we aim to bridge these two planets, we need more empathy and understanding. Food is in its essence a connector of spirits, an up lifter, a sign of love hence, used in delicious dishes to communicate the science (citizen and academic) of sustainable resilience produce from land and sea, in the midst of a human center safe space is a winning combo. Chefs communicate this science, communicated to them by technology that supports organized data and enables the art necessary to communicate it effectively. This enables the conscious consumer mass to shift markets and policies.

Enabling resilient production:

In land: The agroecology school and local seed bank are providing the complement so that small producers can get trained in regenerative/resilient techniques, but also, access the seeds and support in order to meet the newly created demand. Their continuous work can be certified by the SPG (participatory guarantee system) carried out by the regenerative producer’s network. Furthermore, professional degrees are offered for those who are willing to commit three years on a permacultural training certification.

In the sea: Co-creating spaces determine, between the many stakeholders, the priority for generating fisheries information and sharing responsible fishing technics. This information and sharing are generated in cooperation between fishers and scientists.

The role of technology:

Technology supports effective eased communication and organization of the food system.

Technology for zero waste. Each cooperative and fishing association with zero waste systems. The residues generated by fishing feed the agricultural area, the residues of the land fertilize their own lands, generating circular economy between the sea and the land.

Technology for adaptive fishing and agriculture: sustainable gears and local ecological knowledge production.

 All mentioned above, will be built through a food system observatory connecting dots.

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Thank you so much for the Food Extension Initiative.

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