OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Citizens in Quito transform their food environment to ensure access to healthy and nutritious food

Citizens wield their right to food by participating actively in their neighborhoods and demanding safe, healthy & traceable food

Photo of Nataly Pinto Alvaro
8 33

Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name


Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Large NGO (over 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.

CONQUITO (Economic promotion agency for the municipality of Quito), The Direction of Resilience of the planning secretary for Quito municipality, Ruaf foundation, Civil society organizations that represent consumers such as Minga por la Pacha Mama and Cooperativa Sur-siendo redes, Academia represented by Salesiana University, Flacso University, food companies represented in the National association of food and beverages (Anfab), Datalat, and the National Government represented by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Education and the Health Ministry, The foundation Fuegos - Gastronomic Initiatives and Sustainable Opportunities and Slow food, The association of dancers and artists Zeta.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

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

  • 3-10 years

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


Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


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

Quito (4.235,2 km^2) and it's food region Pichincha (9.536 km^2). Special focus in the south of the city, in two neighborhoods of 120 km^2

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

We selected Quito because we care about it. It has been our home and it has welcomed us to become who we are. Our land is diverse and has glorious biodiversity. The metropolitan district of Quito harbors thousands of species of plants and animals living in several ecological zones that range from 400 meters above sea level to 2.900 meters above sea level. Quito has only two seasons: dry and rainy. We have all types of fruits, vegetables, and cereals at disposal all year long. The traditional wet markets are a vivid example of Quito’s cultural and geographical diversity because it brings together people and their food traditions from the coast, the mountains, and the Amazon jungle.

Our core team brings people together from different origins and professional backgrounds who started working with the same interest: the food system of our city. Alexandra, David, Alain and I acknowledge that only collaborative transdisciplinary work will allow us to insert food in city planning instruments and in major change agendas. Alexandra, an agronomist, has been the leader of the Urban Agriculture program for more than a decade and has worked hard to expand farming opportunities for the most vulnerable citizens in Quito with outstanding results. Quito’s urban agriculture program is worldwide recognized. David, an architect, designed the resilience strategy of the city that connects several working areas and includes food as a major trigger of economic development. David not only walks his talk but he also bikes every day from home to work to reduce his ecological footprint. Alain, a sociologist, has devoted more than three decades of his life to lifelong learning, knowledge management, and health and ecosystems analysis from a systemic perspective. Alain is the prime moving of transformative changes. I'm an economist and later I did studies on sustainable territorial development. My husband and I grow our own veggies on the outskirts of the city and we also work with farmers.

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, the capital of Ecuador is draped between high volcanoes with snowy peaks. It is a fairy-tale location but faces several threats. Most of our food enter the city by the southern highways, 62% to be precise. If a volcanic eruption occurs or if people cut the road because of sociopolitical unrest we face a serious risk of food shortage. After the last major strike that paralyzed the country for several days and during COVID19, the food gardens scattered across the city proved to be a major source of resilience once the wet markets and supermarkets run out of fresh food. That’s one of the reasons why the urban agriculture project AGRUPAR, already 18 years in place, has had a lot of success and people are looking for alternatives to install their own food garden to secure access to healthy fresh food in their neighborhood.

Our people are diverse, indigenous and mestizos, coming from all the regions of the country, with a growing population of migrants mostly from Colombia and Venezuela. The city has faced and accelerated population growth since the ’70s. By 2010 the urban population was 88% and the rural population accounted for only 12%. A new census will be performed in 2020 but estimations state that the population may reach 2, 8 million including migrant population.

The cost of the basic food basket reaches 735, 47 USD while the minimum wage is 400 USD, meaning that at least 2 members of the family have to work to cover their food requirements with the resulting social consequences for the household. 30% of the citizens live in poverty and extreme poverty and another 30% of children under 5-year-old suffer malnutrition. Unemployment is above 5% and underemployment reaches 40% and the statistic is on the rise because of the economic recession in the country.

In the southern and northern peripheries of the city where population density surpasses 3.000 inhabitants per square kilometer food swamps prevail and it can be hard to find food that is culturally adequate. Even so, neighbors like to get together with family and friends on the weekend. People like gardens and open spaces to hang out. Typical food is delicious and smells great. In the higher altitude areas, the smell of cooked potatoes bathed in cheese sauce with a few green onions reminds us of harvest times, while in the lower lands, people harvest sugar cane and mix it with cocoa to make a magnificent hot chocolate. Grandmothers try to keep traditions alive by gathering people together to prepare colada morada, bread, figs with cheese, fanesca and several delicious dishes. Some traditions remain but the fast pace of life and intergenerational changes sometimes prevents us from keeping traditions alive. This means important changes in consumer habits, buying more processed, easy to prepare, food and eating out of the home.  Currently, 71% of people eat out of home and restaurants do not necessarily guarantee food safety nor highly nutritious dishes. Six of ten residents between the ages of 25 and 59 are overweight, 83% of citizens in the urban highlands consume sodas and 63% eat snacks followed by 58% who eat fast food. 

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.

Current challenges 2020 

  • Wanted: up-to-date, comprehensive data and information

Food is a transversal issue that cuts across various activities. However, food data and information are generated in silos by individual units, without any coordination and this turns into disconnected actions that lack systemic analysis. The absence of coordination makes the organizational and individual efforts invisible and limits the articulation of actions among different actors. 

  • Sustainable change requires participatory and integrated food governance

Today few citizens advocate for their right to food and the promotion of sustainable diets. Consumers’ movements are largely inexistent due to a lack of awareness and information about healthy and nutritious food. Even though the municipality hosts several public spaces that welcome citizens of all ages to engage in different activities, the topic of food is still absent. For example, in the cooking classes for elders, the municipality does not promote sustainable diets at all. 

  • Ignorance feeds a stalemate

In spite of strong ancestral believes in linking food with healthy living, nowadays awareness of the importance of healthy food is limited. Nutritional education is not embedded in the school curricula. The eating habits of Quiteños are mainly shaped by the marketing of big brands and a food environment that is increasingly unhealthy. Yet, the industry claims that without a change in demand, food markets are unlikely to become more sustainable. 

  • Limited access to financial and non-financial services: high-interest rates of 2 digits in Ecuador, limits the efforts of small scale farmers and young entrepreneurs in the food sector. There is a big gap among large investors and citizens that want to access credit. Besides, there is no distinction for those who are engaging in sustainable practices. In terms of non-financial services, we observe that food logistics are very expensive and there are hardly service providers. 

Challenges for 2050

Humans strive for a better life and in that quest, they migrate to other territories looking for opportunities. In 2050 the challenge is to have balanced migration flows among the rural and urban areas. The challenge will be to ensure equal opportunities and ensure access to affordable and healthy food for all.

Globalization may shake the foundation of Quiteños’ diets, this trend has already started and is likely to intensify. We must ensure that traditional food cultures are preserved and thriving to keep Quito’s food heritage alive.

Climate change and its associated extreme weather events and increased climate variability are expected to reduce agricultural productivity, leading to increases in the price of the basic food basket.

By 2050 we envision challenges in terms of data use, meaningful connection and trust among people.

You can find more information about the challenges in Quito’s food system in our recent publication: “What will we eat tomorrow? Food Smart Cities leading the transition to sustainable food” (pp.112 – 123):

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

Our vision highlights the importance of creating an enabling environment to drive the food system transformation we want to accomplish. We defined 4 key elements: 1) integrated data management and knowledge creation, 2) participatory food governance, 3) food education and 4) access to financial and non-financial services.

1) Integrated data management and Knowledge creation

We need to collect and analyze existing data and information which is currently dispersed. We need to collectively make sense of it and identify who are the winners and the losers of Quito’s current food system. This collective interpretation and sense-making within the PAQ will build the common knowledge that will feed discussions on how to tackle these barriers. An integrated food policy that simultaneously tackles the economic, health, nutrition, sociocultural and ecological dimensions of a city region’s food system must be designed on the basis of comprehensive data that highlight the trade-offs that are made between those various dimensions (e.g. affordability vs. better income for farmers; nutrition vs. culture, etc.). 

2) Participatory food governance

Second, we must transform the PAQ into a legitimate multistakeholder platform that can co-create solutions with the municipality to address the problems identified in the data analysis phase. One of those solutions could be to integrate urban, peri-urban and rural agriculture into Quito’s Metropolitan Development and Land Management Plan and its different municipal plans and programs, in coordination with the special plans of the Ministry of Territory, Habitat, and Housing in order to promote the use of current agricultural areas and to discourage urban growth in areas with agricultural potential.

3) Food education

Third, we need to invest in education to make sure that children eat well at school but also at home. We will start by partnering with the municipality to initiate a GoodFood@School trajectory to encourage schools to have a sustainable food policy. Children and youngsters will learn about sustainable diets while growing their own food in the school garden. In parallel, we will work together with the municipality, schools and national government on the school’s procurement policies. Parents, teachers and community leaders will be involved to spread these efforts towards reshaping the food environment in their neighborhoods.

4) Access to financial and non-financial services.

Fourth, we need to articulate efforts with other actors. While developing the proposal, the Ministry of agriculture informed about a proposal for BanEcuador, a public bank. The Ministry asks for the one-digit interest rate for farmers and young entrepreneurs in the food industry.  In terms of non-financial services, we now see small scale ventures focused on food transportation in short distances and even bicycles that transport food orders to customers in different parts of the cities. 

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.

Re-engineering food environments requires creating a win-win scenario where the different stakeholders know and feel they benefit from it.

On one hand, we need well-educated citizens that are aware of their right to food. We must start with mothers and promote breastfeeding and then with children at school, teaching them about nutrition and sustainable diets all the way through high school. Today there are already hundreds of students at the university in Quito, who are called the “ambassadors of sustainable food consumption”. When they become parents in a decade, we can expect that they will demand quality food that is affordable, safe and sustainable to nourish their children. Later we can be sure that they will teach their children about making the right food choices.

Sustainable diet habits will be then reinforced both at school and at home as well. However, citizens still need the right food environment to choose wisely. When these children grow up in a decade they will be active in creating alternatives to make sure they can access the right food. With an increased demand for quality food in agroecological markets, wet markets, shops, and retail, both farmers, the industry will have the incentives to change their production and make it sustainable, otherwise, they will not sell.

On the other hand, policymakers have embedded food as a transversal issue into city planning and projects. For this to happen the PAQ plays an active and crucial role that gives a strong voice to consumer’s rights and advocates for the right to food.

Finally, technology is at the disposal of all these changes. Developers make available new applications for cell phones allowing citizens to track their food and see how produced it, how it was produced, how long it traveled and when did it reach the city. By 2050 it is easier for people to purchase local food that’s been grown sustainably.

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

Working collectively to live in safe, healthy and sustainable food environments in Quito by 2050 is the path for change.

We have focused our attention on neighborhoods as the main unit for change. In the past, neighbors in Quito used to know each other and hang out together. In our culture, it’s important to spend time with family and friends to share a special dish and bake bread or “humitas” (traditional corn cake) together. However, in modern times, the fast pace of life and public policies that do not favor the use of public space has weakened the overall neighborhood organization.

By 2050, we envision revitalized neighborhoods that are the home of people who get together to exert their right to the city and the right to food. Every neighborhood in Quito has strong leadership and they are well organized and dynamic. They make up networks to share knowledge and best practices related to healthy and nutritious food, mindful living and wellbeing. Neighbors launch healthy food fairs, discuss nutrition and encourage each other to prepare delicious meals with fresh food. People in Quito consider a sustainable diet to be local, diversified, affordable and organic. As they start to eat more diversified fresh food their health improves. Neighbors ask each other about the origin of their food, how it’s been produced and how long it takes to get there. Farmers are visible to people and they receive urban visitors on the weekends. At the same time, companies are accountable for the quality of the processed food they sell and they raise the nutritional profile of their products.

One key component of the vision is knowledge creation and lifelong learning. For this purpose, universities reinforce the link with neighborhoods and plan participatory action research proposals that take into account people’s needs. One of the main research pillars is food systems and climate change. By 2050 most of the work conducted in universities unites several disciplines (economics, agronomics, health, arts, education, anthropology, etc.) that include qualitative and quantitative approaches. Most importantly knowledge management makes science available to every citizen. Slow onset events are continuously tracked and people help scientists by observing and registering changes. An important shift takes place in food production and distribution. As people start to care more about the food they eat, they demand organic and agroecological food and so in time lands start to recover and soil loss and degradation reduce dramatically. Farmers also learn how to better manage water and biodiversity and value ecosystem services within agricultural landscapes. In terms of distribution, food trucks have an identification that allows them to report food miles traveled to distribution centers. Heavy load trucks are not allowed inside the city and smaller trucks, pickup trucks, electric trucks, and cargo bikes have special permits to distribute food in a specific zone with a specific food load. Food trucks have preference over other trucks that transport luxury items. Technology is helpful to track the trucks in real-time to increase efficiency and monitor food mileage. Also, by 2050 all fresh food sold in the city region has a QR identification or food label that lets people know the origin of the food, miles traveled and quality (organic, agroecological). For processed food, the QR tells the number of calories, but also the key components, micronutrients, and vitamins in addition to the other described items for fresh food.

Policymakers play a facilitation role to carry on the changes proposed by citizens in each neighborhood. The multistakeholder platform “PAQ” gathers all the proposals and gives technical advice and methodological support to the policymakers to distribute resources in an equitable way according to each neighborhood’s needs.

Creating favorable food environments that allow citizens to make healthy, just and safe choices, revitalizes the local economy and creates new job opportunities. Urban agriculture becomes a key component to increase urban resilience and many related activities create new decent employment opportunities. As the city prepares to manage processed food surplus and organic leftovers in markets and stores, more people are needed to help redistribute processed food to hospitals, kindergartens and other places in need. At the same time, the organic residues are converted to animal feed and compost that goes back to farmers embedding the logic of a fully operational circular economy that maximizes gains and reduces loss.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Email
  • Prize partners

Describe how your Vision developed over the course of the Refinement Phase.

The values of solidarity, healthfulness, equity and interconnection were always central to ground our proposal and explain what we hoped to achieve when we approached key people, including residents in the southern neighborhoods of the city. 

We invited the top visionaries in the food system to join the proposal and co-design a plan to overcome the challenges. During the workshops, interconnections and tradeoffs emerged which demonstrated the richness of participatory methods

Analyzing signals and trends regularly and understanding the effects of the COVID19 pandemic allowed us to observe the food environment from different angles and discover the potential of neighbors in knitting close collaboration networks and developing initiatives to ensure food security based on close relationships with farmers.

The webinars gave us the opportunity to enrich our proposal, to visualize it, and to exchange it with a diverse, powerful, and the motivated international community. 

Please provide the names of all organizations you meaningfully partnered with to develop this latest version of your Vision (they contributed at least 10 hours of time to the Vision development during the Refinement Phase).

The Municipality of Quito was represented by the City’s Chief Resilience Officer David together with Alexandra and Javier of Conquito (Quito’s Economic Promotion Agency), supported by Alain from RUAF. Andrea (Ministry of Education), Angelica (Ministry of Health) and Eliana from Minga por la Pachamama (CSO) brought in education and health approaches. Roberto Consumers Cooperative Sur-Siendo gave input from practice. Michelle from FUEGOS, Foundation of Gastronomic Initiatives and Sustainable Opportunities and Esteban from Slowfood, added flavour and innovative practices. Julio from Association of Food and Beverage Manufacturers represented the private sector.  Margarita from DATALAT, was our technology specialist. Veronica from FLACSO, the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences and Ronny from University Politecnica Salesiana provided key orientations. Johanna who worked in the vision for Quito 2040 joined too. Rikolto’s team involved Nataly, Selene, Natalia, Charlotte and Johanna. 

Describe the specific steps you took during the Refinement phase to include different stakeholders to develop your Vision, including a description (age, profile, and total number) of the stakeholders engaged, and how you engaged with each.

We invited friends that worked with us in the past and we totaled 21 professionals with different backgrounds. We held 12 virtual meetings, 1 workshop with youngsters, and 5 interviews with key informants.  

We talked with Roberto, Silvia, and Carolina in their 50s, who live in the south of the city. Roberto leads a consumer’s cooperative initiative.  

Young people who participated in the workshop include Rafaela, 21, studies international affairs at the USFQ University. Antonia, 13 and Darlyn, 17 both study in high school, Aaron 25, develops fundraising campaigns for Rikolto and Estefania, 30, leads Idonea, an initiative to reduce food waste. We wanted to integrate their thoughts about the vision.  

Alexandra Rodríguez, an agronomist in her 40s leads the city’s urban agriculture program and has joined the team since phase one together with Eliana Estrella and Marcelo Aizaga, both communicators involved in several local citizen-led initiatives and Alain Santandreu, a sociologist in his 50s who developed the conceptual framework together with David Jácome, 41, architect.  

In the second phase, Michelle O’fried, Verónica Vargas, Esteban Tapia, Roberto Guerrero, and Eliana advised on culture and diets (ages 30s to70s). Julio de la Calle, Margarita Yépez, and Javier Abuja in their 30s oriented the economics and technology group. Alexandra with Johanna Falconí, Andrea Villareal, Ronny Lizano, and Angélica Tutasi in their 40s guided the public policy and environment axes. 

In the Rikolto team, Selene and Natalia in their 20’s developed the visuals of the vision while Johanna, 59, Charlotte, 29, and Nina in her 50s gave useful advice and made sure we comply the terms and conditions.  

Xavier Delgado, 36, an artist helped build the character’s story.  

The co-creation generated enthusiasm in the group. I feel thrilled and honored to share this journey with generous people with beautiful hearts and minds who share a common dream. 

What signals and trends did you draw from to inform your Vision? Please provide data or examples that back up each signal or trend.

The Covid-19 crisis reinforces signs and tendencies worldwide: The search for increased resilience through citizens’ participation, a circular economy, and increased attention for social protection through public services. Cities are designing their plans for 2050 looking to increase the participation of civil society, expand green spaces, and build collective proposals to improve health, wellbeing, and access to technology. In Quito we see these tendencies towards expanding urban agriculture, using new technologies powered by renewable energy, supported by new financial products like green savings accounts and the implementation of the city’s resilience plan.

Within this global trend, we note specific tendencies on diets and culture. Globalization and migration bring in new flavors and broadening of tastes. Consumers are becoming aware of what they eat, where it comes from, and what impact it has on their health. New technology, social media, and tools such as QR codes comparing quality, origin, and prices are changing consumer behavior. Consumers want to know if products contain preservatives, how animals are treated if palm oil affects the environment and if labor regulations are respected. We also see a growing interest in natural, vegetarian or vegan food.

These signs of growing awareness and behavior change go in parallel with tendencies such as having less time for cooking and eating together and more interest in food delivery. Technology responds to this with online delivery platforms and shops. These tendencies are linked to the growing problem of obesity and diabetes. Fast food and sugar are important “comfort food”, giving the idea of warmth and togetherness and creating a permanent longing for more. The search for sweeteners to replace sugar and reduce Non-Communicable Chronic Diseases (NCCD) is causing trade-offs for health. Both tendencies increase inequality between people with resources – more technology, fewer NCCDs - and people without. To tackle this, we see an increasing interest in authorities to integrate food and nutrition in education and public policies and to enable access to technology.

Because of the COVID19 crisis, the tendency of out of home consumption is changing. People order deliveries, preferably by bicycle because of security and the environment. Families revalorize eating together and cultivating, creating interest for home gardening. This is linked to a renewed interest in urban agriculture and buying food directly from nearby small farmers. In Quito, we see a growing demand for agro-ecological food baskets, illustrated by a 20% increase of demand during the crisis.

One of the important tendencies in Latin America has been the increasing migration to cities. Now, we see a trend of consolidation of cities, with nearly 80% of the population in Latin America in urban areas. Because of COVID19, we note that there is a growing return of city dwellers to their rural origin because of food insecurity concerns.

Describe a “Day in the Life” of a key food system actor within your food system in 2050 (e.g., farmer, chef, supply chain actor, food policy actor, etc.).

My name is Lucia, today I turn 30 years old and we also commemorate the 30th anniversary of the first world confinement when my father died because of a virus. Health systems collapsed and then came the menace of the second cold war. Leaders finally understood that if we did not take action and changed our relationship with the planet, we could not survive.

I take a moment to reflect on how lucky I am to live in a different world. My mother says before I was born they were used to the noisy machines cutting down trees near our house. It’s different now, I can hear the sound of birds and bugs and I breathe clean air. I listen to my Andrew Bird playlist, while I harvest the mint and lemons for breakfast.  I work in the community garden, together with other farmers and in the afternoons I grind the coffee, oh the aroma is delicious.

I witness how the city changed from asphalt grey to a diverse green. I have fulfilled our family dream, to have a space to be able to produce food. That is why when the Land and Biodiversity Trust started I did not think for a second and that is how our farm "El Paraíso" was born. Every month the bank sends a report on the use of the savings and I am happy to see how the trust grows, for us and for others.

At that time, my mother recalls that the community decided to use a new local currency called "El Quinde" which allowed us to understand the value of new production systems. Food hubs were created ant this allowed us to generate fair relations between producers and the population.

On Tuesdays I work in the community school, where we learn together, children, young and old, we talk about health, we watch movies, we dance, all this knowledge has allowed us to change habits that are harmful to human beings.

I have faith in the society, we understand the value of our ecosystem and we knit close relationships with one another. I look to the future and I am happy to contemplate the world that I will give to my children and the children of all.

Environment | How will your food system of 2050 adapt to climate change and remain resilient?

Quito's agri-food system relies on a balanced ecosystem. Back in 2020 land was highly concentrated, 64% of farmers were using 6,5% of the arable land, while 0,2% of the biggest farmers used 16% of the land. Degraded soils and crops had low yields despite the intensive use of agrochemicals. Access to irrigation water was an issue and 85% of the energy matrix relied upon water coming from glaciers and sensitive ecosystems in the highlands.  

Water, energy, and food form a nexus where changes in one of these, affect the others. Access to these resources is influenced by external factors such as population growth, recession or economic growth, governance, food habits, production, and environmental degradation. The high level of interdependence and the increasing natural resource scarcity was likely to have consequences on ecosystem management, and their onset was difficult to predict. 

However, by 2050, the municipality has the tools to enforce land-use rights and democratize land access in urban and rural areas for citizens that practice regenerative agriculture, aligned with provincial and national instruments. Sustainable water and soil management are required for food sold in Quito and to do so farmers have signed cooperation agreements with biodiversity and water trusts (FONAG, which exists since 2000). The trusts provide technical support while growers commit to safeguarding the ecosystem and have shown remarkable results in the case of the water trust. Citizens contribute to the trusts by paying a tariff for the ecosystem’s services as they used to do for the water trust back in 2020.  

Regenerative agriculture practices that include growing native species and having local seed banks have reestablished the ecosystem’s balance. Farms look like a mosaic of edible crops, orchards, medicinal plants, and forest species that populate the landscape. Bird and insect species that were on the brink of extinction have increased in numbers, pollinate, and regulate diseases, while farm animals live in healthy conditions and provide manure that is transformed into bio inputs to fertilize the soil. Bio-cultural landscapes and corridors enhance agro-biodiversity while safeguarding our food supply and identity.   

By 2050, at least 8 drinking water fountains have been installed in every neighborhood in the South of Quito. Water is safe and the municipality guarantees optimal management. We harvest and recycle rainfall water for uses such as irrigation for urban agriculture, and it is available to street food vendors who implement hygiene standards together with good food handling. 

Thanks to land-use policies, the municipality managed to stop urban sprawl and the city has invested in green infrastructure by creating urban standards that allow mixed uses such as combining edible gardens with education and recreational sites connected by high-quality bike lanes and sidewalks that are safe. These actions contribute to reduce the city’s carbon footprint and enable healthier environments. Citizens get together and participate in initiatives promoted by cultural and environmental ambassadors. People are proud of their culture and neighborhood and it feels good to live there. You breathe fresh air and feel close to nature within the city. Plazas and streets are lively spaces to gather and perform outdoor activities.  

People are conscious about food waste and know how to reduce and prevent it thanks to EcoCentros. The municipality started the “Ecocentro” initiative in 2019 to educate citizens about the importance of reducing waste. The EcoCentro was also in charge of taking organic surpluses from the wet market to space where it was composted. By 2050, the south of the city has several EcoCentros and the organic waste recollection works at the household, market, supermarket, and distribution center level to prevent the landfill’s collapse while urban and rural farms benefit from the compost. 

Food hubs are operating across the city, serving hundreds of thousands of consumers. Food hubs are places where farmers bring fresh affordable produce from the proximity and meet consumers directly while connecting with cargo bikes to distribute food in the last mile and reduce CO2 emissions. 

Education has incorporated an ecosystems approach. Youth see opportunities in agriculture, learn by doing, receive training in ICTs, access technology, and integrate indigenous practical wisdom in a continuous learning dialogue. Human capital has become stronger because people are fit and enjoy healthy nutritional food intake in urban and rural areas.   

Technology has enabled remote access to knowledge and the circular economy has enabled a redesign of processes in food production, transformation, and transportation in order to reduce CO2 emissions. Because we consider the products’ life cycles, we care for every natural resource used and, by doing so, our ecosystem stays healthy and can thrive.  

Diets | How will your food system of 2050 address malnutrition in all its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, metabolic disease) for the people living there?

Encouraging sustainable diets has been crucial to improve food environments and address malnutrition issues. The southern part of the city brought farmers and consumers closer together by supporting food hubs, local fairs, and food basket deliveries to make sourcing from local family farmers who practice regenerative agriculture the new norm. Social interactions among farmers and citizens allow them to know each other and build strong relationships. Food builds cohesion and stimulates talks about eating fresh, local, agroecological, and diverse food.

The municipality has made an inventory of underutilized public infrastructure by 2020 and made a call to grant long-term use permits. Academia together with the local government had identified vacant space-proven suitable for urban farming resulting in several universities, institutions, and schools have built their own urban gardens. Farmer organizations and consumers cooperatives have collaborated to use the available infrastructure to set up food fairs and local food hubs to stock fresh produce and invest in cold storage facilities to provide more food baskets to families, particularly vulnerable ones, and install an e-commerce platform. In this scheme, both parties share the risks and increase efficiency.

Targeted public parks have been selected to revitalize public space with edible forests to bring citizens closer to nature and food. This is possible because of committed neighbors who take care of those places and conscious local authorities who are willing to give permits and co-invest in improving the infrastructure

Local officials, after COVID-19, have invested in improving sidewalks and bike lanes for safer and healthier commuting. Improved inclusive infrastructure and good illumination invite residents to walk and this makes people want to go out and meet neighbors. The “Casa somos” municipal facility has become a gathering space where people host assemblies to promote sustainable diets and improve their food environment.

The food hub, food fairs, and food baskets have improved the public market distribution in the city. The hubs host smallholders who bring food to supply corner stores, restaurants, coffee shops, fairs, baskets, and schools.

Because of an effective land management policy, nearly 20% of the fresh food consumed in the city comes from family farmers that practice regenerative agriculture in the proximity. Furthermore, food processors are using food sensing technology that allows the monitoring of product quality.

Thanks to proper ecosystem management, freshwater is always available for citizens, it quenches thirst quickly and this is important because it reduces craving between meals. Restaurants and coffee shops always offer a free glass of water to their customers as they arrive, and saltshakers and industrial sauces are no longer available by default on the tables. Schools have sufficient drinking fountains and canteens offer healthy and nutritious local meals that are culturally appropriate.

Schools receive technical support to host food labs that provide in-depth guidance to help identify priority areas to improve food sourcing and preparations and to design a school food policy. As part of the PAQ working group, teachers, catering companies, authorities, and parents discuss how to scale up healthy & sustainable school meals in the city. The public purchases law opens new opportunities to favor food produced in the proximity by family farmers using regenerative techniques.

Publicity for energy-rich food (empty calories) has been replaced by advertisements for healthy and nutrient-rich food based on cultural preferences and big data management. Innovative and creative banners that safeguard health rights are displayed in public spaces and impact everyday choices. Successful education and communication programs that informed citizens on the impact of their food choices have incentivized food businesses to offer healthy and sustainable food. At the same time, higher investments in urban agriculture have increased the availability of local healthy produce. All these initiatives contribute to sustainable food environments in Quito’s southern neighborhoods. Since 2002 the city has implemented the participatory urban agriculture program (AGRUPAR), which has become the largest in Latin America and is widely spread across the city. Furthermore, stronger rural-urban linkages and a place-based-economy have contributed to healthier diets.

Partner civil society organizations (CSO) in Quito have substantial experience in developing a wide range of materials and radio shows on healthy diets. The CSOs that developed the concept made this material available and it has been displayed and broadcast ever since. For example, a radio broadcast “the power of the spoon” launched on the public radio in 2014 has achieved a higher listening rate than soccer programs that are usually the most popular, demonstrating the high potential of such campaigns.

Economics | Where and what will the jobs be that support living wages in your future food system of 2050, and how will these jobs impact gender equality?

The circular economy has become an important source of employment in the agri-food system. Organic residues are upcycled and incorporated into the system again. Supported by international technical advice, waste streams and food surpluses are transformed into new resources for the agricultural cycle (e.g. fertilizer), other kinds of food products (e.g. soups) or non-food item such as textiles. Most of the packaging is eco-friendly and companies are designing products that are biodegradable and have strict control measures on pollutants and the use of energy. In fact, most food companies rely on renewable energy provided by the public grid to operate. Other companies are creating easy to use bins to compost food at home and some are producing new products such as pet food made with organic leftovers. The circular food economy is incentivized through public instruments such as taxes.

After COVID19 and the oil market crash in 2020, our economy has been built around meaningful services and sustainable products. Decent jobs are created in the logistics sector to distribute food from the proximity, and short distance delivery using cargo bikes services from food hubs, stores, markets, supermarkets and restaurants to homes are frequent.

Technology helps track food miles demonstrating that sourcing local food and promoting sustainable cargo alternatives have a significant impact on decreasing carbon emissions while cutting costs. Short food chains contribute to reducing the gender gap because they allow more women to take part in food distribution and still have time for other tasks. In 2000 a study showed that women with children dedicated 5,7 hours per day to unpaid work and spent less time to work or study. In 2050, household chores are equally shared among women and men, balancing work, home and self-care activities. More women are leading companies and they have equal pay. Large cargo trucks have also incorporated smart technologies for cold storage which turned out to be cost-effective.

Small and medium food companies are successful in sourcing from smallholders’ organizations and making the link with consumers, following inclusive business principles such as transparent commercial policies, fair prices, risk sharing and equal access to credit and support services. Living income allows for a decent way of living. Working from home a couple of days a week is encouraged and people in urban areas can leave their workplace two hours earlier at least one day a week. Walking, biking to work, carpooling or enrolling in an urban agriculture program are continually promoted.

Local cooperatives develop financial products to give loans between 1.000 and 50.000 dollars with guarantees backed by the government, NGOs and foundations to farmers and SMEs. Citizens decide to deposit their savings in these local cooperatives because they know how the money is used thanks to monthly cooperative reports on the share of their portfolio via a phone message. Businesses know how to tap into impact investment opportunities, and they co-invest in food businesses thanks to their profitability and their widespread social and environmental benefits. Blockchain and other cryptocurrencies allow citizens to make payments on their mobile devices while enabling product traceability and reducing transaction costs.

Such financial services are tailored to cater to the needs of SMEs, young entrepreneurs in the food sector and regenerative food producers in urban and rural areas. The public and private banking sectors have creatively improved existing financial instruments to make profitable arrangements that deliver environmental and social outcomes such as a restored landscape, biological corridors and a close community. Financial initiatives such as private leases that provide land tenure stewardship for medium and long term become mainstream, enabling young farmers, social rehabilitation organizations and startups to launch projects with minimum costs.

The land and biodiversity trusts are sustainable and economically viable. FONAG’s return on investment (ROI) has allowed them to share returns with shareholders. The fund grants full technical assistance coverage for farmers to practice regenerative agriculture. This synergy benefits citizens who access local agro-ecological produce. The local government has developed accountability mechanisms to inform the public about the trusts’ performance.

E-commerce has become the most convenient way to offer a service or product in the agri-food sector and companies are ranked according to their environmental and social accomplishments, such as getting a B Corp certificate.

Countries rely on their local food production to mitigate risks in the face of any disruption (like COVID19) and only when necessary do they import from other countries.

Culture | How will your 2050 food system ensure that the cultural, spiritual and community traditions and/or practices in your Place flourish?

Quitenians’ culture is rich and diverse. It is a blend of indigenous ceremonies, Spanish traditions and migrant population practices. Our culture’s dynamism is a syncretism between traditions from the past and modern practices that project us into the future. “Minga”, a verb that represents collaboration and community work is still a powerful indigenous tradition. Our “minga” helps us shape our food environment and enables better participatory policies. For centuries, the power of the concept has lied in the ability to call for action.  After Covid19, citizens realized it was a priority to keep the tradition alive and more so in food systems. Urban agriculture has traditionally been one of the ways to “minga” and it has been sought as a powerful way to unite people around growing food. 

Neighborhoods and communities come together into communal spaces to share a barbecue or go to their favorite local restaurant, as they used to in the 90s. Cooking food at home is a tradition that was reinforced during the COVID19 crisis and keeps us together and healthy. Grandmothers teach their children nutritious recipes, and this is how we safeguard our traditions while social media helps us design new dishes that fit our dietary needs, depending on what is available. Cooks and nutritionists in Ecuador have designed an application that enables citizens to prepare healthy and delicious meals with a few nutritious ingredients on weekdays, and more elaborated and nutrient rich dishes on the weekends. All you need to do is type the ingredients in the app which then offers several options. We think sharing a meal is a powerful way to exchange good practices on healthy eating, while enjoying yourself. 

We have many traditional dishes that are balanced and highly nutritious; they incorporate fresh veggies, legumes, tubers, cereals and fruits. The website, which began in 2012, and other similar initiatives have supported efforts to promote sustainable diets and responsible consumption while empowering citizens to influence their local food system. “Mercados de la Tierra” have become important places of encounter between consumers and producers, both physically and online.   

Food education is crucial to improve eating habits. For decades, more people have died of diabetes than from public safety issues. Based on the campaign “you grow it, you eat it”, and thanks to education programs that start from early ages, we see a strong community that knows how important it is to eat fresh, local, diverse and culturally appropriate meals. Mothers acknowledge the importance of breastfeeding and receive nutritional advice, as well as other medical guidance. Companies have dedicated spaces to encourage breastfeeding and even the public space is safe to breastfeed babies and infants.   

Education goes together with a strong communications campaign and alliances with both informal education initiatives and formal education institutions such as medical schools that have included a nutrition program in their curriculum. Only two hours from Quito, children have the opportunity to combine formal classes at school with the “Forest School” located in a park nearby, which represents a great opportunity to learn by doing and really be in touch with nature while learning how to protect her. The strong urban agriculture initiative linked to schools also brings kids closer to experiencing nature in a deeper and meaningful way.  

Our neighborhoods have become vibrant places of encounter where we enjoy sustainable diets. Today in 2050, all small lunch restaurants – where most workers eat their largest meal of the day – offer a balanced menu to provide sufficient micronutrients and fiber while complying with food safety standards. Street food vendors are still important actors of the urban food landscape, especially on weekends. They enrich our food environment with innovative and traditional dishes that reflect our cultural diversity and they have access to hygienic facilities. They can only sell prepared food without synthetic additives and deep-frying is no longer utilized.  Citizens trust street food vendors because they know that they have been trained and certified in food safety practices and healthy meal preparation.  

The change in food demand has created opportunities for food processors. As citizens seek quality and value their cultural heritage, companies that produce artisanal and processed food with high nutritional value and a strong identity flourish. Delicious mixes of cereals with fine cacao, dried fruits with blends of herbs, veggie protein, probiotics and fermented drinks are part of the offer. Moreover, back in the 2020s retailers offered products displayed in bulk. Now customers are encouraged to take their own pots and containers to the stores. If they order delivery, they have the option to send their empty and clean containers to be refilled. Reuse culture is cool and has changed the status quo.  

Technology | What technological advances are needed to transform your food system into one that meets your goals and embodies the values of your Vision in 2050?

Back in 2020 food and agriculture systems were decades behind several other industries on the technology adoption curve, particularly in emerging markets. Ecuador was no exception. A study carried out by the Kaufmann Foundation found that only 1.1% of technology innovations were scaled up. In 2020 Ecuador was the second country in the region that invested the least in R&D. 

Nevertheless, there was hope. The AGRUPAR program in the Municipality of Quito showed that technology can be a tremendous ally. Since the early 2000s this participatory urban farming program is an example of a concerted effort between the local government, communities, private owners and non-profits to scale up innovative unsophisticated technologies with a positive impact on food systems. The adoption of low-tech solutions in the local organic food production proved to be crucial and an application to connect farmers and consumers was developed. 

Farmers no longer have to make crucial decisions based on countless variables, many of them unknown. Information about variables related to food demand, market changes, and price fluctuations or possible disruptions on farming supplies is now available and sent via cellphone on a weekly basis. A study performed in 2020 to build resilience in the city’s agri-food system showed that consumers were recognized as important agents of change; their choices impacted the food system significantly. After COVID19 many people decided to go for online transactions, however there was a digital gap, not everyone owned a computer and/or access to Wi-Fi, nor had the skills to purchase online. Back in 2020 the city had 39 information centers that allowed citizens to use a public computer and access internet for free. During COVID19 those places closed, and it became clear that not every household had digital access. Several organizations started crowdfunding campaigns to refurbish computers and donate to children in schooling age back in 2020. Ever since the municipality decided to increase wifi access and the national government strengthened the Infocentros and the computer refurbishment program. 

Technology has made it possible to uncover economic activities and people’s food identity, by collecting data and information on users. Research showed that households with the lowest incomes used between 60 and 80% of their income to buy food and some limited studies on the ethnic dimensions underlined the importance of better understanding the drivers of food choices.  

In the same year public markets served 48% of the food demand. Public markets lagged behind private markets both in terms of quality, logistics and technology use. However, by 2050, traditional markets became lively places that offer traceable food. Their dining areas offer healthy affordable menus that are shared via cell phone messages with nearby customers who order for delivery.  

Food hubs have an application to process orders from companies and individual customers. By 2050, it is possible to trace food origin, quality, environmental and social attributes of food products by using applications. Actors along the food chain act timely to correct any flaws in the system. 

By using open source ICTs and gathering personal data, while safeguarding privacy, people get nutritional advice tailored to meet their dietary and health needs, tastes and cultural preferences. Some citizens use apps that allow them to track their nutrients intake as well as exercise to keep an active lifestyle. Connectivity technologies such as social networks, peer-to-peer networks and e-commerce provide platforms to significantly influence consumption patterns and increase access to nutritious foods. The city has 500 free Wi-Fi points that can display content about the food system.  

At the same time, the disconnect between what citizens demand and what is currently produced in Quito’s city food region has been overcome. Local initiatives by entrepreneurs that started in 2019 such as NatuOrganic offer organic and natural products for citizens in Quito, and consumers cooperatives such as Cooperativa Sur-Siendo offer affordable agro-ecological products to communities in the south. We see this type of platforms pop up and applications allow users to compare price and quality. 

Consumer networks have influenced production, commercialization, consumer education and protection, and have contributed to policy and regulatory changes; such as the adoption of Blockchain to ensure quality control, reduce food waste and monitor the hydric footprint.  

Policy | What types of policies are needed to enable your future food system?

Policy, financing and new business models were required to make meaningful and lasting changes in the city’s food system. A first step required was creating clear connections between policies on nutrition, agricultural production, health, social inclusion and the environment. Incorporating food as a crosscutting agenda into local public policy required effective coordination actions among different departments. Nevertheless, methodologies for applying systemic thinking were key since they can be adapted to various topics, systems, scientific fields, and public policies. Systemic thinking included identifying the components of the system and the relationships between them. 

In 2020, the weakness of land management instruments and regulations that allowed safeguarding land for agricultural production and hindered the city’s capacity to produce food. This was a result of limited competences of the local government. Land is one of the main assets under local government control and making agricultural spaces available in and around the city has been key to promote urban farming and regenerative agriculture. Furthermore, urban farming, edible forests, and better infrastructure for walking and biking, have been incorporated in “sustainable neighborhood development programs” designed as part of the Resilience Strategy for the agri-Food System of the City. Supported by the 102 Metropolitan Ordinance since 2016, this program has been adopted successfully, based on participatory strategies led by municipal technical staff together with neighborhood leaders. 

Regulations on markets and public space use have turned the food system into a socially fair and environmentally friendly praxis, while supporting healthy diets by raising awareness of the impacts of food choices. Furthermore, broader effects of these activities have been achieved for the public sector and for companies, as well as for individuals, by creating a balance between food quality, regenerative agricultural systems and their resilience. This is the result of public policies designed to trigger cascading processes to change the agri-food system. 

Examples of public policies included measures to: i) Introduce sustainability requirements in financial institutions to facilitate access to technology and infrastructure to promote circular economy schemes; ii) Strengthen partnerships to make economic resources available for research to improve quality, efficiency and reduce the environmental liabilities of food, iii) Require a sustainability certificate (B.Corp) for all aspiring food or service suppliers. These public policies helped create an enabling environment to promote changes in agribusiness practices outside the public policy realm, leading to the following results: i) Companies in the agri-food chain (e.g. manufacturers, retailers) introduced environmental sustainability requirements in their purchasing policy (e.g. sourcing local products from fair-deal transactions); ii) Increase in the number of consumers with access to sustainable products (eco-businesses) on a demand-driven basis; and iii) Partnerships with non-governmental organizations and the media with favorable positions to promote sustainable practices. 

The other side of the coin is the informal sector. Street food vendors and distributors now contribute to food security in two ways: 1) By providing affordable food products in convenient locations for low-income consumers, and 2) By bringing food to the peripheral neighborhoods far from the city center. Public policies have now made them visible through programs that satisfactorily address this sector. Inadequate practices have been eradicated and inclusive localized economic initiatives now promote the consumption of local products that are available and are more nutritious and tastier than processed or ultra-processed food. 

Achieving this was a long and arduous process due to the distribution of competences across different levels of government - both in terms of regulations and control - as well as the distance between the public sector and the private sector. Back in 2017, the Multi-actor Platform called Quito´s Agrifood Pact (PAQ), brought together representatives of the public and private sectors, academic institutions, civil society organizations and cooperation agencies. This platform has been expanded to include other actors such as parents associations and has since then taken a leading role in proposing and discussing public food policies. The PAQ has become the official consultation body to advise authorities on transversal food decisions, organize collective action, and bring the food systems approach to life in Quito. 

Describe how these 6 Themes connect with and influence one another in your food system.

The main aim is to build a resilient food system based on sustainable diets and more conducive food environments. To express the interconnections, we have built on 3 interlinked change accelerators: enablers, amplifiers, and resources. They harbor a combination of the six themes (see the graphic in attachment).

Enablers relate to the design of public policies using a system´s lens to devise regulations on land use, taxation to incentivize pollution reduction and resource conservation, and financial incentives for socio-economic inclusion. Health policies safeguard people’s right to a healthy food environment while education policies close the technology gap among citizens, to embed a gender lens in planning and to increase food awareness and food literacy among the population. Education increases and improves citizen participation to make sure that policies and projects are applicable and culturally and socially tailored.

In a two-way street, where enablers and amplifiers intersect, information is collected and transferred to parties to inform dietary choices and to allow for regulatory adjustments.

Amplifiers use the power of citizen’s movements, technology, and markets to change decisions on food supply and demand through expanding knowledge, information, and awareness. Citizens create movements and rally around powerful ideas that influence what kind of food is acceptable and desirable. Technology helps gather and distribute information, hence shaping decisions and the way we communicate with a wider audience. We gather information on food preferences to understand what influences our food choices (gender, ethnics, age, etc.) and this gives signals to producers, food transformation companies, and distributors. Information and communication technologies are used to reduce diet illiteracy. The last amplifier is the professionalization of informal markets to meet the demand (estimated at 50% of all transactions) and improve traceability.

When amplifiers intersect with resources, the latter can be leveraged to upscale information/communication creating a more evidence-based and networked sustainable and inclusive food system

Natural resources coming from our ecosystem benefit from sustainable diets and public policies. First, the demand for water and land reduces, making conservation efforts effective; second, circular economy policies and waste management culture contribute to avoiding environmental degradation while creating decent jobs. Public infrastructure improves, parks, road infrastructures, and markets can play a key role to facilitate food access.

As these actions are implemented, our local focal economy and culture will lay the foundation for food environments where healthy and sustainable food is affordable, desirable, and available for all citizens within a resilient food system.

Describe any trade-offs you may have to make within your system to attain your Vision by 2050.

An important trade-off is that while public policy regulates and controls, technology innovates and disrupts. By using the system’s thinking to design public policies, the main challenge is to have the two complement each other to achieve both: harness technology’s tremendous potential for good and mitigate the displacement effects of rapid changes without excluding the most vulnerable. There are case studies and examples that can help guide this endeavor, such as policies that allocate U.S. federal funding to incubate and grow internet, artificial intelligence, GPS, and many other foundational technologies in the function of bridging the gaps. 

Another example is that, while local participation and the recognition of local food traditions within the food system are promoted, globalization moves forward and provides contradictory information to consumers and producers, and more specifically to young ones. However, the revival of local food cultures can also benefit from globalization: social media, information exchanges, innovative initiatives tested in other parts of the world, and open internet facilities in local public spaces can reinforce local participation and cultural awareness through learning. They can also strengthen the feeling of connection between citizens and spaces in different parts of the world. 

To encourage citizens participation, homemade food and home gardening can also have an impact on gender in terms of the economic independence and empowerment of women, because these are tasks that are traditionally taken up more by women. That’s why changing role division between men and women is an important pillar of a more sustainable and resilient food system. Gender inequalities at home, in the community, and public activities, must be uncovered and we should support a cultural shift towards gender equity in society. This will create a balanced and fair allocation of time available for both men and women to carry out tasks that contribute to sustainable and healthy diets. 

As we transform the way we produce and sell food, moving towards increased professionalism and sustainability under environmental regulations, there is a risk that the price of food may increase and exclude the most vulnerable. How do we ensure that farmers, processors, traders, vendors, and all underprivileged actors of the food chain get a living and fair income while ensuring healthy and sustainable food accessible to all citizens, regardless of their income? Solutions lay in shortening food chains – by reducing intermediaries, we can lower the price the consumer pays and still be able to ensure a fair price for farmers. Other options include reducing food loss & waste to avoid wasting resources (inputs, labor, packaging) on food that will ultimately never be consumed; and developing more efficient transport and distribution mechanisms that can lower costs and help mitigate this trade-off. 

3 Years | Describe 3 key milestones that you would need to achieve within the next three years for your Vision to be on track?

First, secretaries within the municipality have ownership of the food strategy developed by the Quito Agrifood platform (PAQ) and apply a system’s lens for public policymaking. The strategy is institutionalized within the municipality and adequately funded. The PAQ has become an unavoidable consultation body for municipal policies that impact on the food system and participatory governance is the norm.

Second, a holistic education program that integrates healthy and sustainable food, linked to existing municipal programs, is designed and tested within the 3 first years. Pilot schools will be integrated into the local program on urban agriculture and their curriculum will include lessons on nutrition and agriculture. Pupils receive sustainable and healthy food at school in a bid to influence their eating habits. On the other hand, AGRUPAR will be strengthened and directly connected to “Casas Somos” which is hosted by the Participation Secretary. Casa Somos are places where neighbors of all ages gather to do activities such as cooking, but, so far, they have lacked a sustainable diets approach. Casa somos and Agrupar have shown interest in including a sustainable diet curriculum to raise awareness about healthy eating and support diverse diets. Currently, farmers’ plant diverse crops but their diets are not as diverse. Both groups can benefit from learning how to cook affordable healthy recipes while discovering the other dimensions of a sustainable diet: local and rooted in the local culture.

 The third milestone is the creation of a Land and Biodiversity Conservation Trust, inspired by the water trust that has functioned in the city for 20 years. Setting up a process that allows the consolidation of a fund via the land tax that helps young people in urban and rural areas access underutilized soil for food production while they conserve and restore the landscape. To make it viable the trust is linked to financial and non-financial services for entrepreneurs.

10 Years | What progress will you need to make—by 2030—that would set your Vision up to become a reality by 2050?

By 2030, the PAQ should have become a Counselling body that advises on policymaking but also encourages citizen’s engagement into participatory oversight. We expect at least four action points of the food strategy to be implemented: 1) Support regenerative agriculture in urban, peri-urban and rural lands by deploying technical assistance and the link with financial services, 2) An inclusive food economy by enabling food hubs that act as food collection centers that give priority to farmers and connect them directly with consumers and small and medium companies, thus strengthening the rural-urban linkage; 3) Circular economy, by improving the redesign of processes in the food chain, with special attention to harvest, post-harvest, collection, transport and distribution and; 4) Closing the technology gap by expanding the Wi-Fi free point up to 1000 sites in urban and rural areas.  

In terms of citizen’s participation and education, we expect that by 2030 we will have built solid alliances that allow the launch of communication campaigns co-designed by citizens who were part of the urban agriculture program, sustainable diets, and healthy cooking training. We hope that schools in Quito use these campaigns in their communication with students and give classes in the urban agriculture project. We hope to get closer to neighbors’ organizations and civil society initiatives that are building a strong sense of community. We believe that using the trajectory of change focus allows us to do a good follow up of the process and keep track of changes while being able to evaluate the impacts.  

We also expect to use a dynamic Land and biodiversity conservation trust that becomes as strong and popular as the water fund and we see many families developing sustainable alternatives in those places linked to food but also to holistic medicine, integral therapies, etc.  

If awarded the $200,000 prize what would you do with it?

Most of the prize will be used to implement the action plan for which we need to recruit a dream team while we also rely on strong partnerships. To convert policymakers to systemic thinking we need someone to coordinate the reflections with the multi-stakeholder platform PAQ and the different secretaries. This person will also be lobbying city councilors on the importance of the different secretaries of the municipality to implement the food strategy – an instrument that took more than two years of work and contains strategic actions as well as indicators.

We foresee an investment in developing a “coach of coaches” program to integrate the sustainable diets approach in two key programs run by the municipality: 1) Agrupar and 2) Casa Somos. We will be able to reach many more citizens thanks to the city’s network of nearly 2000 urban farms and dozens of Casas Somos in the south of the city. We believe that citizens can spread the word and we will invest in communication by social media using storytelling and partnerships with schools. The city has already installed 500 Wi-Fi free points. We can make the most of it by circulating key messages on healthy and sustainable diets on the Wi-Fi login’s landing page in order to call citizens to action.

We also need to hire an expert on trust management that can help set up the Land and Biodiversity Conservation Trust and bring a proposal to the municipality on the financial arrangement to make it financially viable just like the water fund. Currently, we have close relationships with the water fund manager who is eager to participate in this initiative.

Finally, we need to hire a person who can advise on the re-design of processes along the food chain to transition towards a circular food economy. We can then invest in three pilots to test how this works at the farm level, at the food industry level, and in the food hub. Funding for the pilots will be complemented with resources from Rikolto’s Food Smart Cities program.

If you are chosen as a Top Visionary, The Rockefeller Foundation would like to share your Vision widely with a global audience. What would you like the world to learn from your Vision for 2050?

Food brings us together. Caring for a food garden puts our bodies in motion to connect with the rhythm of nature. Sowing seed and looking it grow shows us how interconnected we are. Visiting a wet market or food hub in search of food becomes a social exchange, we connect with one another and learn more about how food reaches our plates. Communal places like Casa Somos allow us to connect and develop gender workshops for example while we prepare a meal. Food becomes a pretext to introduce new topics and learn from each other. Sustainable diets require collective action. It takes joint efforts from public and private actors to build healthy food environments.

In Quito, and all along the Andes, we have traditionally gathered in “mingas” to work collectively for the benefit of the community. MINGA is an ancient tradition of acting together for the benefit of all. We believe that ancient traditions together with present initiatives gathered in Quito´s Agrifood Pact (PAQ) have a strong potential to build a “Minga” to transform Quito’s food environment now and in the future and ensure access to healthy and nutritious food. Participatory policies and institutional cross-sector and multi-level cooperation will enable citizens initiatives for a resilient food system. Technology enables data management for better decision making and allows the creation of networks via social media. Influencers and bloggers are writing more about the importance of food in our lives.

Please share a visual that communicates the structure and operation of your food system in 2050. Describe the visual.

This is how we see the food system in Quito in 2050, diverse and colorful, inhabited by healthy people who enjoy getting together and sharing a nice meal. They walk, bike and they can go to an urban garden, be a member of a consumer's coop or join a food hub membership. Public policies watch over people's right to food.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Matthew Wilson

Hi Nataly - Love your vision for Quito!

While our overall projects are very different - our organization works across 20 rural and isolated communities on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, USA - it’s interesting to see what challenges we share that are universal and not tied to place. Our Native communities also deal with limited access to both financial and non-financial resources. We also have high rates of diet related illnesses due to inadequate nutritional education and are facing the loss of food traditions, as they fail to be passed on to younger generations. Your vision for revitalized neighborhoods who gather around sustainable and healthy foods is also a vision we share for our 20 communities. You mentioned that a key component of your vision is knowledge creation and lifelong learning, with the example of universities reinforcing neighborhood connections by planning participatory action research proposals to take into account the needs of the community. I'm curious, what do you envision these participatory actions to be? We are currently working on developing a model for community led food projects, and the approach you mention is not one we've thought of yet but I'd love to hear more about it!

Looking forward to seeing how you plan to implement your Vision!

Photo of Nataly Pinto Alvaro

Dear Matthew Wilson glad to hear from you. Thank you for your kind words. We observe that because of COVID19 more families are learning how to cook traditional -nutrient-rich- dishes, including myself. In modern times we tend to have speedy lives, we do a lot of stuff and have less time for contemplation or for sharing a delicious meal which is heart-warming. My high school friends shared that they didn't cook anymore and now they are learning. So I'm hoping that we take this experience to reflect upon this. About knowledge creation, there are two things that I can share. First, talking about formal education we plan to use a mechanism that all the universities have in Ecuador that is called: link with the community and that has proved to be strong to respond to community needs. The second thing is to work on informal education, something that we call popular education and that helps people learn by doing and that's when we connect with lifelong learning. I recommend taking a look at the work developed by Paulo Freire.

Let me know how you see it.

Kind regards,

View all comments