More from www.agroecology.org — Agroecology links ecology, culture, economics, and society to sustain agricultural production, healthy environments, and viable food and farming communities. Let’s go check out how it works in Quillán, a village east of Ambato, still in the Andes, but at a lower elevation than other Andean farms we visited.
Nowhere on our tour were the social dimensions of agroecology more evident than here. In Quillán we start getting a better sense of the degree to which Ecuadorians work together. We remembered María Fernanda remarking at the beginning of our tour, “There is no reason to create another organization in Ecuador!”
Walk with us along a cool tree-canopied path, into a charming restaurant and out its back door, to tables set in the shade near a swift, crystal clear stream. Get ready for a delicious organic lunch of trout, rice, mixed salad, and fresh fruit juice — except for the rice everything was produced right here at this place.
Then meet Verónica Chiluiso and her mom María Soledad, who run this restaurant, and hear a story of teamwork. Verónica explained that 30+ families of Quillán organized into an association, which in turn is one of the 29 associations that make up the umbrella organization PACAT. More about that later…
Here in Quillán, a dozen families, each with their own business, some specialize in trout farming, another dozen farm organically with mixed-plantings, and a third dozen operating restaurants and developing trails in tourist areas. Little by little they have made Quillán a tourist destination and environmental education site along the Ruta Nacional de Turismo, on the Curipisco Bird Observation Trail. It’s a village that young people return to after college where jobs are available. The community has a committee to look after the elderly who lack extended family to care for them.
Collaboration has been key to achieving all these things — and support from various organizations, including PACAT, and Heifer Ecuador through PACAT. As Verónica put it, “They started out as our collaborators and they have become our friends.”
During the long bus ride back to Ambato, we Heifer tourists mull over our place in this long chain of collaboration, friendship, helping hands.