Letters from Ecuador Part 4 - Organic and Fair Trade Diversity

Posted by Heifer Sacramento On Friday, June 27, 2014 0 comments
This is part 4 of an eight part series contributed by Heifer Sacramento volunteer, Cheryl McKinney on her experiences visiting Heifer Ecuador projects in 2013.

Letter 4 - Organic and Fair Trade Diversity

We are still visiting the Heifer Ecuador projects in the Province of El Oro, banana capital of the world. On Carlos Cuenca’s organic fair-trade farm, besides raising banana for export, he grows an amazing diversity of fruits. The pods in the photo are cacao — the beginning of what ends up in your delicious chocolate bar. They redden as they ripen.

Check out this table overflowing with various bananas and citrus. All are local to this village, Muyuyacu.

The women of Muyuyaca have seen opportunities in this abundance. With Heifer Ecuador’s help, they have purchased chocolate processing equipment and are developing recipes for products. Marketing will be next. Fruit and chocolate: mmmmmmmm!

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Heifer Sacramento goes to the Farm!

Posted by Heifer Sacramento On Monday, June 23, 2014 0 comments
Over the weekend, Heifer Sacramento celebrated with Helping Hands Produce at the Family Farm Fest. The family oriented festival was located at the spacious Davis Ranch in Sloughhouse. There were plenty of activities, demos, educational booths, bounce houses, musicians, dancers, educational skits, and Heifer!
Linda Eisenman poses Heifer questions to festival attendees.
JoAnn Peter and Cheryl McKinney are ready for Family Farm Fest goers.
We had a great time meeting new friends and talking about Heifer. Young artists enjoyed making their very own fans and spin the wheel for Heifer questions and prizes.

If you don't already know, Helping Hands Produce was created by the family that owns Davis Ranch Produce, the people that bring you Sloughhouse corn! Helping Hands Produce works with volunteers to pick, pack, and deliver excess unsold produce to feed the hungry in the Sacramento region. Groups and individuals can volunteer. Check them out and give them your support!

Thank you Helping Hands Produce for inviting Heifer to a fabulous farm festival!!
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Letters from Ecuador Part 3 - Heifer Ecuador

Posted by Heifer Sacramento On Tuesday, June 17, 2014 0 comments
Letter 3 - Heifer Ecuador

Heifer Ecuador operates in a small country with diverse geography and ecosystems, social and ethnic groupings, and economic levels. Heifer staffer María Fernanda noted that due to human activity, the destruction of the natural ecosystem is accelerating. And the country has continued implementing national policies that are unfavorable to the smallholder farmers — even though the main reason that Ecuador has sufficient food is due to the existence of those very farmers, who fill the basic Ecuadorean food basket composed of potatoes, meat, oil, milk, rice and corn.

Given these realities, what is Heifer Ecuador to do? Here is some of what María Fernanda narrated:
     We believe in the capacities of the people.
     We support innovative initiatives that come from the smallholder perspective.
     We defend the right of smallholders to:
   produce, from the level of seeds onward;
   recover and maintain traditional knowledge;
   manage their own resources;
   have access to credit; and
   sell direct and locally to consumers.
     We work with community-level organizations of smallholders and indigenous people and with non-profits.
     We emphasize gender equity, as among women there are immense amounts of knowledge.
     We work in the central (Andean) and the western (coastal) provinces, not in the eastern (Amazonian) provinces.

The methods of Heifer Ecuador, broadly speaking, fall into these categories:
     Supporting agricultural production that is in harmony with nature and society — agroecology, for short.
     Managing natural resources also according to the principles of agroecology.
     Strengthening and empowering existing organizations. There is no reason to create another organization in Ecuador! We work with those grass-roots groups, which already exist. Passing-on-the-gift in the classic Heifer sense, as well as supplying seed money for member in the form of mini-loans, fit into this work.

We Heifer tourists had a lot to think about. Clearly Heifer Ecuador works in a complex country and matches its work to the complexity and demands found there.

Read more about:
 Ecuadorian newspapers highlights the work of Heifer Ecuador with rural producers.
 a Heifer Ecuador veterinarian that works with indigenous farmers and fishermen.
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Letters from Ecuador Part 2 - Bananas Organic and Fair Trade

Posted by Heifer Sacramento On Wednesday, June 11, 2014 0 comments
Letter 2 – Bananas Organic and Fair Trade

We’re in the south coast of Ecuador: El Oro province is banana-landia, the world capital of commercial banana production. Most of the commercial fields are mono-cropped like this one by the highway. Most use lots of herbicides and pesticides: hazard to workers, burden on the ecosystem.

We visited a Heifer Ecuador project in the midst of El Oro province. In 2004, a plucky group of farmers formed a cooperative association, nicknamed AsoGuabo, to market organic, fair-trade bananas. When we visited, Heifer Ecuador was assisting them over the course of several years in several ways: organizational management, technical help with drip irrigation, a grant from which coop members could get micro-loans — oh, and gifted flocks of chickens, in Heifer style, to farming families. Here we make our way through one coop member’s mixed forest inter-planted with banana, the opposite of mono-cropping.

Carlos Cuenca, a farmer member of the coop, and Michael Calle, the coop manager, explain the fine points of processing bananas for the organic market. Besides managing pests, the farmers have to gauge ripeness exactly, trim them just so, float them in a water bath during handling so as to never bruise them, and pack the bananas in boxes weighing exactly 44 lbs.

It’s amazing to learn what goes into the bananas that we so casually buy and eat. Although there is no way to buy AsoGuabo bananas at home, we promised ourselves to seek out organic, fair-trade fruit, knowing now what that means to the organic, fair-trade farmers on the growing end of the transaction.

Read more about Heifer Ecuador empowering women entrepreneurs in El Oro. 
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Letters from Ecuador Part 1 - First Contact

Posted by Heifer Sacramento On Friday, June 06, 2014 0 comments
This is an eight part article contributed by Heifer Sacramento volunteer, Cheryl McKinney on her experience visiting Heifer Ecuador projects in 2013.

Letter 1 - First Contact

It’s August 2013 and 11 volunteers from the U.S. (7 from the Sacramento area) are visiting Heifer International projects in Ecuador!

Heifer local staff, María Fernanda, educates us, outlining the work. Ecuador is geographically diverse with five ecozones: the Amazon basin of the Oriente, the páramo or high steppes of the Andes, the dry forests of the Andean foothills, the coastal lowlands, and the Galápagos islands. We will learn that rainfall is caught and stored in the páramo: “The Andes water the Amazon and all the other zones.”  These ecosystems all coexist within a small area, so that any human activity has impact.

Ecuador is culturally diverse: population of 15 million people, with 25 to 40 per cent of them indigenous, depending on who counts.

It is economically diverse: 70% of the people can be considered poor, while the top 5% receives 177 times the income as the bottom 5%. Rural poverty can be explained by the fact that the rich own the land. A middle class exists, but without a productive base; oil is the one main product of the country. The majority of middle class jobs are in the service sector.

So. Heifer Ecuador operates in this small country, diverse in geography, ecosystem, social and ethnic groupings, and economic levels. María Fernanda notes that due to human activity, the destruction of the ecosystem is accelerating. The national policies are unfavorable to smallholder farmers — even though the only reason Ecuador has sufficient food are due to the existence of those very farmers, who fill the Ecuadorean food basket with basics such as potatoes, meat, oil, milk, rice and hominy corn.

Given all this, what is Heifer Ecuador’s response? We hope to find out during our tour.

Our interpreter, Beto, doesn’t miss a beat, explaining it all in his unique Ecuadorean-Australian accent. 

This will be a grand week of discovery.
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Heifer in Sacramento is a grassroots volunteer group in Northern California, with a common goal of fulfilling Heifer International's basic mission - "To end hunger and save the earth by passing on the gift to others." We are an extension of Heifer International and together we are improving our world and the lives of resource-poor families while building the foundation for a peaceful world in practical, down-to-earth ways.