Letters from Ecuador Part 1 - First Contact

Posted by Heifer Sacramento On Friday, June 06, 2014
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.