Letters from Ecuador part 7 - Agroecology at Restaurante María Soledad

Posted by Heifer Sacramento On Thursday, July 31, 2014 0 comments
Letter 7 - Agroecology at Restaurante María Soledad

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.

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Letter from Ecuador Part 6 - Agroecology at the Torres Farm

Posted by Heifer Sacramento On Friday, July 25, 2014 0 comments

Letter 6 - Agroecology at the Torres Farm

Our Heifer Ecuador tour is still in the mountains visiting our second Andean farm, this one at a lower elevation of 6,600 feet.  Manuel Torres’s operation seems be an operational match for the definition of agroecology ‘…a whole-systems approach to agriculture and food systems development based on traditional knowledge, alternative agriculture, and local food system experiences.’

Señor Torres, who farms with his wife, summed up their life work. “This is the source of our well-being — producing for our own families, and selling what is extra.”

As we walked around the fields we spotted various herbs, squashes, lettuces, cabbages and other crucifers, as well as alfalfa for the animals. In addition, Señor Torres grows hominy corn and potatoes — 18 varieties of potatoes, in fact.

Señor Torres composts, of course. And he biols, as well. Biol is the product of biodigesting manures and plant materials. He ticked off the animal fertilizer ingredients: “de vaca, conejo, gallina, chancho, y cuy — y todos limpios.”  That’s clean organic manure from cow, rabbit, hen, hog, and guinea pig. The result is a concentrated organic foliar fertilizer to use on his farm.

Señor Torres also saves seeds. He invited us into the storeroom, where we marveled at gunny sacks full of seeds of all sorts, including seed potatoes. Indeed, the Torres’s are designated seed savers for their grower organization, Produagro of Tungurahua.

A seed — a tiny object of enormous potential. That is what we felt at the Torres farm: the potential of Heifer Ecuador’s work to spread the agroecological approach over Ecuador, realizing the basic Heifer mission of working to end hunger while caring for the Earth.

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Letters from Ecuador Part 5 - Agroecology at the Moreta Farm

Posted by Heifer Sacramento On Wednesday, July 09, 2014 0 comments
Letter 5 - Agroecology at the Moreta Farm

Agroecología. A tongue-twister word that came up many times as we toured with Heifer Ecuador. Agroecology originally defined as 'the application of ecological principles to agriculture' and first defined and used by Miguel Altieri of University of California Berkeley in 1983.

The concept has continued to evolve. Agroecology is the sustainable use and management of natural resources, accomplished by using social, cultural, economic, political and ecological methods that work together to achieve sustainable agriculture production. We found living illustrations of this in the province of Tungurahua, in the Andes south of Quito.

In the high Andean fields of Señor Anibal Moreta, we learned that he and his fellow farmers have been dedicated to amending their soil with compost (only one agroecological practice of many). It is gorgeous soil, fertile and friable, supporting all manner of vegetables. Señor Moreta plunged his hand into a furrow to demonstrate that no hoe or shovel — nor tractor — was needed to work this ground. He pointed out the mixed plantings, opposite the practice of mono-cropping, where the diversity of plants helps to foil pests. His fields are surrounded by hedgerows specifically planted to attract beneficial insects.

Fellow tourist Profesora Jacquelyn Contreras of Catholic University of Quito, currently working on her Ph.D in agroecology, explained that although the discipline has only been formalized in the past 30 years, the bodies of knowledge it draws from are as ancient as the indigenous presence in the Americas.

As we gazed out over the rows of healthy plants to the Andean foothills beyond, we began to sense the farm’s place in a long continuum — ancient knowledge to present well-being to future planetary health.

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