The Agroecology Collective of Ecuador (CAE) offers solutions to several interconnected issues -- diminishing supplies of native seeds, environmental degradation, rural poverty, public health, and market barriers between consumers and local food producers. It conducts agroecological training and organizes festivals and forums to build awareness about the importance of food sovereignty and nutrition.
Since the 1990s, the agroecology movement has steadily grown in the region and an organized coalition was formed in 2007, Colectivo Agroecológico del Ecuador, or the Agroecological Collective of Ecuador. This is a diverse national network of NGOs, small farmers, indigenous groups, researchers and consumer organizations that work to implement food shifts both through governmental policy measures and direct community support.
The group launched a campaign aimed at urban consumers, Que Rico Es! (“How rich it is to eat healthy from our land”), which successfully promoted heirloom seeds and traditional Andean foods such as tubers, grains and leafy vegetables at markets, food fairs and celebrations. With the aim of pumping millions of dollars into the rural economy, a new “250,000” Campaign urges 250,000 urban families to commit to purchasing at least 50% of their food and beverages directly from family farmers. The Collective has created an online guide to promote local food marketing spaces that sell natural food, including farmers markets and restaurants.
During COVID-19, the Collective mobilized to find alternatives so that farmers who could no longer sell their produce in local markets could still supply urban consumers with healthy food. The pandemic has demonstrated how a grassroots network, built and strengthened over time, can respond quickly to a crisis.
With additional resources, CAE, aims to expand direct marketing channels, linking agroecological farmers and farmer organizations directly to consumers. Both will benefit, as healthy produce will be more accessible and affordable, and consumers will have access to information on the importance of healthy food. In addition, farmers will be able to participate in forums on agroecology, strengthening agroecology practices and advocacy efforts to influence public policies through sharing their experiences. Rural youth, too, will benefit from these learning spaces for inter-generational knowledge sharing.
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