MashpiLAB has been launched: An investigation and development lab oriented towards exploring the culinary potential of the Andean Chocó region. The purpose is to generate knowledge, value and to highlight the native forest species and their diverse flavors. Get to know how we will set in motion this gastronomic identity and biodiversity conservation project.
This past June 18th, we celebrated the day of sustainable gastronomy. Drawing on this date, we officially launched MashpiLAB: a research, innovation and gastronomic development lab that ratifies our commitment to protect the Andean Chocó forests through encouraging sustainable economic alternatives for the local communities and new incentives for conservation.
Photograph: Local products
Sustainable gastronomy is a multi-disciplinary science that creates various virtuous circles of good taste, prioritizes the production and consumption of local and seasonal foods, promotes sustainable agricultural production and reinforces food safety. This innovative discipline also has the potential of supporting the conservation of endemic flora and fauna, the nutrition of local communities and sustainable tourism.
The Mashpi reserve lies at the center of a great biodiversity hidden among its unique treasure forests. In MashpiLAB, we seek to generate a positive impact in society and we hope to boost local culture, strengthen territorial identity, incubate new business ventures and encourage healthy and conscious food consumption.
“We think that, through gastronomy, we can influence and achieve an empowerment of the people over the territory. For that reason, it is crucial that they learn about the unique attributes and benefits of the plants in the forest that surrounds them. That way, they can transmit them to the people who visit it.” – Carolina Dávalos – Sustainable Landscape Coordinator.
Photograph: Exploring the Andean Chocó
One of the first milestones of the MashpiLAB was a day and a half-long workshop for creating and reflecting in which, together with selected guests, we defined the LAB’s vision and the actions that will lead us to achieve our goals. Among the attendees were the actors of the Andean Chocó Commonwealth, scholars from different Universities such as UDLA and USFQ, national and international chefs and entrepreneurs from important gastronomic ventures, the Fundación Futuro team and the members of BCCInnovation and BCulinary LAB from the Basque Culinary Center.
Photograph: Teamwork performed by the workshop participants
The meeting included a tour through the different communities starting with San José de Mashpi, Guayabillas, Pacto, Mindo, Nanegalito, among others. Here, the MashpiLAB chefs, María Fernanda Barriga and Ronald Morocho, together with the Basque Culinary Center team, had the opportunity to experience their first contact with the territory and the local communities. During the tour, they visited gastronomic ventures and organic plantations in the area and identified products with possible culinary potential.
Photograph: Workshop attendees
Apart from the tour, the workshop gathered the rest of invited actors in Quito to work on two main questions: 1)What are the critical challenges concerning food and gastronomy in the Andean Chocó? and 2)What are the unique opportunities or those with potential concerning food and gastronomy in the Andean Chocó? This teamwork allowed a better understanding of the territory and defining the project’s next steps. There is no doubt that we have an arduous job ahead.
The production and consumption of local agroecological products protect the ecosystems of the Andean Chocó
The agroecological transition promotes sustainable production models and responsible consumption that both improve people’s living conditions and contribute to the integral conservation of the Chocó Andino’s forests.
Nature’s Jenga Towers
Across the planet, every continent has its own collection of plants and animals that are specific to each region. So, for example, in Africa we find rhinos, giraffes and hippos; in Australia koalas and kangaroos; in South America jaguars, pumas and llamas. On a smaller scale, these differences also exist, although they are less obvious and sometimes found in areas with much greater rates of biodiversity than others.
Biodiversity in the Andean Chocó: Quito’s forests
How many times have you read or heard that Ecuador is a megadiverse country? No matter where we go in the country, we will always be surrounded by an endless number of species swamped in their daily activities to obtain nutrients and energy. Perhaps, it could be hard for us to notice how those species interact with each other, and even more challenging if they are not visible to our eyes (bacteria, small insects, etc).