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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.

By Diana Troya

Foto: Gustavo Pazmiño

The Fundación Futuro’s greatest aim and greatest challenge is the effective and lasting conservation and connection of the surviving forests of Ecuador’s Chocó Andino, in Pichincha Province, one of the most biodiverse places in the world. As part of our mission to care for life in all its forms, in 2019, we began a process of promoting the agroecological transition of farms located in the buffer zone of our Mashpi and Tayra private reserves. This transition is a joint effort between local producers, partner institutions and the Fundación Futuro. It aims to implement production and consumption practices that protect life and biodiversity, rebuild connectivity between small and large patches of forest and integrate regenerative production practices with conservation.

The Mashpi and Tayra reserves are located in the parish of Pacto, a core area in ​​the Chocó Andino Biosphere Reserve. They total 2,740 hectares of primary forest, home to hundreds of species, including some endemic to the area such as the Mashpi Torrent Frog (Hyloscirtus mashpi), and others considered rare in the country or of restricted distribution, such as the Corcovado Dorsioscuro bird (Odontophorus melanonotus). We estimate our reserves harbor around 50 species of mammals, 100 species of birds, 35 species of amphibians, 15 species of fish, 182 species of plants, and hundreds of species of insects, not to mention important sources of fresh water and large amounts of carbon stored in their soils and vegetation. Life here takes on hundreds of forms, colors, sounds and aromas. The endless parade of hummingbirds, the fireflies lighting up the night, the waterfalls hidden in the mist, the call of birds in the morning and the squawk of frogs at night amaze visitors. This sanctuary of biodiversity is definitely a key ecosystem in guaranteeing the quality of life of Ecuadorians, especially those who live in the nearby city of Quito.

At the beginning of 2019, we created a diagnosis of the area’s production and social make-up, in order to develop production models that reduces the levels of vulnerability of families and increases their resilience, through diversified production, quality food for wholesome nutrition, a healthy environment and marketing opportunities for fresh and value-added products.

Local actors, with extensive experience in agroecological models, shared valuable information and opened the doors for us to share the processes and operations of their farms. In this space, producers were trained in the following topics:

  • Agroecology, a commitment to territories and sustainable tourism.
  • Diverse nutrition.
  • Sustainable livestock production.
  • Sustainable agricultural production.
  • Markets, innovative ventures and agroecology.
  • Social Capital, reinforcing and multiplying agroecology in the region.

Through this exchange of experiences and alliances with local agroecological producers, we seek to consolidate the desired transition based on existing knowledge, the potential of the farms and the needs of the producers. We are sure that this sharing also creates bonds of care and well-being between neighbors, which transcend the productive sphere and strengthen community relations and ultimately weave a solid and diverse network of public and private conservation initiatives and mechanisms in the Chocó Andino.

As a result of these meetings, two de facto organizations were formed: the Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Guayabillas (ASOMEG) and the Network of Agroecological Producers of Mashpi and Guayabillas. Both organizations are have managed to increase the members’ incomes through the sale of fresh and processed products to Mashpi Lodge.

With this solid community organization and growing, diversified agro-ecological production, our priority as Fundación Futuro, in 2021, has been to find a market for the products grown locally by the organizations. The generation of trust between producers and consumers is the key to our work. In-house, we continually improve quality standards, recipes, and the variety of products. With seek the feedback of our clients and partners constantly. We value quality very highly. We handle the relationships created with utmost responsibility and commitment. In addition, we accompany producers to ensure that a value creating balance between buyer demand, production capacity and ecosystem conservation is maintained. Likewise, following the first commercialization experience, we are currently exploring how to increase sales to other markets.

Agroecological and sustainable production is a way of protecting surviving forests, generating connectivity between them and regenerating the habitat of hundreds of species threatened by the expansion of the agricultural frontier. It also allows us to offer consumers healthy, quality products with a positive socio-environmental impact. The agroecological transition is a great challenge of which we can all play a part, since, by consuming local agroecological products, we contribute to a virtuous circle of responsible and sustainable production and consumption. At Fundación Futuro, we will continue working, in this and other spheres of influence, so that sustainable soil management practices are replicated and strengthened while pressure on forests reduced.

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