"Caring for nature, together!" an Ecuadorian farmer proclaimed after participating in a Week of Compassion supported project, which promoted economic empowerment through microcredit and sustainable organic agriculture. Through this project, facilitated by local partner ECLOF International, over 500 farmers learned ecologically sustainable agricultural techniques and received resources to grow high-quality organic food for personal consumption and sale.
A majority of participants were women and youth. Over the course of the summer, they received free training on soil preparation and care, crop rotation, agricultural marketing and sales, leadership and management skills, healthy family diets and more. They focused on growing organic crops including broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, chamomile, coriander, onions and beets.
Marlene, 39 years old, is a mother of 3 and a vegetable farmer. Although she has been farming in the community since her childhood, she attended each workshops to learn new methods. She and her husband own two irrigated plots, and they recently started breeding pigs. Explaining why she felt these workshops were necessary for her continued work, she said, "the field and the land have become tired of too many chemicals; the land hardly rests".
She noted that economic pressures lead local farmers to overwork the land: "with our work we don't gain much; most earnings go to the trader." Yet, she also knows that these practices must be changed for the well-being of future generations; "We're getting older. And we want our children to inherit good strong land - that's why we attended the course: to learn how to use natural resources from the earth itself to feed the earth." The skills and practices that she learned will help her achieve her long-term vision: leaving healthy land for her children, while also making a much needed living right now.
During three months of workshops, participants learned about alternatives to expensive fertilizers, new ways to market their products, and the importance of sustainable farming practices. The young participants, in particular, showed motivation to learn even more and spread the word to other community members.
Victor, a twenty year-old participant, attends Polytechnic University of Chimborazo and is also involved in the agricultural work of his family. He recently received a small field as a secondary school graduation gift and was glad to learn through the workshops "an alternative way of production that will help us stay away from debt for buying chemicals."
Many youth participants also recognized the spiritual and ancestral wisdom in what they were learning. As Victor remarked, "It is a reality that Mother Earth is tired, and it is a good alternative to go back to the ways our grandparents used to rotate the crop."
Victor and Marlene's stories remind us all of our intimate ties to one another through our connections with the Earth. Thanks to this Week of Compassion supported project, this community is better able to act on ancestral wisdom, giving hope for future generations and benefiting us all.