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Story and Photos by Arantxa Beiztegui | Communications Assistant | Heifer Ecuador

This Saturday Fair, organized by the Union of Agroecological Producer Organizations and Trade in Tungurahua (PACAT) with the help of Heifer Ecuador, is comprised of 33 associations from different parts of the Tungurahua province. Only agroecological products are sold at this market, and regular customers say they keep coming every Saturday because of the taste and quality of the products.

Mother and daughter, Ana and Berta Hidalgo, have been selling at the market in Ecuador’s Pachano de Ambato plaza every Saturday for eight years. “We arrive at the market at 5:30, and we are here until 9," they said. "We haven’t missed more than a Saturday in the eight years we’ve been coming.”

Ana and Berta are dedicated to agriculture, but one day a week they leave their work in the field to sell horchata, a drink made from barley and natural herbs grown in their fields. “[The market] is a fun job. It breaks the routine, clears the mind. We’re around more people, who become our friends.”

Ana and Berta produce the horchata themselves, from a recipe they invented.

“We started at the market by selling guinea pigs. In a meeting, they said they wanted things to eat, and we said we would make something up. We thought we would make horchata. At first, it didn’t have a good flavor, but little by little we improved, improved, improved. Now we’ve had much success. People look for us and come with pots to buy in bulk.”

Ana and Berta sell horchata for 40 cents a glass and can earn about $150 in a day.

“It is a source of income. It helps with the costs of school for my son and food for home,” Ana said. “We will not stop coming to the fair. You have to make a living, and this is a source of income. The work isn’t hard here—not as hard as agriculture, where you harvest and wait six months to collect. Here, you come on Saturdays and you already have something for the family.”

What is the role of Heifer and PACAT in this work at the market?

“With the sharing of resources, we can buy the ingredients for the horchata: flaxseed, acacia gum, sugar, as well as the herbs we have. PACAT helps us with the chairs and table for the sale,” Ana said.

Another common vender in this market is Luz Enriqueta Villacil, from the Foundation El Sol. Her group sells agroecological products that are already processed. “For seven years, we have sold every Saturday in this market and at another one every Sunday with the support of PACAT," she said.

"Four partners always come to sell to ensure that there are always products, because we can’t sell anything that is not produced by us. It is a direct sale from producer to consumer. We know under what conditions it has been grown," Luz said. "We ensure that what we give our customers is a healthy product, a clean product without chemicals, brought here in the most hygienic conditions, because we care about all of these things and always try to have the best presentation.”

How did the market start?

“Heifer has helped us through giving us courses, giving us the opportunity for credit, advising us on production and investment, and giving us a broader view,” Luz said. “In our group, the promoter, Rosita, goes to the trainings and then shares the information with the rest of the group, informing us of what she learned. We meet once a month.”

How do you use the funds for the sharing of resources?

“With the credit, we can buy the raw material, like flour and a mixer. Without these funds, we could work a little bit, but now we have increased our production," Luz said.

What does this market mean to you?

“The markets are a vital part of the work of the farmer because, as farmers, we produce in the field and…where does that leave us?" Luz asked. "Before, we sold to intermediaries, and they paid us what they wanted. Today, we produce and bring the product. We know how much it costs.”

How did you work before PACAT and Heifer Ecuador?

“Before working with PACAT and Heifer, we came to the market and sold our goods for a little while. Now, we have our own space, and we can stay until noon," Luz explained. "This encourages us to produce more because we already have our customers, customers that we know are coming. It’s not like before when we stopped to see who would buy from us.”

Lorena Morales and Soledad Moposita also began selling in this market seven years ago. They are among the few vendors who sell trout. They raise the trout on their farm and bring it to market to be sold-usually about 22-33 pounds a day.

Lorena and Soledad said that coming to the market is good for them because it brings them money so that they can have things to share. What they don't have, they can get at the market. They have good, healthy food. 

How do you use the resource sharing funds?

The two women believe that the sharing of resources supports campesinos, helping them move forward and live, in addition to bringing them food and money.

The credit has helped them bring more products to the market, maintain their trout ponds and feed the trout. In the past they could bring fewer product because they didn't have the money to buy seeds. Now, with money to buy seeds, they can offer more product. In the beginning, they sold only vegetables. Once they started bringing trout, their sales substantially increased. They said they earn around $50 just from fish sales. There are not many places to buy trout in the market, and they have clients who know them and always come to buy from them.


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Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.