2017 was a year of great opportunities for the Heifer Ecuador Foundation. We worked on nine projects, in 13 provinces of Ecuador and one department of Colombia. We worked alongside 24,661 families and generated businesses in the rural sector.
Our aim was, as it has been for seven years, to develop innovation and undertakings that will stimulate community economies, encouraging rural and indigenous peoples to share their innovations and contribute to achieving a living income, including their identity and valuing the knowledge created in these local territories.
This year, we undertook two fundamental initiatives in this direction:
- The first Showroom of Solidary Economics
- The Cultivainnovación Contest for Young Rural Entrepreneurs
The showroom was made possible by an alliance with the Sinchi Sacha Foundation. It displays diverse products from 72 associative and individual undertakings and 16 provinces. This comprises 256 different products (e.g. coffee, cocoa, chocolate, liquors, varied fruits "macerated” in liquor, marmalade, honey, cereal, candies, spices, cosmetics) that are on display and for sale every day at the Mindalae Museum. The showroom drives coordination among communities, organizations, public and private institutions and the diverse sectors who look to family farming as the ideal ecosystem in which to generate ideas and inclusive businesses.
The Cultivainnovación Contest awarded prizes to 10 young entrepreneurs from among 197 entries. Rural businesses with a major positive impact, from nine provinces in the Highlands and on the Coast of Ecuador will have access to the prize resources that will enable them to improve and continue with their activity. Innovative ingredients and presentations, various processes, re-valued handicrafts, tourism services with new alternatives and much more – these are the fantastic proposals offering many young people in Ecuador the opportunity to remain in rural areas. These results are added to those obtained in the last Cultivainnovación Contest, in which there were entries from 167 contestants.
These innovations were brought together in our publication, Sowing Innovation.
These outcomes motivate us and challenge us to continue growing. The Heifer Ecuador Foundation works to strengthen the ecosystem for rural entrepreneurship and innovation, as a catalyst for funding and resources from multiple sectors: the government, private enterprise and academic institutions. The idea is to pursue various actions promoting entrepreneurship, which calls for making another perspective more visible (i.e. rural innovators and entrepreneurs).
We contribute to nine value chains:
- Cacao for export
- Dairy in a rural network of gathering centers in three provinces
- Honey, Bursera graveolens (ironwood incense), and guadúa bamboo, as activities that contribute to conserving forests
- Fresh agroecological produce, selling at 10 agroecological market fairs in the Highlands and on the Coast
- Alpaca fiber. The Heifer Ecuador Foundation has pioneered work with camelids. We are now concentrating on reinforcing the last link in the chain: marketing in four provinces
- Associative enterprises for black shellfish and crabs from the mangroves
We also continue working with the families affected by the earthquake in 2016 for their economic and psychological recovery.
Our team has grown, and that is very satisfying. New team members contribute their new viewpoints, enriching our work and proposing new approaches, without losing sight of the 12 Cornerstones and always remembering our reason for being here: indigenous and other rural communities.
However, the satisfactions we have had this year have also been accompanied by pain and wrath because of such situations as the violence affecting children and women. We feel indignant about this situation. As an institution, we actively join in with campaigns by women's organizations who have historically denounced these atrocities, generated by a profoundly machista, unfair society. And we renew our commitment to work for and contribute to a culture of peace and equity.
In 2018, the Heifer Ecuador Foundation will celebrate its 25th anniversary. This commitment, along with our work with indigenous communities, farmers, gatherers and women, keeps us going. We will continue working for more justice in Ecuador.
Finally, we hope you had a happy holiday season and that this new year opens up new pathways for you all.
With warm affection,
Heifer Ecuador Foundation
This post written by Silvana Gonzalez