Bring Ancestral Diets Back: Ecuadorian Women Harvest Change Through Agriculture and Community

20 May 2024

We have strengthened the capacities of 94 Montubio women in agroecological production and the preservation of their ancestral culinary culture. This empowerment has allowed these women to feel supported by various sectors, which has contributed to greater community cohesion and the adoption of healthier, culturally appropriate diets. "

- Luisa Vélez, Project Coordinator -

Nestled in Ecuador’s central-northern region lies Manabí, a province renowned for its agricultural abundance and diverse ecosystems. Within this picturesque landscape, an innovative project is unfolding, spearheaded by the Slow Food Alma Community. This initiative seeks to empower rural women and cultivate sustainable food systems grounded in the principles of Good, Clean, and Fair food for all.

At its core, the project champions agroecological practices, emphasizing harmony with nature and the preservation of local biodiversity. Through these methods, the aim is to not only enhance food production but also minimize environmental impact. Each garden stands as a symbol of food security and self-sufficiency for local families. It is a monument to ancestral foods and embodies women’s empowerment in taking control of food and commerce in their communities. 

Ecuador Today

According to the World Food Programme, in 2022 Ecuador’s GDP increased while poverty rates decreased. However, due to complex political, social, and climate issues facing the country, food insecurity grew. Chronic childhood malnutrition is seen at a rate of 30 percent in rural areas of Ecuador for children under two and women find themselves as the backbone of rural farming efforts in Ecuador, with 70% of the labor coming from women.

Crucially, the project places a strong emphasis on the involvement of women in various facets of the food system, including cultivation, processing, marketing, and consumption. By empowering women as active participants, the initiative aims to foster inclusivity and gender equity within the agricultural sector.

Integral to the project’s mission is the preservation of Montubio culture, which encompasses traditional knowledge and techniques related to agriculture and food preparation. By honoring and transmitting ancestral wisdom, the initiative seeks to ensure the continuity of cultural heritage for future generations.

The project sets out several ambitious objectives

  1. Capacity Building: Through comprehensive training workshops, rural women from Manabí’s central-northern region acquired skills in agroecological and artisanal production, empowering them to participate fully in the food economy.
  2. Food Security: By promoting the cultivation and consumption of Good, Clean, and Fair food, the project aims to improve food security and nutrition for rural families, thereby laying the groundwork for sustainable diets.
  3. Cultural Preservation: Educational initiatives targeting local schools and universities facilitate the transmission of traditional knowledge, ensuring the preservation of Montubio culture for future generations.

To achieve these objectives, the project undertook a series of activities over the funding period. The project began with training workshops in July 2023, providing women with the necessary skills for sustainable food production. In August 2023, agroecological gardens were established, serving as practical learning environments for cultivating a diverse range of crops. Efforts to strengthen capacities for eco-efficient marketing and develop short marketing circuits were also undertaken. Through events, like planting new gardens and enriching others, local women can provide solutions to malnutrition and the climate crisis while promoting food security and sovereignty. 

Discover more about the inclusive Ancestral Cuisine Workshop

The impact of the project has been felt deeply in the lives of the individuals involved and the communities alike. From empowering 16 women to form an association dedicated to processing goods from agroecological gardens, thereby creating additional income for their families, to bolstering the skills of 94 Montubio women in agroecological production and preserving their ancestral culinary heritage, the journey is one of immense transformation. A sense of solidarity has blossomed between those involved, fostering greater community cohesion and the embrace of healthier, culturally resonant diets. Moreover, the project has sparked enthusiasm among over 120 students and eight rural communities, with the support of educational institutions and governmental bodies, illustrating a commitment to sustainable change. It’s evident the project’s proudest moments lie in empowering vulnerable women, facilitating access to nutritious food for over 40 families through agroecological gardens, and the inspiration it has ignited in local authorities to promote participatory governance. Additionally, the provision of small grants to enable Afro-Ecuadorian, Chachi, and Montubio youth to undergo training in bioconstruction for climate resilience, and the diversification of family farms with endangered products, underscore the project’s multifaceted impact and its enduring legacy of empowerment and sustainability.

Discover more about the Community Agroecological Food Gardens

This initiative has addressed immediate food security concerns by empowering rural women, preserving cultural heritage, and promoting sustainable food systems. This project contributes to the long-term resilience and prosperity of Manabí’s rural communities – embracing community cohesion and celebrating ancestral foods along the way. On any given day you might find men, women, and children working alongside each other tending to their gardens. The Slow Food Alma community is paving the way for a future where food is not just sustenance, but a catalyst for positive change.

Since 2022, Slow Food has served as the official global giving partner of Negroni Week, you can find more here


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