Rediscovering the rich culinary heritage of Northern Manabi in Latitud Iche

18 May 2022

Latitude Iche is the first Joint Gastronomic Tourism Route in Ecuador, that is being implemented under the advice of Slow Food, in order to offer eco-gastronomic experiences based on the pillars of a good, clean and fair food culture.

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The Latitude Iche Route is being consolidated through the efforts of local stakeholders from different sectors, financed by the Italian-Ecuadorian Fund for Sustainable Development, coordinated and implemented by the Foundation for Gastronomic Enterprises and Sustainable Opportunities (FUEGOS), under the advice of Slow Food, in alliance with the Eloy Alfaro Lay University of Manabí (ULEAM) and the support from the Provincial Government of Manabí (GPM). In a first phase, the Guidelines of the route (which will soon be published) were collectively established in line with the principles of the Slow Food Travel program and adjusted to the local reality and potentialities []. The route has a Management Committee made up of representatives from the public, private and community sectors, civil society and academia who had the paramount task of selecting  a total of 36 establishments from more than 300 businesses initially mapped to be part of Latitude Iche. In this sense, a mission was undertaken in order to visit and strengthen the capacities of the establishments and address other strategic aspects of Latitude Iche as a starting point for the development of tourism itineraries. 

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In April 2022, a multidisciplinary team of advisors from Slow Food, together with FUEGOS foundation, visited 42 initiatives of the Joint Association in the North Pacific of Manabí, comprising: gastronomic establishments, receptive structures, agro-ecological production farms, artisanal food processing and transformation centers, natural conservation areas and handicraft shops. This approach to the territory allowed us to identify the potential experiences that Latitude Iche can offer to visitors, highlighting those that integrate a broader vision of
good, clean and fair principles; from production to tasting. Currently, in Latitude Iche, the production of five well-differentiated foods stand out: Arabica coffee, grown and managed on agroforestry farms, cacao nacional (fine-flavor cocoa), coconut, artisan fish and dairy products such as manabi cheese[]. The production of each type of food implies a series of interactions among local actors that develop eco-friendly activities and processes combined with the rescue of traditions inherited mainly from the Montubia, Chola and Afro-Ecuadorian cultures to revalue the culinary heritage as a means of union and continuous learning. There are also other potential products such as passion fruit, local oranges, rice, pearl onions, corn, shells, crabs, shrimps, melipona honey, bananas, fruits from a variety of wild palms in native forests, among others that can be progressively highlighted for its quality and sustainability references in the exchange of gastronomic tourism experiences in this joint destination.

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The next steps are focused on the design of Latitude Iche’s tourism and eco-gastronomic itineraries, based on the potentialities identified during the mission undertaken. In this respect, the training process will continue to involve representatives of the establishments that make up the Route, especially producers and artisans. In addition, a series of workshops will be held to develop a proposal for the Manabita Food Certificate with the support of the Slow Food Alliance of Chefs of Ecuador.Through training, the mission also allowed to strengthen the rapprochement with representatives of the establishments that make up Latitude Iche. These spaces were relevant to connect the Slow Food philosophy with the construction of the joint gastronomic destination. Elena Alcívar, owner of the Playa del Sol Restaurant, confirmed her motivation to follow good practices in accordance with the criteria of the Route’s Guidelines, stating that, “everything that can be done to improve the experience of visitors will be welcomed in her establishment”. Finally, based on collective memory, the participants described the efforts already undertaken, as well as the local limitations, and referred to other activities in line with the Slow Food Travel philosophy to complement the tourist-gastronomic itineraries.

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With the sum of these efforts, the eco-gastronomic itineraries will be made available to the public in order to inspire the development of sustainable experiences in the northern area of Manabí.

This mission left lessons that went beyond human enjoyment; it allowed us to connect with the ways of life and the cultural richness of the environment. Therefore, Latitud Iche brings together local qualities and traditions in the development of eco-gastronomic experiences for responsible enjoyment, socio-economic reactivation, local capacity building, and the promotion of a food culture that respects nature and people.

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