In Ecuador, to the northeast of the Amazon rainforest, the province of Sucumbìos is an extraordinary natural and cultural heritage. Its geographical position, rainfall and tropical climate make it one of the most biodiversity-rich areas in the world.
Here, before 1960, the population was almost entirely Indigenous. The Sieko Pai, Cofàn, Siona and Kichwa people were groups of hunters, fishers and gatherers. Over time though, the indiscriminate exploitation of oil reserves, rampant deforestation and the arrival of armed groups from Columbia have caused the abandonment of local traditions and of indigenous flora and fauna.
Over the last few years the Slow Food Foundation has worked on the project “Support for Rural Development and Micro-entrepreneurial Youth, Women and Indigenous Populations in the Sucumbíos Province,” coordinated by the NGO CEFA. The project, in partnership with Grupo Social Fondo Ecuatoriano Populorum Progressio (the Ecuadorian Progress Social Fund Group) and co-financed by the Ministry of foreign affairs, has been working with the local community to safeguard food products at risk of extinction, some of which have come aboard the Ark of Taste (u’kuisi, an Amazonian bush used as food coloring, secoya corn and casabe, a flatbread of the indigenous Sieko Pai.
On March 27 in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, the project’s results were presented. This signified the culmination of almost four years’ work on behalf of small-scale Amazonian cacao and coffee producers and of the indigenous population committed to tourism in the community.
Furthermore it presented the mapping of heritage food products from Sucumbìos province, carried out by University of Gastronomic Sciences graduate Claudia Garcia with the photography of Paolo Demetri. The results of this research are being collected by the publication Food Heritage in the Province of Sucumbìos, as part of which ten postcards have been created to promote the local products on the Community Tourism network.