Manabí is one of the largest and most populated provinces in Ecuador. In the national territory, Manabí evokes food culture, gastronomic heritage and a background full of traditions, with people who welcome visitors and tourists with open arms.
In Ecuador, it is common to hear people from other provinces and regions saying, “Let’s go to a Manabí restaurant to taste the good seasoning”; and the word Manabí is used as an attraction, as it is known for its exquisite dishes.
Manabí people have their own identity and proudly carry it to any part of the country and the world they visit. Because of their friendliness and culture, it is easy to distinguish them almost anywhere they are. In the countryside of Manabí, there is a reputation that when someone visits a relative or friend, they never leave empty-handed. Farmers in Manabí are immensely generous and unselfishly share the fruits of the crops available on their farms.
Manabí cuisine uses ingredients such as plantains, peanuts, yucca, corn, cheese, poultry and seafood, which are combined into a myriad of delicious dishes that have already won the recognition of tourists and international organizations. The food offer is marked by a rainbow of flavors and textures that captivate locals and foreigners alike, and it merges with the stories and legends of brave and hardworking people.
Northern Manabí is one of the territories joining efforts towards good, clean and fair food; managing to consolidate organizational ties through the Joint Community of the Northern Coast of Manabí (Mancomunidad Pacífico Norte de Manabí-MANPANOR), which is made up of Pedernales, Jama, Sucre and San Vicente. In this context, the project “Food as an engine of transformation: Promoting the integral territorial development of northern Manabí through the first Joint Gastronomic Tourist Route of Ecuador”, financed by the Italian-Ecuadorian Fund for Sustainable Development (FIEDS) and implemented by FUEGOS Foundation. The project incorporates the Slow Food Travel methodology, with the advice of Slow Food for the creation and implementation of the Route.
The heart of the project lies in Iche, the Culinary and Hospitality School, Restaurant & Lab, which has been established as a place of convergence of fresh produce from the sea and farms. Its architectural design depicts a typical Manabí house fused with modernity and natural diversity that allows the development of agroecological gardens. Iche, through a scholarship program, benefits local people from vulnerable groups (women and youth) through continuous training programs. This contribution results in the transfer of knowledge on sustainability and food heritage, community linkage and local empowerment through food initiatives that contribute to the mitigation of problems of public interest.
Slow Food began to study the northern zone of Manabí, identifying seven well-defined food sources in this territory:
- Humid forest (native and remnants) with mainly wild fruit trees;
- Dry forest with cereal crops, mainly corn;
- Livestock areas that produce milk, cheese, cottage cheese, white butter and other dairy products;
- Agricultural land (valleys, hills and gentle slopes) that produces short-cycle crops (corn, peanuts, tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, melon and legumes), medium-life-cycle crops (musaceae and tubers) and perennial crops (cocoa, coffee, citrus and other fruit trees typical of the area);
- Mangroves, from which red crabs (guariches) and shells are harvested;
- Rivers that provide freshwater fishing (wild shrimps and green terrors, are candidates for inclusion in the Ark of Taste);
- Ocean, where a wide variety of artisanal fishing products are obtained.
In a first phase, the Provincial Government of Manabí, with Eloy Alfaro Lay University of Manabí, Sucre (ULEAM by its Spanish initials) carried out a mapping of producers, restaurants and receptive structures. This information was reviewed and validated by Slow Food and FUEGOS foundation through participatory spaces: virtual/in-person workshops and visits to farmers and cattle raisers, associations (of fishermen, collectors and farmers), grassroots organizations, and food and lodging establishments.
The organization also led to the adaptation of the Slow Food Travel methodology for the establishment of Guidelines for the Route of the Gastronomic Heritage of the Northern Coast of Manabí “Latitude Iche”. This guide is based on a series of criteria for Food, Catering and Hospitality, paying attention to the local reality, opportunities and potential. These experiences led to the construction of a detailed matrix of 148 local food products, based on seasonality and weighting of relevant criteria, for which products must be good, clean, fair and have the historical/cultural and capacity for resilience to disruptive events.
The next steps will include the selection of products, producers, restaurants and receptive structures that best fit the Guidelines of Latitude Iche and contribute to the sustainable development of vulnerable communities in the area. To this end, Slow Food together with FUEGOS will begin training programs to strengthen the capacities of the selected stakeholders.
Latitude Iche–the Route of the Gastronomic Heritage of the Northern Coast of Manabí is the result of joint efforts to safeguard the products, traditions, culture, heritage, knowledge and local flavors for sustainable development, ensuring the welfare of communities and food systems through hospitality and exchange of experiences.