Ecuador’s coastal city of Esmeraldas is home to a delicate ecosystem where endangered species risk losing their unique habitat, and by extension, the human population risks losing its food heritage.
In a bid to mobilize the local Afro-Ecuadorian and Montubio communities to protect the region’s distinctive ecology and recognize its importance to the culture of Esmeraldas, a new Slow Food Presidium has been started. The project will involve a far-reaching collaboration between Slow Food and local small-scale producers in order to bolster the production of indigenous foods on the verge of extinction. This principle is at the heart of Slow Food Presidia, of which there are over 500 already active around the world today.
“For me, eating food typical to our region means nourishing myself the same way parents did, and their parents before them. It speaks of traditions passed on down through the generations. As I eat a shell crab, ceviche or a corbiche, I realise that this is the richest inheritance I have received from my parents,” says Slow Food Presidium member Patricia Caicedo, whose mother dedicated herself to shell collecting and whose father worked as a palm grower. She is currently employed as a domestic worker in the northern part of the city.
This process of restoring value to the local food diversity started with the unassuming Cardiosoma crassum, known as cangrejo azul in Spanish and as the blue or mouthless crab in English. The habitat of this terrestrial crustacean, which feeds on leaves of mangrove trees and their surrounding vegetation, has been put in danger by mass tourism, the use of pesticides and antibiotics in shrimp farming, and larger issues like environmental degradation, the marginalization of the Afro-descendant population and a lack of education and training opportunities. The Esmeraldas blue crab was recognized as a Slow Food Presidium in 2018. This Presidium then joined forces with the organization Luna Creciente (Movimiento Nacional de Mujeres de Sectores Populares, or National Women’s Movement in Popular Sectors) in the north, and the UOCE (Unión de Organizaciones Campesinas de Esmeraldas, or Union of Esmeraldas Peasants’ Organizations) in the south—within the framework of the project “Empowering Indigenous Youth and their Communities to Defend their Food Heritage” financed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The local community is now engaged in the value chain of the product and collaborates extensively with the youth to develop the project.
“Thanks to Slow Food we are learning to value and respect the local products of our territory, while simultaneously promoting responsible ways of producing and consuming the Esmeraldas blue crab, our Slow Food Presidium. This resource is an essential source of sustenance for local people and we are working to preserve it by diversifying the economic activities around it, and looking for alternative marketing channels,” says Caicedo, who joined the Slow Food movement through the women’s organisation, Luna Creciente, of which she is also a member. “I have learned a lot about the importance of eating good, clean and fair food after joining Slow Food. It has brought me closer to fundamental ideals such as promoting sustainable food production,” she adds.
This year we are celebrating 30 years since the signing of the Slow Food Manifesto, a moment that marked a turning point in the organization’s history. To celebrate this anniversary, we have launched the international campaign, 30 Years of the Slow Food Manifesto – Our Food, Our Planet, Our Future, which looks back at the successes and forward to the future challenges that await us.
This is why we are sharing a selection of initiatives from our network around the world that are promoting good, clean and fair food for everyone. Contributing to Slow Food’s projects means helping to implement activities that support local communities, protect biodiversity and seek to make access to food a right guaranteed to all.