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Foro Global sobre Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición • Foro FSN

Re: Call for experiences and effective policy approaches in addressing food security and nutrition in the context of changing rural-urban dynamics

Michelle O. Fried
Michelle O. FriedSlow Food; sustainable cookbook writer (in Spanish); public health nutritionistEcuador

Healthy, local food is first in an on-going consumers´campaign of the civil society in Ecuador: Campaign How Delicious

 

More than a decade ago, a national movement in Ecuador of smallholders was initiated to promote the production from integrated farms using sustainable techniques, without importation of fertilizers or insecticides based on fossil fuels. The Agro-ecological Collective was supported by NGOs whose work was focused in rural communities, particularly in vulnerable zones of the country with high indigenous populations.  A gender perspective oriented activities, given the high percentage of women-headed households due to men´s leaving the communities in search of work in other zones of the country, other countries, often in the urban sector.

Considering the food system and chain, the collective was successful in training members in agricultural techniques that emphasized soil management and the production of diversified products.  The weakness was in commercialization and consumption.  Although the smallholders had an abundance of healthy foods for their own use and for sale, they were neither consuming the produce nor did they have markets for their sale.

Thus the collective chose to include a new theme in their activities, the theme of commercialization and consumption. The obstacle the collective came upon was the NGOs mandate to gear their work in rural areas, while most commercialization and consumption needed to be directed to the urban sector.

In the meantime Via Campesina began proposing the concept of food sovereignty -- that consumers be in control of their consumption through making informed choices. Working toward food sovereignty made a lot of sense in Ecuador, where many nutrition problems were not merely based of lack of macro and micronutrient deficiencies like they had been in the past, but on the transformed food patterns.  People were moving toward modern, urban consumption patterns, relying on processed foods that are bringing about the second burden of malnutrition and an increase in non-communicable diseases. Ecuador´s government began talking about food sovereignty, and yet had no policies or implementation plans to bring about food sovereignty among the population.

The Agro-ecological Collective stepped in, heading a commission in the government geared toward informing smallholders who also eat as well as urban consumers.  The commission was short-lived without solid government support, but the resultant movement “QUE RICO ES” www.quericoes.org continues to gain more and more strength. “Que Rico Es” means How Delicious and is a 100% civil society organization. The campaign promotes eating fresh, agro-ecological food brought in from the rural for sale in urban areas.  Only smallholders, and their cooperatives are able to sell directly to the public, minimizing final costs to the consumer. Quickly these agro-ecological markets have caught on nationally; there are more than 210 such markets in little Ecuador presently. The population learns about the advantages of eating local produce thanks to the media campaign 250,000 families – we eat healthy, delicious food from our land.

A key element in the consumer campaign is the reliance on social media.  Forty radio 8 minute programs were and continue to be aired over the entire country, two radio shows air once a week (both are geared toward uniting the countryside with the city, with exposure of experts, homemakers, cooks, all of us who eat), an on-line bulletin is posted periodically, many Whatsapp groups exist uniting families and general consumers around food issues.  For example, a new smallholder learned of the movement and now has found markets for his Andean product (amaranths, both beige and black) through Facebook and now the Whatsapp group he is part of. 

Just as the food it promotes, the movement is sustainable, amassing the commitment of people who care that their food be good, clean and just. They set up relationships with their neighbors, colleague, friends and act as transforming agents as they transform their own habits within the food system.   

In Ecuador we think food is central to the changing rural-urban dynamics.  And we also enjoy sharing, cooking, and eating within the How Delicious movement -- 250,000 families of us.