Barrio Chachas, Quito, Ecuador
From April to November 2006, María Cristina Sosa trained as a MESA steward at Live Earth Farm. After returning to her home country of Ecuador, Maria Cristina drew on her education through the MESA Program and at Agriculture School of the Central University of Ecuador in Quito to develop a project for small farmers in the Chachas neighborhood of Quito. In the project’s first year, ten low-income women who had a background in farming participated in the Training on Sustainable Gardens and Compost Production. Lasting from April to July of 2007, the project offered hands-on experience in organically producing vegetables and medicinal plants.
Maria Cristina, with the assistance of Rubén Pinta, a classmate at the Central University of Ecuador, prepared a curriculum that integrated reading materials, videos, dynamic group activities and experience in the field for the training. Female farmers who participated met every Tuesday to work in the “mother garden” which serves as a demonstration plot and also on their own designated plots.& Maria Sosa’s project provides not only plots, but also seed, seedlings, and tools to the women. At the project’s start, the group constructed a greenhouse for plant propagation. During the training, participants learned how to produce compost, step by step, as they built a compost heap with scraps from their own kitchens, manure from their own livestock, and plant waste.
A few months into the project, the women of Barrio Chachas also had the opportunity to experiment with natural pest management. The pesky beet armyworm (Spodoptera exigua) had attacked the gardens’ radishes and cabbage. They used several natural insecticides to deter the bugs, including one made from garlic and chili pepper.
In addition to growing over fifteen different vegetables including lettuce, chard, raddishes, carrots, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, beans, spinach, and red onion, the participants cultivated native medicinal herbs. They grew nettle, lemon verbena, elderberry, oregano, chamomile, and mint, among others, and learned about the traditional homeopathic use of these herbs.
While the participants used much of the produce from the gardens in their own kitchens, they also had the opportunity to sell their organic vegetables to individuals and restaurants in Conocoto. All surplus vegetables were quickly sold and the demand overwhelmed their supply. At the close of the first training session, the farmers gathered for a special lunch where the organizers presented a film commemorating the project. According to Maria, the women of Barrio Chachas have organized themselves to continue producing organic vegetables for sale in Conocoto.
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