Female Farmers in Ecuador are Transforming the Industry
A farmer-owned online marketplace run by mostly small-scale female farmers in Ecuador is transforming the industry.
What started as a response to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions has transformed into an innovative model, allowing producers to connect directly with consumers and provide fresh food on the day of harvest.
La Cosecha del Día, or Daily Harvest, connects customers to goods grown by about 400 small-scale, primarily female farmers. Like the virtual version of a trip to the market, users browse an online food catalog of 200 products, ranging from nutritious fruits and vegetables to nuts, herbs, and meat.
People in urban settings can get the food they need from rural locations at the tap of a button.
The online marketplace allows farmers new access to customers who were sequestered in their homes during pandemic restrictions. Now, they have the option to continue to utilize the marketplace to buy fresh products. Product costs are the same as they normally are at market fairs, and profits go to a common fund.
“The marketplace has all the potential to benefit farmers and consumers beyond the pandemic,” said Rosa Rodriguez, country director of Heifer Ecuador, whose Future of Food program developed the marketplace in conjunction with four local associations.
The online marketplace delivers to the cities of Quito and Cuenca, with plans to expand delivery to more cities across the country. Customers can schedule deliveries, with the food harvested on the day of delivery, and, soon, they will be able to see the full history and traceability of the products they purchase, increasing awareness of where their food comes from. Local farmers, meanwhile, are producing high-quality, sustainable food.
"We’re thinking about this program as both a response to the crisis and also a long-term answer,” Rodriguez said. “We’re thinking about the new normal and creating a sustainable food system."
The online platform allows farmers to be paid a fair wage for their work while consumers get fresh food grown within Ecuador.
“We’re thinking about this program as both a response to the crisis and also a long-term answer,” Rodriguez said. “We’re thinking about the new normal and creating a sustainable food system.”
Elsewhere in Ecuador, Heifer is also helping transform the food system and its landscape.
As tourists return to the Galapagos Islands after pandemic shutdowns, they can truly experience farm-to-table food, thanks to a partnership between the Ministry of Agriculture and Heifer Ecuador.
Located 600 miles from shore, the 19 islands of the Galapagos import about 75% of their food, a number that some models expect to increase to 95% by 2037.
The Ecuador Ministry of Agriculture, Galapagos National Park on San Cristóbal Island, Heifer Ecuador, and local farms and restaurants are working with farmers to assist them in transitioning from herbicides and pesticides to more natural pest prevention and production methods. They are also working to supply more local businesses with fresh local food.
In addition to improving the environmental sustainability of the islands, local food is more affordable for tourists and residents and guarantees an income for local farmers when they have access to markets.
“We've had complications with our income, especially during the pandemic. Now, with the greenhouse, I have my income that covers food, electricity, the phone," said Irma Carrión Paz, 38, a local farmer who received a greenhouse to combat pests and climate change through the Future of Food program.