In Quito, Ecuador, nature and sustainability are treated as an integral component of development rather than as an afterthought. Green infrastructure and nature-based solutions are key to the City´s mitigation and adaptation strategies for securing the provision of ecosystem services. One such solution is the project Sustainable Agriculture with Gender Inclusion and Participation in Quito, which is run by the city to improve food security, urban agro-ecology, climate change adaptation, and nutrition.
The program has been working together with women and female-headed households for over a decade to improve the quality of life of the most vulnerable people of the Metropolitan District of Quito. Thanks to training courses, technical assistance, and support resources, the program has helped thousands of residents to start their own urban gardens and apply sustainable practices to make positive changes in their lives. Furthermore, it contributes to carbon emission reductions, is an adaptation response to climate change, as well as generating citizen participation and solidarity within local economic development.
- 352,600 people benefit from the program; comprising 56,000 urban farmers, 85.71% of which are women, and 170,000 consumers;
- Women represent 85.71% of the participants;
- Since the start of the project, 16,700 participants have been trained, 2,500 urban gardens opened, and 110 urban agriculture startups promoted with 105 different food products.
People who live in Quito, women in particular, have limited access to formal education and, employment. They also face barriers in gaining access to land, water, labor, capital, technology, and other resources. According to a study of vulnerability to climate change in Quito the impacts of extreme rainfall events and change in temperature will likely impact the most vulnerable ecosystems, sectors, and social groups. It is expected that by 2050, five sectors will be more vulnerable to climate change: water, health, agriculture, ecosystems and risks (forest fires).
The project promotes and validates alternative and sustainable land management approaches through the implementation of climate change adaptation actions. It also ensures food and nutrition security and universal health access, which are essential for poverty eradication and climate resilient sustainable development. The project fosters sustainable and safe agricultural production and agri-business, with a focus on micro-enterprise management and access to different markets. Additionally, it improves participants’ earnings by generating jobs, as well as helping them to save money by consuming their own products.
The program has become a "seedbed" of agricultural micro-business, such as the production of organic vegetables, fruits, crops, medicinal and ornamental plants, animal husbandry, beekeeping, and food processing. A gender-responsive and human rights approach is crucial to strengthening technical capacities of urban and peri-urban farmers and the formation of human capital. Gardens and small farms play an essential role in the lives of the participants. By strengthening rural and urban linkages, it promotes the understanding of the importance of ecosystem services to provide a sustainable life in urban areas.
Helping the planet
While native ecosystems represent 60% of the territory of the Municipal District of Quito, accelerated growth of urban sprawl exerts strong pressure on native ecosystems, vegetation cover, and land-use. This project, by promoting sustainable practice in agriculture and the use of vacant land for the growth of food, is protecting the City´s natural surroundings and forests, pursuing joint environmental governance, sustainable land management, and integrated human development.
Replacing chemical fertilizers with organic waste has had beneficial effects on both emission reductions and city waste management. Production of seasonal crops and promoting local consumption has also helped to reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions. Work on the project is fostering resilience by recovering degraded ecosystems and thus increasing biodiversity levels, promoting sustainable use of resources, and the revaluation of urban land for food production.
Climate is responsible for 30 % of productivity variations globally. Extreme weather or changes in rainfall and temperature can result in crop damage, which impacts farmers’ incomes and food security. Also, unsustainable agricultural practices can lead to high greenhouse gas emissions, reductions in soil fertility, loss of water retention capacity, and eventual soil erosion. Innovative solutions to understand and utilize climate information are helping farmers in Colombia and Honduras adapt their practices to climate variability and change and making more efficient use of water and agrochemicals.
Women play a central role in the programme and make up most of the urban producers involved in the programme. Women, who are often excluded from decision-making, have gained the opportunity to become leaders and members of the new groups of urban farmers and have joined forces to share best practices and lessons learned.
The activity has also had a positive role by building capacity, marketing and production skills, and providing secure and independent income sources for women. Working in urban agriculture allows women to combine agricultural activity with their daily responsibilities. The project is strengthening the economic development of the vulnerable urban and peri-urban population rural communities closest to the natural areas that are currently being managed, by increasing access and opportunity to begin sustainable agriculture activities. The goal is to offer communities and mainly woman alternative and more sustainable sources of livelihood.
This project has the potential to grow and increase its beneficiaries, as it has become mainstreamed in several institutions and activities related to public policy, including the environmental policies of sustainable resource management, carbon footprint reduction, and increased resilience and adaptation capacity of the city. Considering that almost 90% of the Metropolitan District of Quito is rural, components of the project, such as the promotion of organic agriculture are already being replicated in rural areas of the City and would be replicable in other cities with urban areas.
Through their experiences, all stakeholders involved in the project share lessons learned and their best practices with other local governments and national institutions. The project, as well as the Municipal institutions involved in promoting sustainable agriculture, such as CONQUITO and the Secretariat of the Environment, have created a space for the methodological transfer of a successful implementation of the project to other local and provincial governments, as well as to economic development agencies interested in promoting sustainable agriculture in their territories. Replication is further facilitated through the availability of easily accessible and low cost techniques that focus on the reuse and recycling of materials, less dependence on external inputs, and motivated by the principles of healthy agriculture and empowerment of participants, especially women.
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