In the midst of the bustle of urban life, Mariana de Cunalata and her family of 16 people, including children and grandchildren, carefully tend their organic vegetable garden surrounded by eucalyptus trees. “We no longer go out to buy produce,” says Cunalata, 61, who lives in Quito, Ecuador. “We harvest what we need for the pot."
Cunalata's life has changed since eight years ago when she joined a project to produce and market urban agricultural products. The project, aimed at improving food security, creating jobs, and boosting income, has been carried out by ConQuito, an agency of Quito’s municipal government, with support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). This program has enabled Cunalata and 1,635 urban residents to improve their quality of life, a level of participants four times greater than the goal set when the project began in 2007. The program ended in February 2011.
The project is being financed with a $130,600 grant from the IDB’s Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) and $405,000 from ConQuito. The project's goal is to help improve the quality of life of low-income people in the Metropolitan District of Quito through agriculture and livestock production, better food security and nutrition, higher incomes, job creation, and local economic development."Before, I didn’t know how to prepare the soil, plant vegetables, and eat healthy food,” said Olga Loachamin, who along with 12 other women cultivate their gardens in the community of Cocotog, near Quito.
“Now, with training from ConQuito, I know how to prepare the soil. I plant the seeds myself, and what I grow goes right into the pot,” said Loachamin, who formerly had no employment. These women and their families also prepare and manage a nursery for vegetable plants, the proceeds from which help to support a community fund.
"In the Friday market we sell our vegetables and earn money,” said Loachamin, 42. “Our products are healthy,” she continued, “fresh and flavorful, and grown without chemicals. We use only natural fertilizers and pesticides that we prepare ourselves.”
After three years of agricultural work, she has a wish: "We want to continue selling in the market, which we know well, so that our customers buy directly from us without middlemen. We wish to continue producing food so that more people can eat well and so that we can continue helping to support our families without having to leave our homes, as our husbands must do in their work as janitors or guards.”
"These projects produce a high impact on people’s lives, because having a respectable occupation raises their self-esteem and gives them a positive outlook.
The projects also enable us to support the Bank's mission of promoting development and human welfare as the focus of our institution’s mission,” said Paula Auerbach, MIF specialist.
This program directly contributes to raising environmental awareness in the city, promotes a collaborative marketing system, and supports community savings and credit institutions as well as facilitating access to credit. Urban agriculture makes a significant contribution to social and economic development of the Metropolitan District of Quito, demonstrating that growing healthy produce can address human development challenges such as urban poverty, food security, environmental management, and participatory governance.