Community gardens have been shown to be one of the best tools for ensuring access to diverse nutrients, which are vital for improving the diets of vulnerable families. This is especially relevant the case of rural and indigenous communities, where families can use contribute with their traditional knowledge of horticulture to recover their cultural eating patterns. Based on this idea, an SDG Fund programme is promoting the creation of community-run agriculturally diverse plots in different communities in Imbabura, Ecuador.
Thanks to these community gardens and a series of workshops and courses about the importance of healthy nutrition and food hygiene, more than 700 families have improved their daily eating habits by switching to a more healthy and varied diet. The new diets have also helped their children and contributed to development and prosperity in the region.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and with the support of the Spanish Cooperation through its contribution to the SDG Fund, the programme provided each family with a plot of land of approximately 10m2 (107 square feet) to grow fruits and vegetables. The programme staff also distributed 12 types of seeds to each family, with which they should be able to produce around 6 kilos (about 13 pounds) of nutriments per square meter, for each of the three yearly harvest cycles.
The 716 community gardens organized by the programme total about 53m2 (570 square feet) and are helping improve the consumption of vital nutrients while creating diversified diets in homes throughout Imbabura.
“Before, in the Awá communities [one of Ecuador’s minority indigenous communities] they used to mostly eat cassava. Now, through the diversification of diets, they cultivate more than 10 types of different vegetables and create recipes with the products of their gardens.” said Roberto Quinteros, a specialist from Ecuador’s Ministry of Agriculture.
The production of agriculture diverse plots and seeds distribution have also helped improve the local economy. The programme promotes food consumption as well as the commercialization of any extra products, helping improve Imbabura’s economy. In the last year alone, the families in the programme reported an increase in their monthly savings of up to 20 dollars.
In addition to the organization of the community gardens and the distribution of seeds, the programme provides training courses in organic agriculture in order to produce safe and nutritional food. There have also been training workshops on how to cook and prepare the diverse vegetables from the gardens. Finally, one of the programme’s main components includes family counseling and support on issues such as health, nutrition and child development, as well as the provision of timely medical checkups.
“I often say that each of us have talents. Mine is for sowing seeds. I have come to appreciate this talent and use it as much as I can to help my friends. My idea is to focus on different types of products and to continue to cultivate them. The community gardens have brought us, the residents of Imbabura, both hope and sustainable development,” says Virginia Morales, beneficiary of the program and neighbor of the canton of Cotacachi.
"In the Awá communities they used to mostly eat cassava. Now, through the diversification of diets, they cultivate more than 10 types of different vegetables and create recipes with the products of their gardensRoberto Quinteros
Specialist from the Ministry of Agriculture of Ecuador
The programme and the SDGs
The SDG Fund programme in Ecuador has the following goals: increase the efficiency of cultivated quinoa and lupine by at least 30%; ensure the participation of at least 40% of women in the local associations; provide gender-related training and ensure the equal distribution of nutrients throughout homes; encourage best practices in sustainable management of natural resources and adaptability to climate change; and improve the nutrient and food consumption patterns of families in the rural areas of Ibarra, Cotacachi and Pimampiro in the Imbabura province.
UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have implemented this SDG Fund programme in collaboration with the ministries of public health and agriculture, government organizations and private partners. The SAN Imbabura programme has been shown to strengthen local food sources and improve access to healthy foods and nutrients throughout Ecuador.
The implementation of community gardens directely contributes to the achievement of Objective 2 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: "Ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture."
English translation by Raul Rios.