PROJECT - “Ñuchanchik” (“Ours” in Quichua)
To raise the standard of living of the Quichua in Ecuador by implementing economic community programs.
To train Quichua community leaders so that they can start their own community businesses,
and to sponsor a Fair Trade business to market the communities’ products.
The Truth and Liberty Foundation has been working among the Quichua Indian communities in the Central Highlands of Ecuador for some time. We were invited by the church leaders to teach bible and theology, but we soon discovered that church membership is declining because the Quichua are moving to the cities. Why? Because farming is no longer profitable for them.
The Quichua farmer has two basic problems: First, he has to sell his produce at whatever price is offered at the market. The small farmer is a victim of the intermediaries. We have heard the same story over and over from the Quichua. When they take their produce to the local market to sell, they end up selling for ridiculously low prices. They have no other choice. They have nowhere to store their goods, and they cannot take their goods back home again. Such is their discouragement that they no longer desire to raise crops for commerce. Instead they migrate to the city looking for jobs as construction workers.
Second, to make things worse. If a Quichua farmer decides to plant some crops, he has to buy seed, fertilizer, and insecticide, plus hire a tractor and laborers. He ends up taking out a loan from a local credit union, only to discover that the funds from selling his crops aren’t enough to cover the loan. So then he has to migrate to the city to find a job to pay off the loan.
As a Foundation, we are developing a strategy to help the Quichua improve their situation. The first step is for them to form small organizations. They need to unite their resources, work together, and be able to negotiate the prices for their produce. Presently most of them work individually, and sell their produce to intermediaries who determine the prices. In order to unite they need to understand the process of forming an organization, which requires a knowledge of legal paperwork, and managing people. Our goal is to teach them these skills so that they can start and run their own organization. Once they have started their own organization, they will work with our Foundation to sell their produce directly in the cities.
Next we plan to teach them to process their goods. We do not want them to produce raw products all their lives. They need to learn how to semi-industrialize and industrialize their farming so that they can sell their final products directly to the consumers. This includes putting on a brand name and labels.
The final step is to teach them how to market their products themselves. Marketing is very different from farming. The Quichua spend most of their time in the country side and occasionally visit the cities. They have very little knowledge of how buying and selling works in the cities. Thus they need training to develop marketing contacts and strategies.
As the Truth and Liberty Foundation we firmly believe in a holistic gospel. Christian principles need to be integrated into daily living. In this case, people need to understand how Biblical teaching integrates into both spiritual and economic community development. Each community needs not only a vibrant church, but also folk committed to meeting community needs, such as economic development. We are convinced that only persons who are willing to sacrifice of themselves for the benefit of others will make our project a success. These are the people we are looking for.
We are talking to several Quichua communities who are extremely interested in uniting to form an organization. These are the communities we are planning to work with and train: Capulispungo, Facundo Vela, Guanto Cruz, Salache, Maria Auxiliadora, … We are in the process of setting up agreements with them to teach them how to start and run an organization. Each organization will develop their own project according to what they already produce.
Parallel to the process of helping Quichua communities start their own organizations, we need to begin the process of marketing their products. We have already started a company called “FUVELI” which will serve this purpose. FUVELI will buy their produce, process it, and sell it directly in the cities such as Guayaquil and Quito.
FUVELI will operate under fair trade principles. (See www.wfto.org) We buy the produce at a guaranteed minimum price. This motivates the producers to continue to produce. Not only do the farmers get a fair price, but FUVELI guarantees to share a percentage of the profit with the farmers. The profit does not go directly to the farmers but to their organization with the plan to reinvest in the community and/or in developing their production and processing.
Eventually we hope that the community organizations will learn and be able to produce, process, and market their products on their own.
The goal of marketing is not just to make a profit, but for it to profit the community. The first benefit will be higher income for the farmers. But that is not enough. The second benefit will be jobs for others who will eventually work in the processing plant. We hope this will not only diminish the migration, but that those who have migrated to the cities will return to their communities. Yet the most important benefit will be for community members to learn to work together and consider more the needs of others than one’s personal desires. That is true community development and progress!
Phase 1 - Visiting Communities
The average trip to a community in the mountains is between 1 to 2 hours driving. Most of the communities lie outside cell phone signals. To develop a working relationship with a community requires several initial visits. Two of us in the Foundation are working full-time on this project, but we only have one car. Another car would double our efforts. A decent car here in Ecuador costs from $18,000 (used) to $24,000 (new) dollars.
Phase 2 - Training the Communities
We have calculated a six-month weekly plan for training a community group in how to start, organize, and run their own organization. The cost for teachers, transportation, materials, and lunch is $2600 per community.
Phase 3 - FUVELI - Marketing
We have a legally incorporated company called “FUVELI.” We would like to begin by starting a potato processing plant in Riobamba that will buy potatoes under fair trade principles, and process them as peeled, cut, and vacuum packed to sell. We will need a warehouse, equipment, and employees to begin. We are developing the needed budget.