Make people live off
the Land sustainably

Women at the heart of agro-ecology in Ecuador

Maria Soliz Carrion, director of the CEDIR association in Ecuador

Could you tell us a bit about your partnership with AVSF?

CEDIR (Center for Development and Rural Studies) and AVSF have been working together for the past 20 years. It is important to point out how close our objectives are, since we are both clearly focused on the rural world and its development, as well as on raising awareness and promoting the growth of family farming.

Is there something unique about the relationships between men and women in the Andes?

Yes, there is something unique about the relationships between men and women in the Andes. People have long spoken of the complementary relationships between men and women, from mythology all the way to anthropological studies, which describe there being a sort of ideal of complementarity within couples in the Andes. However, gender relationships in every society will always be marked by power relationships, and we cannot deny this. It is particularly true at the intrafamilial level, where poverty and inequality feminize poverty, delegate domestic chores to young girls, and often encourage social checks and cultural values that are discriminatory against women.

What economic role do women play thanks to direct sale in the markets and agro-ecology?

In Ecuador, in the southern part of the Andes, when you talk about agro-ecology, you're talking about female producers: because of the way farming has been evolving, this region is characterized by small proprietorship and unfavorable conditions for production (limited access to land, water, and resources for production), which has led to an early rural exodus in the region. We are witnessing a historic situation whereby farming is becoming feminized. Women are now the ones who are in charge of running the farms, they are the ones who are expanding production, and they are also the major carriers of the traditional know-how behind these production systems (predicting the weather; managing seeds; understanding and utilizing medicinal plants, production techniques, etc.).

At the organizational level, if we look at the way that organizations in the region have evolved over time, we can see that there are currently a lot of new women in positions of leadership. In terms of agro-ecology, there is no doubt that women today make up the majority of many producer groups and organizations, sometimes accounting for more than 70% of their members. They are the ones who were able to successfully put into practice and combine traditional smallholder systems, ensure the development of agro-ecological markets, and create new models for producer-consumer relationships through participative local certification.

Thanks to CEDIR and AVSF, these femal smallholders in Ecuador can now directly sell their products on the Local markets.

Learn more about AVSF's activities in en Ecuador