Agroecology in the Andes: from monoculture to mixed culture

Weren’t things better before? Not in Ecuador, and not for Raul Upaya Romero. The courses in agroecology have obviously left their mark on him. The smallholder’s sparse, low-yield land in the Ecuadorian Andes now thrives with a variety of different vegetables.

37-year-old Raul Upaya Romero knows what hard work means. As a child, he was already working in the lowlands as a day labourer on sugar cane plantations. Sometimes, he got beaten instead of paid.

As a teenager, he returned to his parents’ village and they taught him basic farming skills. But the money wasn’t enough to make ends meet. Raul emigrated to the next larger city – and only came back when his wife inherited a plot of land.

Today, he’s proud of the field: “This is our life, this is my family’s future.”

Thanks to agroecology he can feed the family

The beginning was tough. The soil was polluted by monocultures, chemical fertilisers and pesticides. “The courses in agroecology helped me a lot,” says Raul. “Today, I can feed my three children and my wife.”

In the fields, where once only potatoes and beans were cultivated, a wide variety of different vegetables are growing as well as fodder plants for the animals. Most farmers in the village practise sustainable agriculture which makes it easier for them to share their experience.

Thanks to the SWISSAID project, in recent years a lot has changed for the better in the village. At the end of the interview, Raul Upaya Romero is keen to convey his message: “An eternal thank you for the help, ‘merci’ to SWISSAID and to everyone who donated money!”