In Asheville, NC, we have probably 10 permaculturists and organic gardeners per square mile.
In Cotacachi Ecuador, there are probably three permaculturists altogether.
One permaculture gardener, Kerry, has recently purchased an approximately 20-acre mountain site in a fertile coffee-growing region north of Quito and Cotacachi. He and his wife are making a plan to create gradually a large food garden with a sustainably built house on it and a training facility.
Partners With Nature
Another permaculturist, Gary, has about 10 acres in a spectacular valley, ideally situated between the two local volcanoes.
With the father volcano, Imbabura, on the lower side and the mother volcano, Cotacachi, on the upper side, their land has views that fly across the surface of Ecuador.
Over the last three years, he has designed and built garden beds and tree fences, orchards, and a fish pond, with the help of his indigenous assistant.
Where once it was a flat land with few animals and nothing much growing besides grasses, flowers, berries, and a wide diversity of plants now flourish.
His wife, Linda, commented on the need for reforestation in this country. After two years of planting and tending a lush new gardened farm, the birds returned!
As we walked the land, we all saw egrets galore and swallows, some bright red birds, and others I can’t name.
Respecting the Indigenous Population
The indigenous Quechua residents aren’t usually happy with gringos who buy land bordering theirs.
In this case, Gary and Linda’s indigenous neighbors have become friends and partners in farming. They have gradually come to understand one another’s ways of living and communicating and have grown deep respect.
I spoke with the elder of the family village next to them. He was a 4 feet tall man with a beautiful smooth leathery face and a powerhouse presence of peace.
I know little Spanish but managed to convey my love for the volcanoes on either side, and we discussed the gardens and flowers that Linda has planted and his family’s houses. I truly hope to talk with that wondrous man again.
In one of the gated communities for US and Canadian expats, there is a lovely old orchard. The compound is called Primavera.
There are four buildings with beautifully landscaped flower gardens along the walkways between them all. At one end is an orchard that was once a separately walled garden. It is home to 50-year-old avocado trees, lemon trees, orange trees, and trees bearing other fruits that I’m not familiar with but love to eat.
Keeping It Organic
There is a 6 feet long stick propped up in a corner against a garden wall. When someone wants a fat ripe avocado from the top of the tree, they use the stick to knock it to the ground.
The owner/residents have developed a vegetable and herb garden they like to tend themselves. They are working with their indigenous gardeners to keep the gardens organic. Those efforts include organic gardening training workshops.
This is a country that has experienced centuries worth of changes because of wars, farming practices, and population changes.
Even in the Ecuadorian Galapagos Islands, tourism and overfishing have caused tremendous destruction of the environment and wildlife.
Reforestation on the mainland will do the environment a lot of good. It’s heartening to see that the permaculturists are already making a positive difference.
Have you seen efforts to reduce impacts on the environment in your community? Is this something you are contributing to? Please share your stories with us.
by: Bonnie Willow