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Converting farms into native forests: more families join in!

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

One of our proudest moments this year was when two more families voluntarily requested to be part of the ecological restoration process that we started almost two years ago. They want to turn their farms back into rainforests!

The Narváez-Yumbo family and the Narváez-Andi family have decided to become regenerative farmers and join Humans for Abundance as restorers. Both of these families have committed to this major change because they understand that more sustainable practices mean more food security for them.

Just like the pandemic has been a wake-up call for people in industrialized countries, both of these families realized that they were totally reliant on outside sources to feed their families. This is a huge change from a couple of generations ago, when their ancestors relied on the forest and their farms for all of their needs, and were independent of the outside world.

Over the last 40 years, they have seen the 'naranjilla' and timber companies move in, and have witnessed the disappearance of animals, young people, and ancestral knowledge. They have borne the hardships of alcoholism, disease, and poverty, which are the inevitable results of globalization and commercialization.

Recently, they have seen their neighbors begin to regenerate their lands, with Human For Abundance’s assistance. So, on their own, they have decided to sign up and begin the long process of restoring the land their families have called home for many generations.

The Narváez-Yumbo family is headed by Galo and Germania; they have six boys and one girl living with them on their 23 hectares. 18 hectares were dedicated to growing naranjilla, a tropical shrub that needs a lot of care to produce enough fruit for commercial purposes.

In this photo, you can see Galo, Germania and one of their boys, standing in front of one of the few old-growth trees they still have on their land.

Galo and Germania have about 5 hectares of second-growth rainforest on their land, with a few large trees still left. They made most of their income by selling their 'naranjilla' harvest to middlemen, who would truck the produce to the different cities in Ecuador.

Here is Galo next to a 'narajilla' plant. This yellow-green fruit is very popular in Ecuador. It´s used for making 'naranjilla' juice or ice-cream.

The pandemic has hit their business hard, because the trucks stopped coming, and the middlemen offered less and less money for their fruits. On some days, Galo and Germania and their seven children subsisted solely on tea.

Galo and Germania, who are cousins of José, our first restorer in the community of Mushullakta, have been participating in the HFA workshops and community compost program led by José and Mayra, and they have decided that they want to restore their land, too!

They can make an income off the eco-services they offer, and they also now know that an agro-ecological approach to farming, which aligns ecosystem health with food production, is healthier for their land and for themselves. Before they even signed the contract with us to become restorers, Galo and Germania had planted native canopy trees in their former naranjilla fields, and they have started planting other, fast producing crops that can provide them with a year-round source of food.

The other newcomers, the Narváez-Andi family, are headed by Juan and Inés, who live on their 23 hectares with their sons, daughter in law, and granddaughter. Three hectares of that land are dedicated to growing food, while 20 hectares are still covered in second-growth rainforest, with many large trees interspersed throughout.

In this photo, you can see Romel, Germania, Mishel (little girl), Juan, Inés, and Darwin.

When they needed money to send their son to university, or to build the newlyweds a house, they would cut down a large tree on their property and would sell the wood, getting anywhere between $300 and $3000, depending on the size and species.

They never liked this practice, but they did not have many other options. Through participating in the permaculture workshops we offer, Juan and Inés were inspired to change their three hectares of cultivated land into a more diverse food production, and to plant different species of trees and perennial fruits that can thrive in the understory of their 20 hectares of forest.

Cacao, for example, is an understory tree and it can grow and produce beans under the canopy of much larger trees that are not necessarily food producing. Juan and Inés are proud of the large trees on their property, and they are committed to protecting them for the next generations.

According to our restoration and agricultural experts, it will take five years for these families to sustain themselves with their own produce, and, even then, natural disasters or other unpredictable events could send them back to the edge of starvation. Which is why rural peoples living off the land must have multiple sources of sustainable income, so that when a fire, a flood or a pandemic strikes, they will have a safety net.

Traditionally, people who live with nature have relied on each other to get through tough times, which is why there are such strong community bonds in rural areas across the world. Those bonds can have a negative effect, too, for people can be unwilling to change their ways of life if the surrounding community disapproves --especially if that change is trumpeted by city folks telling rural ones how to live.

At Humans for Abundance, we are very aware of these dynamics, and they are one of the reasons why we empower our restorers to not only regenerate their lands, but to be leaders of their communities, by teaching classes and leading community workdays.

So far, this model has proven successful in the Mushullakta community, and we are hoping to empower community leaders everywhere we work because this type of horizontal change is much more effective, compassionate, and sustainable.

Join us in this effort by purchasing eco-services from our new restorers, Galo and Germania, and Juan and Inés: please click here.

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