Our project, La Chakra Alimenta (The Farm Feeds), seeks to conserve biodiversity and improve indigenous livelihoods in the Ecuadorian Amazon by promoting traditional agriculture systems and enhancing commercial culinary knowledge. This project will tie together two mainstays: the importance of the chakra agroforestry system for sustainable access to food and applying this access to local markets as an emerging economic activity. Through our project, we will provide collaborative learning opportunities for farmers to share best farming practices, information around sustainable plant species, and creative recipes.
Since 2017, we have been working in Napo, one of Ecuador’s Amazonian provinces, with a local indigenous farmer and entrepreneur to develop a unique forest-to-table experience resulting in a new brand of tourist activity for this region. Now, with support from New England Biolabs, we will expand on this experience to share lessons learned with other communities and inspire local people to return to their ancestral practices. Currently, with easy access to cheap, packaged food, the indigenous Kichwa people in Napo have lost many of their culinary and farming customs. La Chakra Alimenta program will revitalize these traditional food systems and culinary know-how, providing learning opportunities for income-generation through all-natural restaurants. By promoting forest-to-table nutritional habits and entrepreneurial opportunity, the chakra will become a portal to self-sustainability, food sovereignty, and conservation of biodiversity.
For over a millennium, Andean Kichwa communities have had a dynamic relationship with the Agave plant. The 125+ identified uses of Agave contribute to the rich cultural traditions and sustainable land management practices evidenced across Ecuador's most biodiverse highland ecosystems.
Among the most common uses of Agave is in the production of chawarmishki, a traditional liquor. Increasing integration of chawarmishki production into local and global consumer markets has the potential to transform traditional community relationships with the landscape.
This research project has been designed by Florida International University PhD Student researcher Evan Marcus in collaboration with the Agave harvesting cooperative Mishkita, Towne & Forrester is exploring the encounters between people and place during the production and consumption of chawarmishki. In documenting the visual and aesthetic aspects of these encounters, we hope to develop a deeper understanding of how traditional social-environmental values transmute during commercialization.
Towne & Forrester will use the resulting research to shape a more textured engagement in our four areas of focus: Cooperative Development, Indigenous Biodiversity, Conservation Finance, and Immersive Internships.