In 2014, EkoRural began a third phase of the Community Baskets project with the objective of strengthening local food systems through a multi-actor, urban-rural process based on the ongoing experiences of promoting new city-farmer relationships and establishing new mechanisms (“businesses”) that benefit both producers’ and consumers’ priorities. The project’s first five years found that, under certain conditions and at a small scale, these direct mechanisms can be successful. However, while the model can work, there is an urgent need to both grow and refine it, including testing other arrangements where win-win relationships are generated. It is vital to identify incentives that society and local governments/institutions can provide. In terms of agroecological intensification (AEI), the project aims to continue exploring what happens within small farms when they engage in alternative food networks in relation to production, efficiency, flows, and food.This project’s purpose is to expand understanding of how to leverage and strengthen local food systems to further AEI outcomes. By expanding learning from the pilot stage to new cities, the team will consolidate findings to influence policy and society regarding consumption. The ultimate goal of the project is to contribute to robust, thriving local food systems that lead to improvements in the livelihoods of rural and urban families. Specific outputs include encouraging alternative food networks (AFNs) that emphasize local, short circuit, agroecological markets, as well as contributing to the evidence base for this movement. The impacts of AFNs will be compared to other models such as supermarkets, export markets, and traditional wholesalers. Lastly, the connection between AFNs and AEI at the farm level will be studied, specifically farm-level indicators on soil health, agrobiodiversity, and input use will be monitored.
Outcome #1: Encourage ecologically-minded consumers Anticipated outputs include:Characterizing the food system in a smaller rural city where EkoRural has worked previously, such as Latacunga/Salcedo, as well as a larger city like Ambato or QuitoUnderstanding how to market food to non-elite segments of the populationIncreasing the number of organizations and individuals who participate in direct market relations in Riobamba and Salcedo/Latacunga, from both organizations of producers and urban organizations, with mutual benefitsTesting “local participative systems of guarantee” for ensuring quality to consumers and fair prices to producersOutcome #2: Influence production Anticipated outputs include: Monitoring the development of the agroecological transition in farms of participating organizations, with a special focus on their ability to generate flows and diversity, changes in family diet, and agency to reach their goalsContinued monitoring of AFN’s impacts on farmers’ livelihoods, sustainability, health and social networks, in older and new sitesOutcome #3: Develop Innovation Networks Investigating how communities can strengthen their agroecological knowledge and technology through the creation of innovation nodes that can facilitate connections with universities (national/international), institutes, and NGOsAt least two agroecological innovation nodes established with the participation of NGOs, farmers’ associations, research institutes, and civil society actors as the result of an initiative generated and supported towards agroecological productionAccess and participation of both producers and consumers’ organizations in the agroecological markets of Riobamba, Latacunga, y SalcedoNew negotiation skills of community groups and producers’ associates interacting in institutional environmentsEffective contributions of farmers’ organizations in the debate on food and food sovereigntyOutcome #4: Influence policyMonitoring the agreements and incentives established in situ by the organizations and local governments to strengthen the consumption of agroecological products in their citiesExploring feasibility for the development of an institutional platform to promote new relationships within the local food systemOutcome #5: Develop and share public goodsDisseminating findings and experiences related to the access to the market in local and international environmentsExpanding the debate about food and the importance of local food systems, with emphasis on the AFN