Image: These kids carried rocks for stabalizing the foundation posts, shoveled a mixed soil, helped with the roof netting.
Yesterday I spoke with Mike McColm the lead with Yakum. They had just finished building the last of the nurseries for the five communities in our Nutritional Forest project. He said that in all the years in Ecuador he has never seen such poverty. Over sixty people came to help build the nursery. Her are some of his thoughts and images from the day.
In the Ecuadorian Amazon, there is widespread hunger, as traditional home gardens which we are calling nutritional forests are disappearing. There are disappearing for different reasons, including that market forces push the men to produce just one or two crops rather instead of around 100 species which was the custom. Protein deficiencies cause stunting, malnutrition affects cognitive development, and processed foods are contributing to rising levels of obesity and diabetes.
In the past women would take their children to work in and learn about how to manage a species rich home garden. Children helped with the harvest and also learned about cultivation ceremonies and beliefs associated with each plant. With children attending government schools and men planting only commercial crops the traditional home garden is at risk of disappearing.
Making the local situation more difficult is that the monthly family income in the region is only $65 dollars a month, while $450 a month is the minimum to provide reasonable nutrition for a family of four. The Kichwa families in our five target communities usually eat only one meal a day. People are hungry and do not have money for the most basic family needs such as education and health.
The lack of food in these communities results in delayed cognitive development, extreme hunger, prevents kids from going to school, and in one community we have seen a high level of birth defects which could be caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy or because of a lack of genetic diversity in the community (in-breeding).
The effects of malnutrition and poverty are crushing for these people.