An hour away from Quito, we visited on August 7 2016 a highly dynamic non profit organisation called “Fundación Brethren y Unida (FBU)”. Founded in 1953, the FBU has focussed its efforts on the development of poor rural communities in various places in Ecuador through a variety of projects aiming at improving the life of rural families by offering social, education, and economic alternatives with an ecological imperative. Alfredo Merino from FBU kindly showed us around and explain in more details some of their initiatives. Humbled by what has been achieved and is still being done by the small team of 5 in the FBU, we decided to write this post to share what we have learned during the day spent together.
Community development in Cubinche and Picalqui
41 km approx from Quito, Cubinche and Picalqui are only two of the rural communities that FBU supports in Ecuador. Various initiatives are carried out by the foundation locally, from organic farming to reforestation of the villages and the area, the support of community schools & kindergarden and various other community development initiatives. We had the chance to met Luzmila Cuzco in Cubinche. Luz and her family is one of the example of the families the foundation helped to become self-sustainable by helping them build her own organic fruit & vegetable garden. As Luz is most of the time working alone on the farm, she needs extra help: what FBU does as well for her is to provide when possible the help of volunteers to grow and maintain the farm. The organic nature of FBU programs is an important objective for the foundation, especially considering the heavy use of chemicals used by some farms in the valley (e,g, for flower production). Luz kindly showed us around her garden and explained us that she is also helping volunteers coming to the community to find an accomodation in the surrounding families (approx. 1000 in the community). FBU also helps other communities further away from Quito, for e.g. in the jungle (which can also be visited).
Reforestation around the Mojanda lagunes
Alfredo showed us then an impressive reforestation project that FBU conducted with the help of volunteers. Volunteers (pupils, students, foreigners…) have been key in carrying out some of the FBU projects, helping by planting trees, farming, repairing, painting, giving courses, etc. It is only when you climb the 1000+ meters to reach the beautiful lagunes that you realize the amount of work completed: all along the dusty road, indigenous tree species have been replanted. Kilometers of trees are now helping reviving a flora and fauna that had previously disappeared due to prior exploitation for private purpose (FBU and the local government have now managed to expropriate such private enterprises in the area). As an anecdote: an indigenous frog that was believed to have disappeared from the area even reappeared recently thanks to the efforts.
Previously exploited for private purpose (e.g. Non indigenous trouts were introduced here before the expropriation), the lagunes are now being restored to its original state and have become a sustainble reserve of water for the surrounding villages. A stunning view more than 4000 m above water (note the foundation can organize walks & overnight stays in the location)!
We then had a short meeting at Pilcalqui community centre with its president, a young and motivated gentleman driving several projects (reforestation, agriculture development…) in coordination with FBU. There is currently a need for volunteers for one of their projects aiming at improving computer litteracy for the local community in a centre developped for this purpose.
Organic farm in FBU Picalqui centre
Alfredo brought us in the afternoon to the heart of the foundation, an organic farm where the founders, 2 american families, used to live. This is now the centre where volunteers and pupils spend quality time along with the 2 ecuadorian families living there permanently. When we saw this place, we understood why Alfredo, originally a lawyer, shows such commitment to the foundation.
In this farm, the foundation and families living there cultivate organic fruits and vegetables (used to feed the volunteers and other visitors of the farm) and livestock (milk is sold to the local organic market for e.g.). Interesting to note that it requires 30 years of not using pesticides / chemicals before a farm can call itself organic.
You can also find a llama, ducks, 2 lovely dogs and a collection of cows at the farm. Ecological innovations such as the “Bio digestor” (a way to recycle cow dung to generate gas for household purpose as well as fertilizer for the garden) can also be seen at the farm.
You can also find a nursery for indigenous trees alongside the buildings maintained in their original design.
Initially the house of the american families that founded the organisation, the volunteers’ house can welcome up to 12 visitors and offers wifi, hot water, and other commodities (even a small washing machine and books), the whole in a vintage style and atmosphere. An awesome way to spend a few days (or a weekend) in the nature and community.
Thank you Alfredo for taking the time to show us around, we definitely recommend a visit to the foundation. You can find a few activities of short duration offered by the foundation on JAMUY’s platform. In the meantime, good luck to Alfredo welcoming the 70 school pupils (15-18 years old) due to come on Monday 12/09/2016 (The FBU has a large building dedicated to the pupils, a little further away than the volunteers’ one). A great way to make them leave Pokemon Go and enjoy healthy activities and food.
Paola & Thomas from JAMUY