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Ecuador Grapples with Food Sovereignty

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  • Ecuador Grapples with Food Sovereignty


    Ecuador Grapples with Food Sovereignty
    As Covid-19 tears through Ecuador, social movements are ensuring that communities have access to food.
    May 28, 2020
    Chris O’Connell

    It looked like a timeless scene, as rural families from Ecuador’s highlands and lowlands lined up to engage in a money-less exchange of staple foods against the backdrop of the Andes mountains. Apart, that is, from a telltale sign that linked the image to a specific moment in time: All of the participants were wearing face masks. Amid the devastation and hardship caused by the coronavirus, reviving the ancestral custom of the trueque (food exchange) is just one way that Ecuador’s peasant communities are implementing food sovereignty as a response to the crisis and resistance against the failed neoliberal food model.

    Ecuador has become the epicenter of Covid-19 in Latin America. The virus has wreaked havoc in the country’s populous coastal region, leading to the enforcement of a strict lockdown. With high rates of informality, however, staying home is a luxury many cannot afford. This is particularly true in marginalized neighborhoods that have suffered food shortages since the curfew was imposed. In the absence of effective state action, grassroots movements have emerged to fill the vacuum.

    One of the most ambitious responses came from the National Peasant Movement (FECAOL). As a result, peasant farmers have gone from being treated as “delinquents” to “heroes,” according to FECAOL leader Richard Intriago. The key to this change is food sovereignty.

    A Perfect Storm

    Over the past two months, Ecuador made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Covid-19 dropped “like a bomb” on the country’s coastal region, and in particular in its largest city, Guayaquil. Shocking images of corpses lying in the streets, and of the city distributing cardboard coffins, were broadcast around the world...