Since 3 years we are investing in real estate projects in Ecuador, a fast growing, agile and dollarised country squeezed between Colombia and Peru. 2016 was an annus horribilis for Ecuador. With oil prices at historic lows, its neighboring countries devaluating their currencies, the impact of El Nino (although not as bad as anticipated) and, last but not least, the April earthquakes that killed over 600 people, the economy was struggling to retain its positive drive of the past years. Believing that one of the best ways to support a suffering economy is to spend locally, I decided to spend the Christmas holidays in Ecuador with my family.
Apart from enjoying Ecuadors magnificent nature, we took ample of time to visit some projects of the Eslabon Social (http://www.eslabonsocial.be), a pluralistic non-for-profit organization supporting various projects in Ecuador. Most fun was a trip to an Indian tribe in the rainforest.
Most impactful however was the visit to a farmers project (Hacienda Menbol) started in 2005. Visiting the Hacienda was high on the agenda because it was part of an irrigation project that gave 47 local families access to water. The irrigation project was financially supported by Frank Buysse and his family. It now allows the 47 families to grow crops and significantly reduced child mortality (through starvation) in the region. What is the context? The Ecuadorian government heavily invested in irrigation infrastructure for important strokes of land in the provinces Guayas and Esmeralda. (Wealthy) farmers could connect to the canals and benefit from the water of the Daule river. Smaller farmers however didn’t have the financial means to invest in the infrastructure needed to connect their lands to the canal, no more than 7 kilometers away.
It is under the impuls of Father Guy Mennen, the founder of the Eslabon Social, that a project was initiated to connect 47 families to the main canal. No need for expensive pumps or complex mechanisms, but using the simple methodology of communicating vessels, the biggest challenge (and financial need) was digging a 7 kilometer long mini-canal to put pipes and irrigation tools. The pipeline was finished in August 2016 and the results are amazing. On formally unfruitful land, the local community now grows bananas, maniok, coconuts, papaya, rice, mais and … pigs.
Using the Hacienda as a ‘laboratorium’, the 47 farmers gather monthly in the Hacienda Menbol to see the results of new crops, new methods, new breeding programs. Inspired by curiosity and results they start copying and manage to feed their families. In a next phase, the ambition is even higher. Currently 20 days a month the water needs are covered (government only opening the water supply 20 days a month). If we manage to bridge the remaining period by smart storage, the farmers will be able to produce more than the local consumption needs and a commercial program will be initiated. Buysse & Partners is now financially supporting the installation of the water storage systems, amongst others with the gifts received from the triatlon initiative in 2016 (https://www.buysse-partners.com/mens-sana-in-corpore-sano/)