A small community in Ecuador called Pacto Sumaco is home to one of our very unique projects – a mushroom agriculture project. This project was started in response to a great need in the community to grow a healthy, safe, and easy product. Originally, the primary product of Pacto Sumaco was a citrus fruit called naranjilla, which resembles a small orange. This fruit, however, is not easy, or even safe, to produce. It is very difficult to cultivate in large quantities because it is a very fragile fruit. It is also highly susceptible to pests and fungi, so it requires large amounts of pesticides. These pesticides are toxic to the growers, who often become addicted to the chemicals. Even more complicating is the fact that the naranjilla has a short life cycle (only 2-3 years) because it quickly destroys the land on which it grows. Thus, the cultivation of an alternative product in Pacto Sumaco was a great need. With funding from Covenant World Relief, IPEE (the Evancgelical Covenant Church of Ecuador) partnered with La Fundación Adelanto Communitario de Ecuador (F.A.C.E.) to offer a solution. The solution has been the production and cultivation of edible mushrooms, which are far easier and safer to grow than the naranjilla. The mushrooms are safe for the environment and do not require pesticides, which makes them safer for the growers, and safe to eat.
The exciting thing about this project, though, is that F.A.C.E. does not just provide farmers with the funding to begin growing the new mushrooms, but in a holistic approach to community development, they work closely with the growers to train them in good business practices and techniques. F.A.C.E. recently sent us a detailed report with photos of their training programs, which include a theoretical and practical workshop on seed production, a workshop on micro-business organization and accounting, a workshop on packaging and marketing, and a workshop on logo and slogan development. All of these seminars teach about critical aspects of business. Below are photos from the seminars.
The CWR Commission recently approved funding for a second phase of the mushroom project in Ecuador, so check back to our website and blog for more updates!