Taking advantage of a slow season, coupled with the coinciding of friends visiting, our wedding anniversary, my impending birthday, and a particularly easy and energetic second trimester of pregnancy we decided it was the perfect time to take a short vacation! A few years ago Erik and I briefly visited the city of Cuenca in the southern highlands of Ecuador and have wanted to return ever since. Last week we were able to join our friends and supporters, Maria and Lukas in exploring more of the charming and picturesque region. We road tripped down enjoying stops at the volcano Chimborazo, the Nariz del Diablo train excursion, el Cajas national park, and of course Cuenca. It’s a very walkable colonial city with beautiful architecture, interesting museums, and wonderful restaurants. A refreshing getaway!
Maria and Lukas returned ahead of us to Quito by plane and Erik and I made one more stop on our way home in the small town of Salinas de Guaranda in the western range of the Andes region. This is a place we had heard much about and had always hoped to visit. It is a legendary example of successful rural community development/organizing and particularly emphasizes the potential of agricultural resources. The town of about 1,000 has close to 100 micro-businesses of which a majority are community owned and operated. You would hardly know that close to 40 years ago the residents were experiencing extreme poverty. Salinas’ crown jewel is the “Salinerito” brand of products, the largest of which is their cheese factory which produces over a dozen variety of fresh and aged cheeses, and even has an international export in addition to a very successful domestic market.
There is much more to be said to explain and applaud this unique place (you can visit their website here), but most importantly, it serves as a great example to us of the potential that there is especially in the small dairy project that we are working with in Lote 3. The progress is slow going there, and it is easy for the milk coop (and us) to become discouraged or bogged down by the seemingly endless hurdles facing us as we try and reach phase 2 of the project: producing cheese and yogurt. We have decided, along with the FACE coordinator for Lote 3 that we will bring a few key members back to Salinas this month to encourage them in their efforts. We made contacts there that are willing to offer a detailed tour, workshop, and small talk to our group that we hope will be the fire that they need to continue working for their community. Please pray that this will be a great chance for networking and encouragement, and be on the lookout for an update once this all happens!