Adapting to climate change in Ecuador: “I no longer depend on others”

Maria and one of her sons in their newly flourishing garden

Maria Elvira Azipuela Zimbaña, 45, comes from a long line of farmers. Despite being versed in traditional knowledge she struggled to feed her nine children, as the climate became more unpredictable. But things improved after she took up CARE’s community agricultural training.

Maria moved to Papallacta, Ecuador, with her husband 13 years ago. They planted crops on their new land using skills passed down to them. But worms and insects ate them. Plus it was hard to work out the best time to plant as weather patterns became more changeable.

“We had to buy everything”

The large family struggled, especially during winters. "We had to buy everything: potatoes, chicken, vegetables," Maria said.

Each farmer had always worked individually on their own properties. "We had only our own knowledge."

This changed in 2010 when the community president invited farmers to a meeting with CARE engineers.


Working with CARE was initially a challenge. Maria’s husband encouraged her to learn as much as possible. "Here almost no one knows how to read or write. That meant some people said no to CARE’s offer. We had to keep everything we were taught in our minds," Maria said. "I only know how to write very little."

Eventually 32 women and 8 men signed up. One of the first problems they worked on was how to protect plants from pests and frost. Frost has been increasing and becoming less predictable locally.

Instead of using chemicals, the farmers learned to make a natural pesticide called ‘BIOL’ – a mixture of leaves, bean shells, corn husks, whey, molasses, yeast, matico, rabbit manure, chili and urine. It is rich in micro-organisms and nutrients, which help seeds become more resistant to frost as well as pests.

Growing better crops

Farmers learned to plant trees around their gardens to defend them from the stronger wind and cold. Maria is now able to grow a good mix of vegetables.

"My children are happy. The food we bought, once cooked, became sour. It is not like that anymore. Our food is tasty."

We don’t buy food anymore - and we save $30 that we used to spend each week.

Maria has found that her garden has grown as the natural pesticide also improves soil fertility. She has even been able to sell some of her produce.

"The Maria from before was sad. I sacrificed myself working in the field but had nothing. I bought small animals and they would die. I spent a lot and had nothing,"she said.

Now that I'm going to the CARE workshops things are different. We have in our minds all the knowledge and we are applying it.

We no longer depend on others

Today Maria has rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens in her small plot. She sells the animals and potatoes.

She said she also sees a big change in how she manages her money. She invests part of her earnings, and shares the rest with her family and elders. She has money for her children’s education: books and transport to school.

She can even meet with people for community clean-up projects where they share food and work, laugh, and have fun.

"I am happy because now I have my own food and know how my hands work. I don’t get lazy because I see the garden flourish when previously it had nothing.

"I am happy to go into my garden and take what I want to cook. I no longer depend on others," Maria said. "I feel like I am flying…"

CARE's picture

News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.