The World Food Programme (WFP) has been enabling Ecuador to tap into South-South and triangular cooperation in order to strengthen country capacities and enhance the resilience of smallholder farmers. This project includes funding support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) of China. Through a South-South field pilot, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock in Ecuador (MAG) is engaging with the Government of China, with support from the WFP China Centre of Excellence (CoE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
With the aim of strengthening the role of rural women in smallholder farming in Ecuador, the field pilot has adopted a two-tier approach: (i) strengthening capacities at the technical and institutional levels of the Ministry of Agriculture of Ecuador through knowledge transfer with China; and (ii) promoting a gender-transformative approach to rural development by facilitating policy dialogues between rural smallholder women leaders from Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador and Peru.
In September 2019, WFP enabled representatives from rice farmers’ organizations and technicians from MAG to engage in in-field demonstrations and peer learning sessions with the Hunan Agricultural University in China. The Ecuadorian delegation learned how to plan for and manage innovative integrated rice systems technologies to diversify their income sources and food consumption, increase productivity rates and strengthen resilience against rice prices volatility and extreme weather events.
Upon return from the study visit to China, MAG technicians and WFP staff from Ecuador supported smallholder farmers in organizing a series of socialization and follow-up activities including three training sessions directed by two smallholders and two MAG technicians, in December 2019. The aim was to disseminate knowledge between smallholder farmers from their areas and technicians from local decentralized autonomous governments (GADs) (Balzar, Macará). The Ecuador National Institute of Agricultural Research (INIAP) also showed interest in collaborating in this initiative, which represents a key success of the project mobilization and awareness-raising efforts.
To ensure a close follow-up of the learning outcomes generated during the study visit, Chinese experts from the Hunan Agriculture University will be providing online training and coaching to 35 technicians from MAG, INIAP, GAD and local universities. Five training sessions were held virtually between August and September 2020, with a view to support smallholders in the application of the integrated rice system in their farms and to institutionalize this new technology in national rural assistance programmes.
From 1 to 3 October 2019, 54 Ecuadorian women leaders and 42 MAG officials participated in a workshop on public policy guidelines for rural women. The aim was to socialize and analyse the findings from the peer-learning sessions for women as well as to define the use of key recommendations to shape the policies’ design. The findings from the peer learning discussions inform knowledge products and recommendations for the formulation of Ecuador’s upcoming public policies in order to strengthen the role of female smallholders.
In January 2020, WFP organized a workshop on marketing strategies for smallholder farmer organizations, with 51 participants including well-known Latin American experts in this field ranging from government officials to academia. The workshop, jointly organized with FAO, also covered topics such as climate change and climate risk management for agriculture, comprehensive pest management and the gender-sensitive approach to climate change adaptation and food and nutrition security.
WFP and FAO supported the Government of Ecuador in developing an evidence base to strengthen the role of rural women in public policymaking and increase their access to market opportunities. Peer learning sessions between rural women leaders were facilitated with countries from Latin America and the Caribbean (Peru, Honduras and Guatemala) providing a platform for learning and networking. In total, 744 rural women from Ecuador, 77 MAG’s authorities and technicians, 13 non-governmental organizations (NGO) delegates and international organizations participated in the learning sessions. This provides a sustainable element to the project because the peer learning sessions can be brought back to local areas and replicated in the field.
Two videos to document the project and its key results, focusing on government officials’ and smallholder farmers’ perspectives, are being developed and will be used to give visibility to this innovative SSTC partnership involving China, Ecuador and WFP, and will contribute to future opportunities for replication. Conditions for replication include political mobilization, similar country contexts, and concrete support for SSTC on the ground.
The pilot project has been successful in strengthening country capacities at the individual and institutional levels in the area of integrated rice systems to diversify crop production and income sources. The project also effectively advocated for the importance of investment in rural development and the role of rural smallholder women. Due to the successful experience, since 2020 the project is in a scale-up phase, with an additional generous contribution from MARA, China.