Mushuk Yuyay hosts the IX World Quinua Congress

This is a guest post from Alan Adams, who served in Ecuador from 1967-1969

Evaluating seed.

In the province of Cañar, in southern Ecuador, an association of farmers, La Asociación de Productores de Semillas y Alimentos Nutricionales Andinos Mushuk Yuyay was incorporated in 1994 as a non-profit. It has been serving the farming community of the area ever since, while growing slowly and steadily year by year. This association grew out of the struggle begun in the 1960s during the Ecuadorian agrarian reform. It grew out of the dreams and the vision of the campesino hacienda workers as they achieved their freedom.

It grew through the work of the farmers as they, bit by bit, improved the depleted soils and tried to make a living on the tiny plots of land. They educated themselves. They educated their children. They evaluated the conditions. They made difficult and risky decisions. The Association was named Mushuk Yuyay because that means New Thought. They looked at their reality with a new vision. First improving seed, then developing agroecological methods based on Indigenous knowledge mixed with scientific research. Despite lack of resources or outside assistance, the results were astounding.

Nicolás Pichazaca, founder of Mushuk Yuyay. He found my email address and contacted me in 2013.

These results were what convinced me to join their efforts when, after 50 years of absence, I received an invitation to finish what we had started in the Peace Corps in the 1960s. It will never be finished, but here we are, still going. With the spirit of service of the Friends of Ecuador, we will find more results. The task is, indeed, still towering. Not our task. That belongs to the people who are living it. We are here to help and encourage, to be in the middle of it.

To understand the struggle. And, every day, though I do this remotely, I feel like I’m still in the Peace Corps. First with improved seed, developed through traditional methods, then with homemade fertilizers, adapting to climate change, dealing with economic downturns, and the devastation of emigration, Mushuk Yuyay walked toward their goal.

After years of planning and negotiation, they were able to build a processing plant for their crops. They convinced BanEcuador to lend them money. They developed their own brand. Alli Mikuna means Good Food, and the products can be found throughout Ecuador. Heifer Project saw their work and has contributed machinery and conducted education programs in fertilizer production. Washington State University is conducting participatory research with Mushuk Yuyay in quinua and barley improvement. New varieties have been developed.

Probably most importantly for the economic stability of the region, Mushuk Yuyay is this year able to pay farmers cash for their crops at harvest. Farmers used to take whatever they could get, pay a coyote, and leave the country. Now farmers are supporting their families, buying seed and fertilizer, and planting again. Everybody complains about emigration. Mushuk Yuyay is doing something about it. Years ago, Ecuadorian universities had no interest in Indigenous farmers. Now university students are visiting and doing projects in the Cañari community. La Universidad del Azuay is helping to design the ecotourism facilities Mushuk Yuyay is building. Agricultural, business administration, anthropology, and even theater students have visited.

La Universidad del Azuay also facilitated the collaboration of the University of Milan, Italy to help Mushuk Yuyay develop pasta making utilizing quinua and amaranth in high protein products. The University of Milan sent a pasta making expert, a nutritionist, and machinery expert to advise in establishing the Mushuk Yuyay food lab.

Pasta expert from Milan instructing the local nutritionist and food product development specialist.

This would not happen without increased production. Emigration has caused a serious labor shortage. This has resulted in much crop land being converted to pasture for cattle which is causing an ecological disaster. Mushuk Yuyay is helping remaining farmers pool their labor and resources to plant more quinua.

There are 13 community savings and loan groups that are operating throughout the province of Cañar, even one in Azuay. Mushuk Yuyay is preparing them for support of TCP Global which works with Rotary Clubs worldwide. These groups are planting quinua and other crops that support Alli Mikuna. Now they have markets. One group is composed of returned emigres who bought land at the lower elevation of the province to produce coffee and cacao to flavor quinua products.

Pasual Pichazaca (left), administrator of Mushuk Yuyay, working with a savings and loan group.

As a result of this, quinua production and marketing has risen. Not sharply. One hectare, one bag, one dollar at a time. Not for export or profit, but for the health and well-being of the local population. They will not repeat the mistakes of other quinua producers who have ruined their land to squeeze one more dollar of sales out while the people suffer from malnutrition. Mushuk Yuyay’s motto is “Health is the best business.”

They swear that healthy eating got them through the pandemic. As mentioned above, others are noticing. Now, last year at the VIII World Quinua Congress in Potosí, Bolivia, Mushuk Yuyay was chosen to host the IX World Quinua Congress in March of 2025. This is tremendous honor, a wonderful opportunity, and gigantic challenge. Mushuk Yuyay is putting together a program celebrating the Andean origins, the worldwide present, and the wide open future of quinua. But, they are concentrating on the role of the farmer producer and the health of the consumer.

If you like to donate to Mushuk via Friends, you can visit Friends of Ecuador’s Donate page and PayPal link.

They are celebrating the cultural experience of Indigenous food production by bringing in producers from other Andean areas. They are hoping to include Indigenous peoples of other food traditions as well to show that there are viable alternatives to the globalized over processed products on the store shelves. This is going to be a truly unique World Quinua Congress.

From the sapi, the root, of the grains. I would like to invite Friends of Ecuador to be an integral part of this Congress. I would like to see Friends of Ecuador’s logo and name among the sponsors that will be celebrated during the Congress. Friends of Ecuador has done so much to help Mushuk Yuyay in the past.

If people want to participate by contributing individually or through Friends of Ecuador, they would be welcome to join. I am always ready to speak to anyone interested in Mushuk Yuyay of the Congress. Mushuk Yuyay is providing hope to the youth, job opportunities, economic stability for the region. It is a worthwhile investment for many reasons. Mushuk Yuyay is the good news in Ecuador.

Education workshop at Mushuk Yuyay

If you like to donate to Mushuk via Friends, you can visit Friends of Ecuador’s Donate page and PayPal link.

Mushuk Yuyay hosts the IX World Quinua Congress Read More »

Greetings from Friends of Ecuador 2024

Dear Friends of Ecuador Members,

It’s been a minute since we produced a new newsletter. We, Ecuador, and the world have been through a globe-altering pandemic. Peace Corps Volunteers were evacuated from posts all around the world and only recently returned to countries in March of 2022.

As many of you know, Ecuador experienced severe impacts of COVID in 2020, and it has more recently been beset by violence because of the rising presence of drug gangs. The new Ecuadorian president Noboa has his work cut out for him.

Amidst this, Peace Corps has returned to Ecuador and is sending volunteers back to posts. Friends of Ecuador continues to support projects in Ecuador. There are also some new short-term volunteer opportunities with Peace Corps Response in Ecuador that some of you may be interested in. They are in the climate and conservation space, one of them being in the Galápagos.

We are especially proud of our on-going partnership with Conciencia Amazónica and the various projects of RPCV David Goucher. Our newsletter features a story from him on their incredible work, and our newly rebuilt webpage features photos from some of their important conservation and sustainable agriculture work in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

We are also looking for a new treasurer (see the story in our newsletter) and get in touch if you are interested.

Josh Busby
President, Friends of Ecuador

Greetings from Friends of Ecuador 2024 Read More »

Conservation and Environmental Education in the Ecuadorian Amazon

This is a guest post from RPCV Dave Goucher, founder of Conciencia Amazónica.

In the province of Morona Santiago, more than 1000 species of birds have been observed and recorded on eBird (a database managed by Cornell University), representing more than half of the total species of birds in the entire country of Ecuador.  Throughout the last 50 years, on a global level, the observation of birds (known as “birding”) has become a tourism phenomenon, with the positive result of impulsing conservation of habitats to maintain and recuperate forests across the world.  In Ecuador, eco-tourism has been an important source of income specifically to the Galapagos Islands, but  over the last decade, adventurous tourists have made the most rural reaches of the Amazon their destinations to enjoy little explored areas.

CONCIENCIA AMAZÓNICA has made environmental education a primary goal of its foundation projects, using birding as an activity to captivate the younger generations.  Almost every child in any school in the province has a family member who owns a farm, primarily used for cattle production using non-sustainable, non-environmentally friendly ancestral practices.  While cattle production represents over half of the main source of income of the population, applying new methods and a new business model, model farms in San Juan Bosco are presented to demonstrate that an equilibrium between production and conservation is possible.  Visits to these farms include a detailed explanation of the processes undertaken to change pastures, improve beef genetics, as well as the “produce the best” business model, all while maintaining streams clean with natural reforestation, and the resulting re-establishment of flora and fauna.  A farm visit also entails observation of birds, insects, and any other creature encountered while walking the property, demonstrating first hand the abundance of biodiversity adjacent to cattle, as well as emphasizing the eco-tourism aspect of the farm, a sustainable and even profitable, alternative income generating activity.

Several videos have been produced based on resulting videos of wildlife cameras, completing the visit with the demonstration of an entire trophic chain reestablished in areas of conservation in just 10 years, including 2 natural corridors, reconnecting 2 previously isolated tracts of primary forest, to a much larger area of rainforest, allowing for repopulation of such animals as the South American Cougar (Puma concolor), the Mountain Tapir (Tapirus pinchaque), the Collared Peccary (Dicotyles tajacu), and even the rare Northern Pudu (Pudu mephistophiles).

Thanks to Jack and James Agett (RPCV, Ecuador 1966), a new Nature Preserve, Agett-Geary Nature Preserve, has been purchased, currently encompassing 2 cattle farms, forming 300 hectares (750 acres).  The Nature Preserve will be legally declared a Private Reserve and Bird Sanctuary following an extensive biodiversity assessment across the vast property, which ranges in altitude 3800 ft to over 10,000 ft above sea-level; at these altitudes, we expect to observe the rare Spectacled Bear, the only bear species in South America.  This area will be transformed into a large scale, model project of conservation, area of continual scientific study, and an ecotourism destination in the rural Amazon region of Ecuador.

FRIENDS OF ECUADOR has been an essential collaborator with Conciencia Amazonica; since 2020 during the pandemic, funds were raised in the US to assist isolated Amazon communities with essential food supplies, as well as seeds for producing familiar gardens.  Since then, our collaborations have resulted in 6 figure annual donations for community projects, environmental education, scientific investigations, as well as the Agett-Geary Nature Preserve.  Our areas of work have expanded now into 6 of the 12 counties in the Morona Santiago Province.









Conservation and Environmental Education in the Ecuadorian Amazon Read More »

Peace Corps Response Positions in Ecuador

Some great Peace Corps Response opportunities. There are some openings in Ecuador in the environment & climate sector that some of you may be interested in.

Open PCR positions

The Galapagos Conservancy Foundation in Ecuador has requested the support of a Peace Corps Response Volunteer (PCRV) to serve as a Conservation and Research Advisor. The Galapagos Conservancy Foundation promotes and carries out activities for conserving the habitat of the Galapagos Islands, as the region has already been impacted by climate change. The Galapagos Conservancy Foundation seeks to apply science to guide the restoration of existing giant tortoise populations and land iguanas by working directly with park rangers in monitoring activities in the tortoises’ life areas and in the management of the breeding center in captivity and private farms. The Foundation is planning to invest a greater effort in the San Cristobal Island where there are ten different populations of tortoises, and where the greatest number of threats to these populations still persist.

ChildFund International USA in Ecuador has requested the support of a Peace Corps Response Volunteer (PCRV) to serve as a Climate Change and Environmental Education Specialist. ChildFund works with children and adolescents to grow up healthy and in a safe space free of violence through educational programming. ChildFund operates in rural areas including Carchi, Pichincha, Imbabura, Cotopaxi and Tungurahua. In partnership with a local social nonprofit, the Federation of Community Organizations from Imbabura (FOCI), ChildFund intends to implement an environmental education curriculum for children and youth to generate awareness of climate change impact and care of the environment.

GAMMA in Ecuador has requested the support of a Peace Corps Response Volunteer (PCRV) to serve as a Conservation and Sustainability Advisor. GAMMA is a non-profit organization that works on conservation projects, which includes research, training, awareness and direct action for the care of high elevation meadows in the Adean region. GAMMA seeks to develop income generation alternatives and sustainable conservation policies through comprehensive conservation plans. At the Center for Encounters with Nature and Social Therapy (CEN), GAMMA supports clean energy systems for electricity generation and water management as well as income generation through ecological tourism.

Peace Corps Response Positions in Ecuador Read More »

New Friends of Ecuador Treasurer Needed

Volunteer Service Position Description:

Works with: Other Friends of Ecuador Board Members
Reports to: Friends of Ecuador Board

Overview of Position:

  • Submit annual affiliation payment to the National Peace Corps Association for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers/Friends of Ecuador affiliate. Provide a summary of work completed for the year.
  • Work with Board members to review and approve new project applications from persons in Ecuador. Provide donations to the approved projects as needed which includes donations from Friends of Ecuador (FOE) and other donations made to FOE on behalf of a designated project.
  • Transfer donations via WISE (secure international banking) or Western Union. Set up accounts if they do not already exist. Monitor the charges incurred for each expenditure.
  • Monitor the monthly bank statement and the PayPal account on the FOE Facebook site. Rectify the budget on a monthly basis. Provide information to the rest of the Board on a quarterly basis.
  • Develop a spreadsheet that monitors income and expenditures for each of the approved projects.
  • Send one-time donations as needed, typically through Western Union.
  • Provide an annual report to the Board which includes a Financial Statement and the spreadsheet.
  • Request and review annual reports from each of the approved project directors.
  • File taxes. The type of filing depends on the amount of money received in the calendar year.


  • Returned Peace Corps Volunteer with experience in Ecuador.
  • Ability to communicate in Spanish as needed – typically projects have been translated.
  • Ability to establish and monitor a spreadsheet.
  • Ability to e-file taxes or learn how to e-file taxes on a yearly basis.

You will be trained on how to use WISE and Western Union. Your name will be transferred to these accounts. Your name will also be transferred to the bank account and statements will come directly to you. Your name will be supplied to the NPCA.

If you are interested, please email

New Friends of Ecuador Treasurer Needed Read More »

Post 2016 Earthquake Project News

In 2016, Ecuador experienced a devastating earthquake on the coast in Manabí. Friends of Ecuador helped support Ouida Chichester with whom we had worked before with a small donation from the Elmo Foundation and a modest contribution from FOE. It was a few thousand dollars to support the work of Fundación Simón Palacios Intriago

We belatedly got a report back on how the funds were spent. The longer document in Spanish is attached, which includes a number of photos. Support was directed to disabled populations in particular. Our support helped provide food, clothing, mattresses, medications, diapers, kitchen utensils and other supplies to displaced families. Some 200 kits of cleaning supplies and food kits were distributed. An additional 180 food rations were provided to disabled persons and families with scarce resources in the two months after the earthquake.

We encourage folks to read the full document and all the photos.

Support also helped with some home repair. Some 80 families with disabled family members were beneficiaries of support on home repair, with the community volunteering their time.

Additional efforts supported educational outreach on post-disaster response and future earthquake protection measures.

Post 2016 Earthquake Project News Read More »

2020 Covid Update

Sorry for the long radio silence from Friends of Ecuador. Like many of you, we’ve been working from home for many months in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic. COVID also hit Ecuador pretty hard, particularly the city of Guayaquil which faced challenges of bodies on the streets.

The situation there has improved but Ecuador remains vulnerable:

“More than 10,000 deaths were recorded in Guayas, the province where Guayaquil is located, during March and April, according to government data. Officials said this was nearly 6,000 more deaths than typically recorded under normal circumstances, authorities said. It is still unclear, however, how many died of COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Many others are believed to have died because they were unable to get proper treatment due to the city’s collapsed healthcare system. The situation in Guayaquil has since mostly stabilised, and its strict quarantine eased, but the city continues to feel the virus’s lasting effects.”

We will endeavor to bring you more news on a regular basis in coming months. Please consider supporting the two projects featured this month Mushuk Yuyay and Conciencia Amazónica.

2020 Covid Update Read More »

Asociación Mushuk Yuyay: Fair Purchase of Cañari 2020 Native Grain Harvest

We encourage our Friends of Ecuador community to support Mushuk Yuyay, an organization we have worked with for several years. 

You can support them through the Ecuador Relief Fund here.

They are hoping to raise $35,000 but whatever support we can provide would be helpful.

The Asociación Mushuk Yuyay is an indigenous-led financial and agricultural cooperative located in the region of Cañar, Ecuador. The association employs a network of local producers to grow native staple crops such as quinoa and amaranth, the harvest of which is purchased by the association at a just price and sold under a commercial label named ‘Alli Mikuna’ – ‘Good Food’ in the native Kichwa language. This label sells their grains primarily to communities within Ecuador, but international purchasers have also shown interest in this nutritious food.

In May 2020, local producers in Cañar initiated the harvest of their staple crops and in June 2020 celebrate the FIESTA DE INTIRAYMI – Kañari festival of the Sun, in gratitude to the Earth Mother Pachamama for the harvest reaped.

During the 2020 harvests, the local production is anticipated to yield:

  • 180,000 Kilograms = 396,828 pounds of BARLEY
  • 21,600 Kilograms = 47,606 Pounds of QUINOA

Under normal circumstances, 40% of this crop is purchased by the Association Mushuk Yuyay, 30% saved for farmer consumption and seedstock, and 30% sold to the local market.

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the local markets have remained closed for sanitation purposes, and many producers are left with the question: where to sell the remaining 30% of the crop? With no other outlet of sale, local farmers will likely have to sell to middleman exporters rock-bottom rates for their traditional grain.

In response to this, the local producers in Cañar have requested Asociación Mushuk Yuyay raise funds to purchase the remaining 30% of the 2020 crop at a just price. This is the only available solution they see which does not lead to economic disruption and potential recession for the producers.

For this specific reason, Asociación Mushuk Yuyay has humbly requested donations from the international non-profit community in order to purchase the remaining 30% of this crop and protect their producers from economic exploitation by the export market.

Asociación Mushuk Yuyay: Fair Purchase of Cañari 2020 Native Grain Harvest Read More »

New Project Support – Conciencia Amazónica

Apologies for the radio silence from Friends of Ecuador. We’ve been using our Facebook page for regular news updates, and the coronavirus has made it challenging for us to be as active.

We have a new project to support from RPCV David Goucher, who served in Omnibus 94. Conciencia Amazónica is a new organization Dave is working with in the province of Morona Santiago to support an “Eco-Club.” You can donate on the link below and use the dropdown menu to specify Conciencia Amazónica. Your donations are tax deductible as FOE is a 501c3.

Conciencia Amazónica
Conciencia Amazónica was inaugurated on February 29, 2020, with the mission of working with local institutions to promote scientific education and artistic development across the Ecuadorian Amazon region.  While a Peace Corps Volunteer, the current president founded the EcoClub Siete Iglesias, which led to the establishment of Eco-tourism trails, scholarships for local valedictorians, and gave the necessary momentum to local authorities to establish a municipal ecological reserve.  Scholarship recipients have since graduated from national Universities, and now are professional biologists, schoolteachers, and play an active role as the new generation of community leaders and role models.

As a team comprised of a biologist, an environmental engineer, a cultural promoter, and a Dance Studio manager and expressive artist, Conciencia Amazónica now wants to promote the “Jungle as a Classroom” in the local schools and rural communities across the Ecuadorian Amazon, exploring the rich biodiversity with national and international scientists and artists, involving local leaders and school children alike, to educate environmental awareness and protection. 

We aim to empower local youth with knowledge of their surroundings, exploring from the microscopic level to the interaction of species across the ecosystem, providing unique opportunities for learning and artistic expression.  The flora and fauna from the rain forest will be the inspiration for painting, sculpture, theater, dance, and photography and other artistic means to teach the importance of conservation.  Promoting such activities will lead to income generating activities such as guided tours, eco-designs and artisan development, as well as employment in all ecotourism related activities, activating a new environmental consciousness, while respecting local traditions and customs.

Their Need

New Project Support – Conciencia Amazónica Read More »

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