One day at the market of a ‘Canasta Comunitaria’ in Riobamba
Every two weeks a market with local products from small producers living in the highlands around Riobamba is being organized in the city Riobamba, Chimborazo. The concept of this initiative is called a ‘Canasta Comunitaria’ and is organized by the foundation Utopia, which is a non-governmental partner organization of EkoRural. Canasta Comunitaria literally means community basket, and stands for the bags filled with fruits, vegetables and other local products offered at this small market. Every few weeks Canastas Comunitarias are being held in different cities all around Ecuador with the purpose to improve the relationship between the consumers in the city and the small producers living in the rural area (el campo).
Utopia manages about 100 families who are living in Riobamba and are members of this initiative. The members who would like to join the Canasta on Saturday can subscribe in the two weeks before the actual Canasta, so Utopia knows about how many baskets they should prepare for the Canasta Comunitaria. Together with the local producers Utopia communicates about which products, the quality and quantity of products to bring down for the Canasta. More or less about 50-60% of the total products that make part of the Canasta come from local producers. The other 40% is being purchased from what is called ‘el Mercado Mayorista’. This is a large market where thousands of local producers, not only from the highlands but also from the coast, are coming to sell their products. The only reason the Canastas or ‘baskets’ are not 100% filled with products from small producers is because they do not cultivate such a large variety of crops to fill the Canastas. To be able to offer the consumer a greater variety of products in their Canasta some products such as, tropical fruits are bought at the Mercado Mayorista. It is a great experience to visit a big market like el Mayorista. There is a lot of negotiation going on between the buyers and sellers. Either these ‘sellers’ are producers or mediators but it is always wise to buy directly from the producers themselves to get the best price. On the photos below you can see how such a market operates.
Another interesting part of the whole process of a Canasta Comunitaria is the selection of products for quality and quantity, which is done by the producers themselves at their own plot. On the photos below you can see one of the communities (Tzimbuto, Licto) involved in the Canasta Comunitaria, where some of the villagers are selecting potatoes, herbs and cultivating their land. The selection happens usually one day before the actual Canasta day and early the next morning, one or two of the villagers will bring the products down to Riobamba to be sold at the Canasta. This logistical part is still complicated for both the small farmers, Utopia and other Canasta Comunitaria organizations, and yet there has to be found a solution to solve this complication.
Than finally the actual day of the Canasta has awaken and early in the morning (around 6.00am) volunteers mainly from ‘El Grupo Cero’ gather to help organize a beautiful ‘Canasta Comunitaria’. (El Grupo Cero exists of six to eight members of the Canasta Comunitaria and organizes themes such as, the logistics, evaluation etc.) The products bought at the Mercado Mayorista and the products from the small local producers need to be divided equally in ‘los Canastas’ so all consumers share the same volume for the same price. Utopia takes the lead and manages everyone to get ready in time for the consumers who subscribed for the Canasta. On the photos below you can see the end product of such an important initiative as a Canasta Comunitaria.
All in all, the Canasta Comunitaria is a great initiative to bring consumer and small local producer closer to one another. This in order to shorten the value chain without the unnecessary intermediates, and to share knowledge & experiences. Through initiatives like the Canasta Comunitaria people from the city will not forget what they consume neither where their food comes from, and more importantly the small local producers have an opportunity to keep doing what they do best, cultivating delicious agro-ecological products!
Bring a visit and experience yourself!
Watch this video to experience a little how a Canasta Comunitaria is organized.