Presentation on Gender and the Environment

EkoRural’s work in the Central Highlands of Ecuador is mostly with women farmers. This past Women’s Day on March 8th, one of EkoRural’s interns, Ginette Walls, gave a presentation on Gender and the Environment. She discussed feminist theory, the difference between gender and sex, and between masculinity and femininity. Ginette presented a timeline of the theories and movements around gender and the environment. Prominent individuals and movements mentioned included Rachel Carson, Vandana Shiva, Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement, and the Chipko movement. Also discussed was the treatment of gender within international environmental treaties and efforts such as the UNFCCC, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Ginette presented three topics demonstrating the intersection of gender and environment, and the importance of doing gender analyses when looking at environmental and energy issues. One example was the gender and national disasters (which are being exacerbated by climate change) and the 2004 Indonesian tsunami. Some villages saw fatality rates of 69 – 80% for women. Many of the reasons for this high, gendered death toll is that many of the women were at home, many caring for children or elderly. Men, who were not at home and were not responsible for others during the time the tsunami hit, did not have such high death rates. Another example discussed was the 2016 earthquake in Ecuador, and the different needs based on gender post-disaster. Pregnant women were at risk of Zika, national disasters also increase rates of sexual and gender-based violence, and gender roles were challenged during rebuilding and reconstruction. An additional topic was land tenure; in 59% of countries, there are laws that guarantee women the same rights as men to own, use, and control the land, but they are not implemented. Traditional practices, customs, or religion determine this, and these discriminate against women from having these rights to land.

Regarding the status of the field today, Ginette mentioned UNEP’s focus on three priorities regarding gender: 1. Right to land, natural resources, and biodiversity, 2. Access to food, energy, water, and sanitation, and 3. Welfare: climate change, sustainable consumption and production, and health. She also noted how gender-disaggregated data (GDD) has become a priority, which is crucial. Without GDD, environmental analyzes remain inadequate and biased, while setting baselines, monitoring progress and evaluating results are almost impossible. There has been an increase in the use of intersectional gender analysis in the development world, and with environmental assessments. However, the representation of women in global formal policies, programs, and projects on gender and environment is slow and uneven. Within policymaking and development, there is still more focus on women – gender as synonymous for women, rather than an examination of the masculine / feminine and how the intersectionality of identities influence decisions and shape opportunities in life and relationships with the environment.

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Seed Banks, Natural Fiber & Color Tint Plants In Padrehuasi









Padrehuasi is a small rural community of about 50 inhabitants in the highlands of Cotopaxi. In Padrehuasi the villagers cultivate among other things, fibers and color tints from a natural plant. This in order to fabricate artisanal works from the fibers and tints elsewhere. EkoRural in cooperation with a CBO (community based organization) named CINEP and the local artisanal fiber Association ‘Simiatug Samai’ have been implementing a project called “Tejiendo Vidas” in order to reach two main goals. The first goal is to improve and preserve the soil conservation of the land. The second goal is to increase the biodiversity of the local farmers in Padrehuasi.

Natural Fiber and Color Tint Plants

About every four months an evaluation session is being organized in the community to keep updated about the progressions and to be able to reflect on the entire process of the project or adjust where necessary. In a recent evaluation the villagers of Padrehuasi took us on a transect walk to show and talk about their progressions. Various types of the fiber and color tint plants we have seen during this two-hour walk. Such as the Cabuya plant, used to cultivate the fibers. Also, the Chanchi and Shilca used to cultivate color tints. Furthermore, another type of plant named Tocte has been introduced during this visit as an experiment. This plant takes up to ten years to get ready to produce these color tints but might show to be more cost-effective than other types of it’s kind who usually take up to two or three years to produce. The Tocte (Nogal) plant is actually multi-functional since the seeds of this plant can be consumed as well as be utilized for the seed banks. Moreover, the wood of the Tocte plant has also its purpose.

Training Session about Gender

After an impressive transect walk a participatory training was provided by Ecopar to inform villagers on the themes “gender” and “equity”. Both themes bring up daily complications for especially the woman in Padrehuasi. Nonetheless, both men and women joined the training and as you can see on the photos below.

Ecopar is a Non Governmental Organization contracted by the PPD (Programa de Pequeñas Donaciones del PNUD) to give their technical opinion. The PPD is the main funder of this project.









Bancos Communitarios de Semillas (Seed Banks)

Another interesting topic discussed during this evaluation session concerned ‘Bancos Comunitarios de Semillas’ a strategy in order to conserve and promote community based management of agro-biodiversity. The villagers of Padrehuasi are still getting to know the concept but are starting with the seeds of the Tocte (Nogal) plant to experience and learn more about savings and auto-sustainablility. The mechanism being implemented by EkoRural is called “2 x 1” and permits isolated communities like PadreHuasi to capitalize step by step.

Tejiendo Vidas: An Opportunity for Sharing and Learning

Bag made from local natural Cabuya fiber

Tejiendo Vidas is a project focusing on the sustainable production of artisanal goods in the communities of Padrehuasi and Samiatug Samai. This includes an agro-ecological approach to cultivating the Cabuya plant, which provides the natural fibers. The objective of Tejiendo Vidas is to diversify and stregthen artisan products made of Cabuya fibers as a strategy to improve sustainable production systems.

On Friday June 8, 2012 Program Director Miriam Gonzales and community leaders involved in the EkoRural project Tejiendo Vidas (Weaving Lives) participated in an exchange of experiences with organizations working in the Ecuadorian Highlands on projects funded by the United Nations Small Donations Programs (PPD). This day provided an opportunity for Tejiendo Vidas program staff and program participants to engage in a participatory dialogue as they come to the end of this two year project.

Miriam and Luis

The conversation, facilitated by the Ecuadorian nonprofit Ecopar, was centered around local sustainable development as part of a global movement. Each project had the opportunity to share lessons learned, challenges, and success stories from the past two years.  Other projects represented included APRODIC and UNOCIGS, both of which are focused on sustainable agriculture and the recovery of native seeds as a means of cultural preservation and revitalization in the highland areas.


All participants noted that uniting organizations around a common objective, exchanging lessons learned during farmer to farmer workshops, and sharing experiences with other communities were some of the most important and successful strategies for accomplishing their project goals.

Participants that cultivate the Cabuya  such as Luis, added that learning agro-ecological practices was what most helped them sustain their work.  Meanwhile, participants involved in producing the artisan goods explained the importance of being able to use a traditional natural fiber to maintain and recover cultural knowledge and skills.

Sharing about Simiatug and Padrehuasi

For Tejiendo Vidas, cultivating Cabuya for fibers and other native plants for their dyes, and then producing artisan goods for national and international consumption provides increased economic opportunities and access to markets.  At the same time, they have utilized practices that have helped conserve biodiversity, soils, natural resources, and mitigate erosion.

The project is a an example of how EkoRural is working on strengthening and diversifying artisan goods as a strategy for sustainable biodiversity and soil conservation.  If you’re interested in learning more, see photos here or purchase artisanal products through Natural Maqui.

Artisan goods from Simiatug Samai