Last Monday we visited San Francisco de Cotundo for the first environmental education class, led by Natalia, working for Andean Collection with the assistance of Lindsay from Runa Foundation and myself, who works for both. The class discussed the phenomenon of climate change and global warming in very general terms, as well as what different factors play a role in the growth process of plants and how this fits into the larger ecosystem. Most of the information being presented seemed to be new to them, all though the younger girls clearly did have some vague idea of what some of the terms entailed, as they have probably been discussed at some point in their education. The idea of processes on the other side of the world influencing the weather here and vice versa, seemed quite mind boggling to the artisans and it was only when I explained how my country might disappear for a great part if the icecaps melted, that some lightbulbs seem to light up. Additionally, they felt sorry for me and advised me to go get my family and move to Ecuador asap… Funnily enough though, their greatest fear for us was not that we would drown, but that we would be eaten by boas. I tried to explain to them that we don’t have boas, but they decided I just hadn’t seen them (yet) but that there is no such thing as “no boas”.
The second community we visited was San Pedro de Chimbiyacu. Most of the information seemed to be familiar to the artisans, all though not all could explain it in their own words. It was clear however that there had been classes like ours here before, as they knew all about organic pesticides (aji with water i.e.) and fertilizers. Also, they became very enthusiastic when they saw that Lindsay had brought a bag of dirt with earthworms, because they knew the value of these little creatures for the quality of the ground. Lindsay’s earthworms additionally taught me two things: 1) All though people from Napo eat fat, white grubs (alive) without thinking about it twice, they are terrified of earthworms…. 2) There is a rumor going round that we (gringos) eat earthworms ourselves and that they grow to be the size of snakes… I’m telling you, these snakes (boas) are everywhere!
On Tuesday it was the turn of the ladies from Nueva Esperanza. I think this class was the most interesting one for Natalia, as there was quite a lot of interaction. Also, because most of the people present knew so much already, we got to go discuss the topics a little more in depth. It is incredible how big the differences between communities can be, even though they are practically neighbors and also how much one dedicated person can influence the atmosphere in a group of people. The presidenta of the artisans of Nueva Esperanza is such an inspiring person who grabs every opportunity that comes along with both hands and has shown the ladies around her what empowerment really is. If Kichwa people weren’t so fond of their private space (as I am as well, I must say) I would give her a hug.