Since 1995, staff from Ecuador’s National Institute of Agricultural and Livestock Research (INIAP) have worked with farmers in 17 communities in a remote Andean area to provide them seed of improved cultivars of several crops, mini-credit, and training about profitable and sustainable farming. Subsistence farmers in Saraguro now obtain several times their previous yields for small grains, potatoes, maize, and peas, and their average incomes have increased from US$1 to US$2 per day. With food security assured, farmers are requesting seed of varieties with enhanced market value and moving to cash crops such as onions, tomatoes, or fruits.
The project began when Hugo Vivar, former ICARDA barley breeder posted for many years at CIMMYT, worked with INIAP breeder Jorge Coronel, to introduce a new, highyielding barley variety to the area. On the heels of that barley’s success, Vivar has helped channel seed of improved drought-tolerant wheat from former CIMMYT wheat breeder Richard Trethowan’s research, and an excellent quality protein maize (QPM) variety now being used in food programs for children at two rural schools and sold as green ears by farmers for extra income.
Coronel, who grew up on a farm in Biblian, Cañar Province, Ecuador, studied at the University of Cuenca, in southern Ecuador, has been leading work in Saraguro since the project’s inception, and is a well-known and welcome figure in villages throughout the mountainous Andean valley. As a young researcher in 1991, Coronel took a six-month training course at CIMMYT in Mexico and was especially impressed by the Center’s philosophy concerning the need to work with and for farmers. “I really enjoy what I do here and the fantastic thing is that I get paid for it,” he says.