Ecuador: Agrarian revolution in the midst of crisis COVID

With the COVID-19 crisis, the Ecuadorian nation state, like many other failed states, panicked and its reactions were late, with omissions and negligence towards its civilian population. For example, two months ago, salaries to state workers were suspended , but they have not stopped paying the foreign debt, nor have they suspended oil and mining extractive activities.

The absence of the state has led local governments (those with the legitimacy of popular representation) to take exemplary initiatives that are helping to alleviate the crisis and even create alternatives to the colonial vision of dependence on capitalist development.

In the southern Ecuadorian province of Azuay, indigenous prefect Yaku Pérez Guartambel, a historic defender of water, land and indigenous rights, has taken advantage of the COVID crisis to restructure his government’s priorities, address the basic needs of the population and generate a solidarity economy focused on local agroecology. It is a truly revolutionary action: to generate immediate changes based on the philosophy of good living.

Who is Yaku Perez Guartambel

Photo: Prefecture of Azuay

Prefect Yaku Pérez was president of the Confederation of Kichwa Peoples of Ecuador ECUARUNARI, and president of the Federation of Indigenous and Peasant Organizations of Azuay. As a defender of nature, and in particular, of water in Quimsacocha against mining activities, he was arrested no less than six times during the government of Rafael Correa. Thanks to his leadership, and more than a decade of struggle, voters rejected transnational mining in Quimsacocha with 86% of the vote in a popular consultation.

This leadership led Yaku Perez to win the prefecture of Azuay in May 2019, under the banner of the indigenous party Pachakutik. His promises as a candidate included expanding the ban on mining throughout the province, through popular consultations, and taking initiatives that protect the environment and put food sovereignty above extractive profit and economic dependence on transnational corporations.

The mission of its prefecture describes these actions as a Radical Democracy, “understood as the right to opinion, the capacity to decide and the incidence of the community in the management of the government of the territory, with equity and good living.”

Food Sovereignty in Action

With the COVID pandemic, Prefect Yaku has concentrated efforts on building a new form of government focused on collaboration with farmers, small entrepreneurs and local human talent. There has also been an effort in this crisis to save lives and disease prevention over public works.

Building forms of popular power, the prefecture of Azuay involved the population from the beginning, respecting social distancing, to create free “solidarity baskets” and “agroecological baskets” at affordable prices, composed of grains, vegetables and local products, which are delivered house to house. More than 50,000 baskets have been delivered so far.

#ConvidamosSolidaridad 🤲🏽
We have reached 38,000 families with a drop of hope, #Yupaichani, many thanks to those who day by day come to the Province House with their contributions. 🤗💙

#WeAreWater #Yakumikanchik

Posted by Prefectura Azuay on Tuesday, April 21, 2020

With the slogan, “If the country doesn’t produce, the city doesn’t eat,” we have been able to support agricultural producers and even promote technologies to deliver plant seedlings to farmers and thus facilitate greater food quality and production. It has also been done in cooperation with local bakers’ unions.

Delivery of seedlings to farmers
Photo: Prefecture of Azuay
Delivery of seedlings to farmers
Delivery of seedlings to farmers. Photo: Prefecture of Azuay

From the prefecture, it has been promoting the creation of diverse relationships between the municipalities of its province, and interactions with other provinces, in fact creating new forms of alternative economies, even without handling financial resources, but with the exchange of labor in exchange for resources and food.

Other provincial governments, such as El Oro and Pasto, were invited to recover the indigenous practice of bartering or, if there is a need to charge, to do so at fair prices. In this way, cold climate production such as potatoes, grains, vegetables and eucalyptus are shipped and warm climate products such as bananas, lemons, oranges and other crops are received, thus eliminating intermediaries and protecting small producers.

In this way, the solidarity economy has been reactivated, in the sense of fair and community trade.

“We recovered the use of barter to help the economies of our regions in this time of crisis,”
said the prefect. In response to accusations that he is playing politics, he affirms, “yes, we play the politics of solidarity, of hope, the politics of life, of the brotherhood of peoples…”.

Faced with the terrible humanitarian crisis in Guayaquil, where the population and the government have been overwhelmed with the number of victims, the prefecture in Azuay called for a minga (voluntary community collective work) and collected more than 45 tons of food that was sent in solidarity to the city of Guayaquil, to be distributed by social organizations.

The caring hands of the Azuayans cultivate the products that the Pachamama gives us.
We sent 45 tons of food that will be distributed among our brothers and sisters in Guayaquil who need it most.


Published by Prefectura Azuay on Thursday, April 9, 2020

In addition to these efforts, public education has been added to put water protection above transnational interests in extractive resources. For Prefect Yaku, the fight in defense of water is more important today than ever, not only because “mining is incompatible with the preservation of water” but also because, “the WHO has said that coronavirus is a consequence of pollution and deforestation, as well as other anthropogenic activities in ecosystems.”

In the absence of the central government, the Azuay community, led by Prefect Yaku, is changing power relations by promoting sustainability, food sovereignty and solidarity economy.

These are structural changes that are likely to continue long after the pandemic is over.