Kristin Katchmar - July 2018

Over the last month I have been dissecting and evaluating the information I collected while in Yunguilla, Ecuador. I have been working through my interviews and dissecting the information I have acquired. Most of my research is done on my days off because I am also working a full-time waitressing job.

I have found that the diet of the people of Yunguilla is very well balanced. The averages of the 24-recall survey are within the Daily Recommended Intakes (DRI) for all three macronutrients. Overall, the household diets of Yunguilla are very well rounded, but I am still working through determining micronutrient averages.

I have also begun to compile the results of the socio-ecological sustainability interviews. I was mainly looking at how the community defines sustainability, indicators of sustainable success, their governance system, actors, resource units, and resource systems. The community governs themselves through the organization of Yunguilla as well as a community president and representatives. They make any major decisions through a unanimous vote by all adult community members. Their major source of income is tourism and many of the older community members who no longer work regularly rely on the homestays of tourists as their main source monthly income. The other material goods create income for the community members that are part of that direct system. For example, the cheese factory creates income for the people producing the milk, making the cheese, and distributing the cheese.

Almost every one of the interviewees definition of sustainable success included the resources they have access to now stay the same or improving so that future generations have access to these resources and a high quality of life. This is surprisingly similar to the United Nation’s definition of sustainability, “A sustainable food system is a dynamic process in which achieving food and nutrition security today should also contribute to food and nutrition security for future generations (Compendium).” From these interviews and my observations from my time living in the community, the people of Yunguilla have a clear grasp on their current and future goals for sustainability in their community and these goals line up very nicely with the recommendations of the UN’s recommendations.

Overall, I’ve had a summer research experience full of highs, lows, and a lot of learning throughout. I had so much fun working in the community of Yunguilla. From trekking up and down steep mountain sides replanting trees to interviewing the oldest community members, I feel like I got to experience the full range of what Yunguilla had to offer. However, it was also incredibly hard to leave after only three short weeks.

This was my very first official research experience and the biggest lesson I learned was to overestimate the time you need to complete your research. Something that I didn’t do with my research. When I was coming up with research ideas, three weeks seemed like so much time. But, while I was in those three weeks and afterwards, I have come to realize just how short of a time frame that really is. I know I could have spent three months in Yunguilla and probably felt this way, but I do think that narrowing my focus would have improved my research a lot.

I thoroughly enjoyed participating in and observing the practices in Yunguilla. They have strong values and a true desire to continue to improve their community and the land they steward. Every single person I interviewed expressed their sincere desire to leave the land in better condition that it is now so that their children have the opportunity to profit from the land as they have. The connection that these people have to the land feeds their desire to learn about what they can do better and differently to improve the land and through the land, their lives.

As I finish out this research experience, I have learned a lot about the discipline required to finish out a project after the fun part is done. It takes a lot of time to read through hand written notes, research individual food items to figure out their nutrition information, and all the other little things that go along with compiling results. Doing write-ups and setting up excel spread sheets isn’t nearly as fun as gardening and making meals with my host family, but it is just as vital of a part of my project.

My research should be completed by the end of July. However, a main part of my project was to provide preliminary observations to the community of Yunguilla to use in the future. Before I left Yunguilla I provided them with a file that contained the dietary pamphlet and poster that my group created while we were there. I will also be sending them the dietary diversity results as well as a compilation of the data collected and evaluated in the Socio-ecological sustainability interviews. 

There are many students that come to Yunguilla to perform research and work in the community because of its success as an ecotourism community. By providing the leadership of the Yunguilla organization with my results it will give them information that they could provide to future students and researchers, as well as ideas for projects they would like to start or continue.

Before this experience I had planned to go straight into a career after I graduated in the spring, but I am now considering going back to graduate school. This trip and research brought up a lot of questions about what I want my future to look like and I would like to do more work in plant and soil sciences and eventually consulting. With these goals it makes a lot more sense for me to continue my education instead of beginning a career right away.

Overall, this research opportunity has been one of the highlights of my undergraduate career. I have learned not only about Yunguilla’s diet, their opinions of the sustainability of their community, and their views on ecotourism, but also about myself. Being immersed in a different culture and having a chance to work and learn with a community is an invaluable experience.

Sources:

Compendium —Final Report Zero Hunger Challenge Working Groups. (n.d.). Retrieved February 07, 2018, from http://www.un.org/en/issues/food/taskforce/pdf/All food systems are sustainable.pdf

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