Kristin Katchmar - May 2018

Hola a todos! Me llamo Kristin Katchmar y soy estudio agroecology. (Hello everyone! My name is Kristin Katchmar and I am a student of agroecology.) I am a student at Montana State University in the Land Resources and Environmental Sciences Department. My internship consists of a four-week course in Ecuador with a group of 12 women and my advisor Wendy Bianchini.

I am performing an assessment of the dietary diversity and sustainability for the Organized Community of Yunguilla. This will involve two surveys and a nutrition assessment of their local restaurant. One survey will be a dietary diversity survey assessing the general diet of males and females of the community over 18 years old. The other survey asks a variety of questions intended to compile the community’s definition of sustainable living and sustainable tourism. The nutrition assessment of the local restaurant will consist of research on the nutritional qualities of the ingredients, where the ingredients are sourced from, and how they are disposed of. All the data collection for my research will be done over a three-week period in Yunguilla, Ecuador.

                 

I have spent the first week of my internship in Quito, Ecuador taking Spanish lessons for three hours a day and participating in different cultural experiences. Some of these experiences included visiting the Historic City Center of Quito, visiting the Otavalo market, experiencing a traditional spirit cleansing by an Indigenous shaman, and riding horses through the high alpine Paramo on the Pichincha Volcano.  The purpose behind this first week was to gain an understanding of the culture and way of life in Ecuador while also learning some basic Spanish speaking skills so that we can communicate with our host families.

                

I have several expectations for my summer internship. My first expectation is to collect and organize information that is beneficial and usable by the community of Yunguilla. I would also like to put together a Spanish/English menu that includes nutritional information for the local restaurant they just opened last year. Another goal is to provide them with information and learning initiatives based around the specific dietary needs of their community. Through this internship I would like to gain several professional skills such as competency in sustainable community development, a better understanding of my cultural lens, the ability to work through language barriers, and a better understanding of the research process especially as it relates to the intertwining of communities and the food sources they rely on. Throughout this entire experience I would like to remain focused on the needs of the community. This means that some of my expectations may have to be modified or changed completely and I will need to be ready to adapt to the need to of community because they are the most important piece of this project.

                

This internship and project are both based around the concepts of sustainable community development and cultural competency. Sustainable community development means that the community is planned, built, or modified to promote a way of life that sustains the land and people of the community in a way that the can be maintained over many generations. As outsiders, eager to assist the developing community, we must take the time to immerse ourselves in the local community and do the research to understand their language, history, social structure, diet, and a variety of other important aspects that make up a community before we seek to aid. This is the definition of the cultural competency piece.

                     

The limited timeline and language barrier are both challenges for completing this research.  However, I have a great support group so hopefully I will be able to collect and compile all the information I need effectively. A major aspect of this project is learning as much as possible about ecotourism, farming, and community development as it occurs in Yunguilla and Ecuador in general. These three things are also relevant in Montana, so I would like to bring this information back to the United States to compare the results to approaches we have in the U.S. and Montana specifically. I have already had the chance to meet so many local stewards of the land in Ecuador and I am looking forward to starting my research and working with the people of Yunguilla.

                     

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