A story about collective learning, women initiative and community development.
The small village of Quinticusig is perched high atop an Andean ridge overlooking deep green ravines in the remote region of Sigchos in Ecuador. Here, the people have been subsistence farming on land that has been harvested in common for generations. Seeking ways to diversify the local economy and to offer a means by which their children can stay and earn a living off the land, a few years ago they started to produce Mortiño (blueberry) wine by harvesting the wild blueberries that grow high in the cloud forest of the region.
The inhabitants of Quinticusig have always known the qualities and potential of the Mortiño and have used it for generations. Willing to spread and share its benefits but also to create their own means of life, in 2012 around 20 women of this community decided to establish the Mortiño’s Wine Producers Association, a cooperative organization that produces a tasty artisanal wine, a unique local product, organic, rich in nutrients and in medicinal properties.
The path to success
Mortiño Wine Producers Association is fully dedicated to the harvesting and processing of wild blueberries (mortiño), the production of mortiño’s wine and its regional commercialization.
Community Evolution Foundation started supporting them in 2015. In this first funding stage, we provided training to improve their business skills, to strengthen their co-operative organization and to develop their business and maketing plans that can help them achieve their aims. With our help, they defined their organizational objectives and strategies, obtained new skills and increased their members.
In 2016 they were ready to take a more ambitious step: the construction of a wine production plant to increase their product quality and increase their production capacity. They organized and managed to obtain support from the provincial government in order to build the processing plant and, at the end of the year, they applied for CEF funding to cover the costs of the new equipment that would be required. CEF approved to fund them, providing capital partially as a grant and as a low-interest loan.
They harvest Mortiño and produce a delicious sweet wine under the brand ‘El último Inca’.
The association has currently 28 members, with a majority of women (18). Most of his members belong to the ‘Mestizos’ ethnic group (24), and the rest of them (4 seniors) are native indigenous of this area.
This community organization was founded in 2012 and it is registered at the local Superintendence of Popular and Solidarity Economy.
They are located in the community of Quinticusig, canton of Sigchos, Cotopaxi province, Ecuador.
A thriving community-based business in the heart of the Inca legacy
When they started their activity, their production was completely artisanal and they were selling an average of 200 bottles of Mortiño’s wine per year. At the end of 2017, they were producing an average of 6.500 bottles of wine annually, bringing in an average annual income of 39.000USD for the association. Their bottles of wine are branded as ‘El último Inca’ -‘The last Inca’ in English- as a homage to Sigchos’ Inca legacy. The region where this delightful product is elaborated by a thriving co-operative business is also the location that has hosted the latest discoveries of a very special Inca construction: it is allegedly the place where the body of the last Inca emperor Atahualpa might have been taken to be paid tribute and rest for the eternity, after being killed by the Spanish ‘conquistador’ Francisco Pizarro.
Mortiño’s Wine Producers Association is happily growing a sucessful business, democratically controlled by its members and willing to collaborate to support a economic development strategy for their region. As part of their next steps, they are now working to improve their administrative skills; to obtain a sanitary certificate so in order to be able to export the wine; to equip and properly set their processing plant in order to increase their volume of production up to 15.000 bottles of wine per year; and to collaborate with the community-based tourism project CEF is also supporting in the region, to become a part of the main touristic attractions of Sigchos: a locally-made, organic and delicious product elaborated in the heart of the Equatorian Inca legacy.