Workers harvest blueberries in the highlands

Partner in Ecuador hopes to increase wine sales by 25 per cent

By Glauce Fleury

The holidays are not the only reason to celebrate this time of the year in Quinticusig, a village of 600 people located 125 kilometres from Quito, capital of Ecuador. December is also the best month to sell their unique wine. Made of mortiños, which are similar to the wild blueberries found in Canada, this wine is the main product sold by one of our partners, the Asociación de Productores y Comercializadores Agropecuarios de Quinticusig (a producers’ association).

“El Último Inca” was named after the indigenous people who ruled an empire in South America.

“We hope to surpass last year’s sales, and sell around 40,000 bottles,” says Daniel Catota, regional project coordinator who represents Community Evolution Foundation (CEF) in Ecuador. He provides local guidance to the Ecuadorian projects we support. If their goal is reached, the increase will top the 2018 sales by 25 per cent, great news for the community enterprise, which became our partner in 2015.

With the funding and assistance from CEF, the association has received training to both improve their members’ skills and develop their business and marketing plans. They were also able to buy equipment for their new production plant. “Apart from training and knowledge, machinery and funds have been important to make our product more professional and add better quality,” says Flavio Sigcha, supervisor and administrator of the wine plant.

According to Sigcha, the association has helped protect the environment, which nowadays is one of the top priorities worldwide. Before, the land was used mainly to raise cattle. “Cattle is very destructive to our highlands, and can harm our native crops,” he says. The change was relevant because blueberries are harvested by hand and left to grow naturally with no use of pesticides or similar substances. The results? The community enterprise produces a wine that’s completely organic.

Blueberries
Mortiños are similar to the wild blueberries found in Canada.

Fair and sustainable
The establishment of the association as a community enterprise has provided the village with a fair and sustainable source of income, says Sigcha. Its members can now stay in Quinticusig, instead of migrating to larger cities in search of better opportunities and wages. The wine production has also led to the need for more bottles, corks and labels. Consequently, more job opportunities have been created, which is a benefit to other Ecuadorians living outside the village.

Buying blueberries at a fair price has helped farmers from other areas too, including Chugchilán and Amanta. Here’s an example: in 2012, when the association started its operations, farmers were paid only US$5.00 for 80 kg of blueberries. Since 2017, they’ve been paid US$92.00 for the same quantity. “We’re creating a delicious wine, providing steady jobs and a sense of community, and improving the community as a whole,” says Sigcha.

According to him, CEF has been one of the most important factors in the development of the wine-making facility and business. “I have a stable job and fixed income that has allowed me to work within my community,” he says. Members have received training in administration and production, and the necessary equipment to advance their process. “Without CEF, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

CEF is living its mission: enabling community-based enterprises to develop, grow and create positive change, and we count on you to help us. To learn more, contact us at hello@communityevolutionfoundation.org

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