This week, we went to a small community northwest of Quito named Yunguilla. Yunguilla is a community that serves as a model of ecotourism in Ecuador. After arriving at the community, we learned about its history…
Originally, Yunguilla was a community where people cut trees in order to burn this. With the burned trees, they made coal to sell in the city of Quito. At this time in Quito, there was no gas to warm houses or cook food. Also, at this time people in the community made alcohol illegally to sell in the city as well. This went on for many years, but after the introduction of gas and road (which made alcohol transport from other places easier), the community had to find other options for making money. A conservation group approached the community at this time and suggested that the allow reforestation. This would help to bring tourists and money into the community. At first, many people didn’t want to work with foreigners, but 18 families decided to try it. These families had to learn about what the tourists liked and didn’t like. There were workshops on tourism, and each of these families began to earn money. After seeing that other families were earning money, the ecotourism business in Yunguilla took off with other families.
The first day in Yunguilla, we toured the property of the community. We learned so much about the organic garden there and varios native plants to the region. After orientation, we played on two huge rope swings. They both were located at the top of steep drop offs, and we could see the whole valley from them. It was a really incredible view, and we laughed a lot while playing on the swings. After this, we met our new host families and played soccer against the community. Obviously, we lost by a lot, but it was really fun and everyone had a great time.
The second day we worked in the community. Two other students and I learned to make cheese. We really weren’t able to do it that great, but we were super impressed with how talented the people that worked there were. Afterwards, we planted grass on a community trail to prevent erosion. At night, we played soccer again and won! But…we won agains mostly children from the community. Still, it was really fun and the kids were super curious about the world outside of the community.
The third day, another student from the program and I helped our host dad build a fence on his property. We used branches from a tree called “The Dairy Tree” to make it. This tree has branches that can grow after being cut. So, the sticks that we put in the ground for the fence will grow after the fence is finished, and the branches from these poles can be used to make more fences. It’s a fence that makes other fences! It was a really hard job and we hurt our hands a lot. At night, there was a goodbye celebration for us and we danced a lot with the community.
On the fourth day, we milked a cow! I couldn’t do it very well but I did it! Then, we returned to Quito to prepare for our last week in the city.