Quito: A food system put to the test in the pandemic

Quito: A food system put to the test in the pandemic

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Two years after its creation, the Quito Agrifood Pact (PAQ) has become an international reference point. Made up of 25 organisations, it brings together the voices of a large number of actors in the food system, and based on its work, the Ecuadorian capital has been sharing lessons and challenges on how to feed the city during COVID-19.

How did the contributions of actors such as Rikolto, ConQuito, and RUAF Global Partnership serve to give continuity to the work in the midst of the pandemic?

Mapping out food insecurity

The generation of knowledge is one of the pillars of the work around the PAQ since it was studied as a background on the contributions of private representatives to the food system (RUAF, Rikolto: 2016). The mapping produced based on geographic information from Quito's agri-food strategy (2018) served during the first months of the health crisis to locate vulnerable points in the city: where people in need of weekly food assistance (people with disabilities, older adults and people living in poverty) were located.

The information also helped in the reactivation of shops for the provision of products to the neighbourhoods.

Currently, the General Secretariat of Planning of the city of Quito is using Quito's agri-food vulnerability assessment to move towards the construction of a specific strategy linked to the issue of resilience.

The research focuses on four axes of food security: difficulty in accessing food, deficiency in availability, inadequate food and non-permanent food supply.

This analysis is of great relevance as it allows us to understand it before such an event occurs, and then to identify the possible consequences and actions to be taken during emergencies, to create a more resilient, sustainable and equitable food system

David Jácome Director of Resilience - Municipality of the Metropolitan District of Quito

Shaping success: indicators to strengthen the framework for action

In the first semester of 2019, the Metropolitan District of Quito (DMQ) was selected by the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP) to integrate a group of three cities, together with Nairobi and Antananarivo, that would execute the pilot project for the implementation of indicators of its framework for action.

To participate in the pilot, the city of Quito chose 3 indicators on which to apply the methodology proposed by MUFPP and to record obstacles, synergies and progress in measurement, as well as lessons learned from the process. The topics chosen were governance, sustainable diets, food loss and food waste.

"These indicators are relevant to monitor the participatory nature of the action plan that guides the municipality and to recognise the initiatives of the various actors," says Nataly Pinto, director of Sustainable Food Systems (SURF) at Rikolto in Latin America.

Rikolto, together with other PAQ actors such as ConQuito's Agrupar (Participative Urban Agriculture) programme and the Quito Food Bank, took part in workshops to generate indicators, and Rikolto led the study on sustainable diets.

The pilot project represents a 'springboard' for the Municipality of Quito to develop, together with the actors of the food system, a broader framework of reflection towards a right to food approach with participatory governance.

In addition to strengthening the multisectoral process that was born in 2017, Quito's participation in the pilot project allowed for the empowerment of municipal bodies, knowledge and increased commitment to change from these entities. This process also helped to fill gaps in monitoring for Quito's food system, without which it would not be able to measure the success of its strategy or boost its sustainability: the systematisation of experiences, the demand for reliable data and mechanisms to measure actions

The framework has helped to promote the idea that everyone can be an agent of change, proposing innovative issues for municipal planning to local policymakers, and generating evidence. New collaborations were established, such as the data collection process, which forced us to seek out other actors in the food system, especially those pursuing similar goals of sustainability and resilience

Alexandra Rodriguez Head of the Agrupar programme (Participatory Urban Agriculture) – ConQuito

Impact and continuity of the experience

In 2019, the experience passed a litmus test: the change of municipal authorities. Inevitably, activities scheduled for that year were suspended. The situation provided lessons for the technical team on the political complementarity of the experience with the new authorities. However, in early 2020 there were plans to convert the platform into a Municipal Council, and the strategy into an ordinance, but then the coronavirus made its appearance.

The health emergency forced many efforts to be redirected, but it also created a scenario of global exchange on how food systems were responding from all countries. Organisations such as FAO, UNDP, RUAF and ICLEI led the compilation of information and socialisation of international experiences such as that of the PAQ, which was accompanied by Rikolto in Quito from its beginnings.

Can citizens transform the future of their food?

This is the question that guided the development of the new vision for Quito's food system, submitted to the IDEO/Rockefeller Foundation global competition. This vision is based on participatory governance, where citizens are the protagonists of change, and although projected to 2050, it is based on very current initiatives and results demonstrated by the recent health crisis.

In a city where a healthy diet is 60% more expensive than a regular diet, citizen participation helped to reduce food insecurity, especially in vulnerable groups, shortening the chain and increasing local production. Initiatives such as the Agrupar programme with urban farmers, or the Quito Food Bank, which is sustained in large part by citizen volunteers, planted the seed.

Also, producers and citizen groups made the south their own, creating new spaces called "food resistance" where collectives such as the Sur-Siendo Cooperative took healthy food to popular neighbourhoods at an accessible price through fairs and delivery of agro-ecological baskets. This is how the recent pandemic allowed citizens to take ownership of processes: proposing, demanding, recognising and communicating their own needs.

Participatory governance allowed the city to be resilient in the face of the pandemic. An educated, aware and participating citizenry is very important as they remain alert to risks and threats and organise themselves to respond in the best way.

"The PAQ can take advantage of the fact that there is a diversity of actors to identify lessons learned, challenges and achievements, and to listen and understand how each actor responded during the pandemic. Only in this way will the city be better prepared, and project- and policymakers will be better able to respond to the next crisis," concludes Nataly.

Want to learn more about how Rikolto supports cities in their Food Smart City journey? contact me or reach me via LinkedIn:

Nataly Pinto Alvaro
Nataly Pinto Alvaro
Consultora externa | Ecuador

Collaboration | Redaction: Belén Naranjo - Consultant - belenaj1 [at] gmail.com | Editing and styling: Natalia Palomino - Communications Manager - natalia.palomino [at] rikolto.org