Yachik: Urban Markets connecting farmers and cities

Yachik: Urban Markets connecting farmers and cities

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Selene Casanova
Selene Casanova
International communications

For the majority of people, Friday is one of the most eagerly awaited days of the week because it announces two days off work. However, for most of farmers it is the beginning of “los dias de mercado” (“market days”). The weekend is the right time for selling what has been cultivated and harvested on the markets.

Farmers of Yachik, a commercial brand of small-scale farmer organisations from Pedro Moncayo and Cayambe – rural provinces in the north of Ecuador - are banking on themselves and their agroecological products by taking part in existing urban markets or by organising new ones.

Rikolto has promoted this strategy and the creation of Yachik since 2018, as part of its international Food Smart Cities programme which aims to supply the Metropolitan District of Quito (DMQ) with safe, high-quality food in a sustainable way.

A key approach is to work towards the professional development of the farmers' organisation UCCOPEM (Pedro Moncayo Farmers Union), a Rikolto partner made up of 4,000 farming families.

One of the biggest issues is a lack of markets. We need more retail spaces and better prices in order to avoid the fruits and vegetables that we produce going to waste.

Rosa Inlago Farmer from Cajas and UCCOPEM member

Rikolto is working with Yachik, in which almost 150 farmers participate, including members of UCCOPEM and farmers from Cambaye, by providing them with technical assistance to improve the production process, post-harvest activities, the storage and dispatch of end products and access to new markets and clients.

According to Remi Thinard from Rikolto, it´s important to target new clients who are ‘on the same page’ in terms of the importance of promoting production, transformation and consumption with models that respect local, natural and social ecosystem diversity - models that ensure sustainability.

Who are the clients in question? Quitu and Zazu, two Ecuadorean restaurants with a good reputation in the country. Both are known for using small-scale farmers´ agroecological products and offering a great variety of dishes from contemporary Ecuadorian cuisine. In Quitu they even make room for a farmer market where Yachik farmers sell their products every week!

Urban markets: a huge opportunity for Yachik farmers

In the conventional market with intermediaries, farmers sell 5 lettuces for one dollar, while with Yachik they sell one lettuce for 50 or 70 cents; which is still a fairly good price for the consumer because they are organic vegetables. Yoorganic is another urban market that Rikolto has facilitated and promoted to present and sell Yachik’s products, which is held on Thursdays at Cumbaya, to the east of Quito.

And, since 15 February, every Friday you can find Yachik’s products on the Agroecological Market too. This market is located on the Government Financial Management Platform in Quito and seeks to grow into an alternative place to market local, healthy, high-quality organic products at fair prices.

Cecilia Palmay, an agroecological farmer notes that: “when we started working on these new markets, we noticed that customer demand is quite different to what we were used to in Pedro Moncayo: everything had to be displayed perfectly and the products had to be of excellent quality.”

The Agroecological Market initiative has been driven by the Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investment and Fisheries (MPCEIP) and has been supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG), the Economic Promotion Agency CONQUITO, the SEDAL Foundation, the company Metroparqueos and by Rikolto. It is expected to be the starting point of a network of similar markets and fairs that are also at national level.

So far so good, but there are still challenges

According to Thinard, organising urban farmer markets involves some challenges. We can summarise those that Rikolto has faced with Yachik in three main points:

  • Finding a suitable spot to ensure fair competition with other agroecological producers: we dealt with this issue by working with our affiliated farmers and by collecting information about the markets organised and held by other farmers.
  • Urban clients are more demanding in terms of product presentation and they require greater customer focus: we offer training to those responsible for sales; this training covers several points such as market management and logistics, product presentation strategies and how to deal with clients better.
  • Publicising market locations and increasing sales: we support the farmer in breaking the ice with clients - a key point in enabling them to increase their sales; this process could take up to 5 or 12 months depending on the areas where they are setting up market.

In the city of Quito, Rikolto is working to strengthen the business and marketing strategy of local farmers, such as Yachik farmers. How? By introducing them to several restaurant chains and a wider number of consumers on urban markets. So, each day is becoming a good day to find out where their food is coming from, and how it is produced.

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