QUITO, Ecuador – As the COVID-19 pandemic shuts down dairy supply hubs across the Amazon region of Ecuador, one local cattle farmer with an abundance of milk on his hands has stepped up to offer it free-of-charge to families in need, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
When the local dairy centers closed, cattle farmer Alvaro Ramón was left with many gallons of surplus milk. Rather than pouring it down the drain, he decided, in the spirit of community solidarity, to give it instead to those suffering under lockdown.
“If you know someone who needs milk, we are giving it away today”, Ramón posted on social media, shortly after movement restrictions were first put in place in the Morona Santiago province. Moments after his morning offer was extended, the milk producer and cattle farmer was flooded with messages, from the elderly to families in need.
“I was motivated to provide my daily production of milk for free, and I started safely delivering milk to low-income families, pregnant women, and to mothers with young children”, he said – a resident of his community for more than 35 years.
“Stay at home” measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus in Ecuador has meant losses of income and limited access to food and even clean water.
And it has put a strain on smallholder producers’ access to markets, creating bottlenecks in the flow of goods and services in certain towns and cities. Movement restrictions in Ramón’s Huamboya community have left many families struggling to obtain fresh products, such as milk, eggs and vegetables. Unable to sell to the normal outlets, the community-minded farmer obtained a mandatory safe-conduct document, that has allowed him to distribute 50 liters of milk to around 20 families in his area.
His act of kindness has earned him plenty of safe-distance love and appreciation in form of applause, smiles, gratitude and comments on his social media posts.
“Thank you for the milk, it’s delicious”, one reader posted.
Ramón is one of the beneficiaries of the Global Environment Facility (GEF)- funded, FAO “Climate-smart Livestock” project in Ecuador.
He has been actively participating in farmer field schools, which address environmental and productive livestock issues and help cattle producers increase production sustainably.
Since March, the situation has been improving and milk production is now back in swing.
Training provided by the FAO-GEF Climate-smart Livestock project has allowed some 1,056 cattle producers to apply sustainable livestock practices, increasing their livestock productivity and farmers’ incomes in seven of Ecuador’s provinces.
The project also provides smallholder producers’ access to microfinance for green initiatives.
Since May 2019, the project’s cooperation with BanEcuador has provided producers with over $953,000 to implement climate-smart livestock practices on their farms, which will potentially reduce carbon emissions by a whopping 1,000,250 kilograms of CO2 per year.