“Food for life”: Andean Growers and Consumers at the Center of Climate Change Mitigation



The entrenchment of industrial technology, market-oriented development, and agrifood modernization in Ecuador has functionally distanced Andean farmers from broader society and their environments, undermining social relations and the life-sustaining functionality of highland ecosystems. Ironically, modern industrialized food has been the leading cause of ill health and death in Ecuador. The socio-biological collapse associated with food places into question public health and well-being, if not our future.

 “Food for life” is a grassroots, citizen-led initiative for healthier, more productive, regenerative food. Based on the understanding of the soil as the site of the organization of terrestrial ecosystems, it supports a pioneering group of actors in the country’s agroecology movements to strengthen food systems through insights into soil microbiology and the biome, enabling them to put neglected or underutilized biology to work for greater food security, economy, and climate change mitigation.


Following the Andean cosmological tradition of Pachamama (taking care of the Earth Mother) and intimate ties with the country’s vigorous Indigenous organizations and agrifood movements, participants contribute to advocacy and policy interventions in their families, social networks, and government. Through ecological literacy, user-led experimentation, and scientific backstopping (however problematic!) linked to grassroots communication, participants seek to rehabilitate ecologies and restore ecosystems that simultaneously enhance food security (by increasing food productivity and stability), 2) adapt to climate variability (through improving overall biological functioning of soils), and 3) contribute to climate change mitigation (through highly stable, on-farm carbon accrual). The experience provides insights into the institutionalization of modern food and the challenges of citizen-led efforts to overcome its unwanted consequences.



Originally from the Greater Philadelphia area and with studies in International Development/Economics (Penn State), Plant Pathology/Adult Education (Cornell University), and the Sociology of Change (Wageningen University), Stephen Sherwood is a part-time farmer and Lecturer and Researcher in Knowledge, Technology and Innovation at Wageningen University, the Netherlands and at Fundación EkoRural in Ecuador. Steve has lived and worked in Latin America for over 30 years, where he has conducted research on radical agri-food modernization and associated civic countermovements. He has written over 100 publications on different aspects of this work, including Food, Agriculture, and Social Change: The Everyday Vitality of Latin America (Earthscan, 2017). Steve is a co-founder of multiple grassroots development initiatives, including Ecuador’s Colectivo Agroecológico and Groundswell International. Steve and his wife, Myriam Paredes, own and run Granja Urkuwayku, a family-run organic farm and CSA in Ecuador, where they are activists in local food movements.

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