Our Information Officer in Ecuador, Gabriela Malo, did not expect that a phone call to Beatriz Caces to hear her story about the positive impact a WFP project was having on her and other women selling their vegetables to the school meals programme, would establish a link between them, in spite of living 200 kilometres apart.
QUITO --I got Beatriz Caces’ phone number from the WFP sub office in Carchi. When I called her from the Country Office in Quito a while ago, I wanted to get in touch with the field. I had never met her. She told me she lives by herself in a small house (relatives live in the vicinity) in San Pedro de Chitán de Queles, in the Montúfar canton.
This is 200 km north of Quito, close to the Ecuadorian northern border. Approximately 1,200 Colombians cross the border every month, seeking refuge in Ecuador from the violent conflict in their country. It takes at least 4 hours to reach Montúfar from Quito, since the road winds around the Andes mountains.
In an innovative way of working, WFP and Carchi local governments contact small farmers’ associations so they can provide vegetables and fruits to complement meals at schools attended by Ecuadorian and Colombian children. I asked Beatriz if she and the small farmer association she belongs to had started bringing products to any of the nearby schools.
She told me she had met with the Montúfar municipal government people some weeks ago, and had been waiting for them to tell her where to deliver her products, for she and the other members of her association were ready to start. But no call had come in yet.
I phoned Verónica Molina, who is in charge of the WFP Carchi sub office. The local team called the Montúfar Municipality. As it turned out, the person who had met with Beatriz was away, but they would take care of her case right away. Beatriz was expected at the Municipality the next day, for her association to receive the information on the schools where they would take their products.
Today Beatriz and the 13 other members of the “Chitán de Queles” farmers’ association, most of them elderly women, deliver fruits and vegetables every Monday to América Elementary School (20 children) and Gregorio Chamorro Elementary School (78 children). The Montúfar Municipality provides transportation and processes payment every two weeks with funds provided by WFP. Teachers, children and parents receive training at the schools on how to diversify diets and improve their food and nutrition security. Parents take turns to prepare the school meals with the fresh products and rice, wheat flour, oil, lentils or beans and tuna fish from WFP rations. Colombian refugees and vulnerable Ecuadorian parents from the host communities have one less worry on their minds, since WFP and the local government are helping to diversify their children’s diets.
This improvement in food and nutrition security in the Ecuadorian northern border would not be possible without the contributions of the governments of the USA, Luxembourg, Canada and Brazil, and from private companies like YUM!-KFC, Pepsico and Trimarine.
When I called Beatriz this morning to find out how things were, she was very happy. “Maybe with the extra money I’m getting, I can ciment the floor, cause my house has only a dirt floor”, she said. I was happy too. It was a great feeling that although I had never left my desk in Quito, Verónica, myself, the local government and WFP were able to help her improve her life.
Beatriz said she would like to meet me some time. I told her it was my dream to spend more time in the field. I long to share the lives of the people we serve. And I wouldn’t mind at all to lift my eyes from work and see the multiple greens of the northern Andes mountains. I want to work side by side with my colleagues in the field. They have so much work to do! And they are the WFP hands reaching Colombian and Ecuadorian people. I want to feel first-hand, once again, the positive effect we have on people’s lives.