In 2023, Terra Ecuador made a financial commitment to implement an irrigation system at the Tiocajas agricultural college near Guamote. Here’s a look back at the project and the role of the Inti Sisa Foundation, which initiated it.
Inti Sisa, a foundation for the economic and social development of local populations
Inti Sisa is a foundation set up in 1999 by a group of Belgians in the Guamote region. Touched by the poverty in the region, the Belgian travelers decided to put down their suitcases and found Inti Sisa, which means sunflower in Kichwa.
The aim of the project is to support local populations in their development through local initiatives. These initiatives are created according to the needs of the local population, and aim to establish themselves in a sustainable way through the youth of the communities. The foundation acts as an intermediary between different local communities, generations and cultures, enabling them to share their knowledge and learn. As the foundation’s members explain, everyone is both teacher and student.
The foundation’s first initiative was to open a school to help children living in poor social, economic, health and emotional conditions, as well as to combat illiteracy, which was rife in the region in the late 90s. The educational system emphasizes collective, collaborative and entrepreneurial work.
Today, Inti Sisa helps the region’s public schools by providing educational programs and integrating new projects: educational, landscaping and meal accessibility projects within multiple schools in the surrounding communities.
Inti Sisa, in addition to education, aims to empower local populations through artistic, recreational and entrepreneurial activities. The foundation has created a creative room to promote local crafts. They believe that the mental well-being of local people can be enhanced by knowing and exploiting their cultural identity through artistic initiatives. Activities such as embroidery and sewing are offered by the foundation.
In 2004, the Inti Sisa guest house opened its doors to tourists from all over the world as a center for community development and support. The aim is to support the self-sufficiency of the foundation’s community projects. Initially, the project was run by the foundation’s Belgian staff, along with local residents who wanted to take part in the entrepreneurial guesthouse project. Over the years, the Belgian members have gradually stepped aside, leaving the local residents to take full charge of the project. Mainly run by women, whether behind the stove, in the common areas or in the offices, today only the hotel manager is a man. A girl team has been set up and women empowerment is being promoted within the tourist structure. Above all, in this guesthouse, the women work as if they were at home: babies are on their backs, children play in the hotel, and travellers are welcomed in a lively, family atmosphere.
Tiocajas: a sustainable socio-educational project for community children
In 2023, thanks to each traveler’s contribution of $17.50 to support a social or environmental project, Terra Ecuador was able to finance the installation of an irrigation system at the Tiocajas agricultural college.
The school, which caters for around 30 pupils a day from primary to high school, is a multi-faceted project whose aim is to teach English to pupils from the first grade upwards. The educational program covers topics such as gender equality, cultural diversity and entrepreneurship. Handicraft workshops are run by the students, including embroidered bags and food products. Agricultural skills are also developed through knowledge of the cultivation of medicinal plants, trees and organic crops. The production of artisanal food products is also covered within the educational framework, through yogurt and cheese making. Theoretical practices on entrepreneurship and leadership are also discussed and learnt by students throughout their school career.
At the beginning of 2023, Terra Ecuador financed the project to install the school’s irrigation system.
In June 2023, the entire Terra Ecuador team was invited to the inauguration of the irrigation system at the Tiocajas school. It was an opportunity for the team to get to know the school and the project funding put to good use: the irrigation system built is up and running, supplying water to the vegetable garden, the animal farm and the entire school garden.
The aim of this installation is to support the school in the production and management of agricultural species, both plant and animal, on a long-term and sustainable basis, enabling the children to acquire farm management skills and have access to vegetables and healthy food all year round.
In the Guamote region, summers tend to be dry, making agricultural production difficult. Thanks to the irrigation system, the school sells fruit and vegetables from the garden to families at the end of the day at a lower price, so that they have access to a variety of produce and the school can ensure that the children have enough to eat.
For Terra Ecuador, this project has socio-educational and sustainable agriculture objectives for the children of Tiocajas. This is one of the initiatives to which the agency’s team wants to commit in order to have a positive impact on the development of local populations.
Thanks to travelers and their financial contributions, the agency hopes to develop its participation in local initiatives and encourage travelers to come and help out in the field, by bringing warm clothing, puzzles or games for schoolchildren.