Eco-Farming in Ecuador
Co-op can be about more than finding a career path; it can be about zeroing in on your own value system.
This past fall, Jennifer Walsh, a senior biology major and psychology minor, joined the Ecuadorian nonprofit environmental preservation organization Jatun Sacha to help the farming community of San Cristobal Island (the easternmost of the Galapagos Islands) preserve its land and wildlife.
The team educated local farmers on organic-farming techniques and agroforestry—the practice of using land to simultaneously benefit the environment and support animal life. For example, Walsh explains, “If your crop needs shade, why put up a tarp when you can grow a manzanillo tree?”
Walsh and fellow volunteers also cleared lands overrun by invasive species using machetes and organic herbicide. They then planted endangered native species to aid with reforestation. And they grew all of their own food, so they wouldn’t be dependent on local farmers or imported produce.
The work was challenging, but Walsh relished the rewards. “I was out of my comfort zone, speaking Spanish, sleeping under a mosquito net, growing my own food, and getting by without Internet, cell-phone service, or even hot water.” Plus, she says, “Working with the local farmers helped me see the hardships they face just to survive and make a living. I learned how much I take for granted back in the U.S. It was truly an eye-opening experience.”
Walsh’s next step is to apply to graduate school for genetic counseling, her chosen career path. But her co-op lessons won’t soon be forgotten. “I know that conservation and organic farming will always be a part of my life—it will just be a matter of finding ways to stay involved.”