Building Community Resilience and Sustainability in the South of Quito, Ecuador
María Elvira López ’21, Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador
Majors: Environmental Studies; International Relations; Russian Language and Culture
A quick drive across the city of Quito reveals the stark inequality that exists between its north side and the south side. The type of infrastructure, organization, and landscaping changes dramatically from north to south. As a northern Quiteña, the south’s cramped concrete facade has always served as a reminder of my own privilege and of the uncomfortable legacy of social stratification and racism left behind from Ecuador’s colonial history. The city was designed from its very conception to accentuate social divisions, allowing those in power to funnel institutional resources to the north while ignoring the south. This has not only had social implications, but also very severe environmental consequences. I decided to involve myself in a project called Ayriwa to help address these socio-environmental injustices and create a more inclusive and resilient city.
The Ayriwa project is based in one of the south’s most stigmatized neighborhoods, Lucha de los Pobres, and consists of a series of interactive workshops meant to strengthen community resilience through the implementation of sustainability practices such as waste management, food sovereignty, and socio-ecological well-being, culminating in the production of individual vegetable gardens by each participant. My contribution to the project was creating “eco-blocks,” defined as neighborhood organizations organized to improve the environmental and health conditions of their block along the lines discussed at the workshops. I developed this idea as a capstone proposal project for my ENVS 380 Senior Colloquium in fall 2020 and presented it to the Quito chapter of WWF Youth Community. In spring 2021, I worked with them as well as with the community to adapt my capstone proposal to their needs and began implementing it. This opportunity has allowed me to put to work the environmental justice education I received at Beloit and start charting the path for my future professional career.