Country geography and climates: Ecuador is located in the North West South America and is crossed by the equator. Ecuador has common borders to the north with Colombia, to the south and east with Peru and along the west with the Pacific Ocean. The three main continental regions of Ecuador are the coast along the Pacific Ocean, the Andean region which crosses the country from north to south and the Amazon basin. Galapagos Islands are the fourth region of Ecuador.

Climates at the coast are defined by two air currents, a cold current called Humboldt coming from the southern pole and a hot current called “Niño” coming from the Caribbean region. The Niño current creates a hot-humid climate in the northern areas with up to 3000 mm of rainfall while the Humboldt current creates a dry climate in the central west coast with only 300 mm of rainfall. Different micro-climates between these two extreme climates are found along the coat of Ecuador. The rainy season in the coast regularly starts in December and end in June and the average temperature in this season is 28 °C. The dry season is present in the rest of the year with an average temperature of 25 ºC. The rainy season is caused by the “Niño” warm air current coming from the Caribbean region while the dry season is created by the cold Humboldt current.

In the highlands the rainy season starts in October and continuous until June, being the January-May period highly humid. Climates in the highlands depend on the altitude. Tropical Andean climate of the low valleys of Catamayo, Macará, Puyango, Chota, Guayllabamba and Yunguilla with average altitudes of 1500 masl posses a dry hot climate with average temperatures between 20 and 25 °C. The subtropical climate is present at altitudes between 1500 to 2500 masl with an average temperatura of 20 °C. Valleys of Ibarra, Los Chillos, Paute and Loja are located at these altitudes. Temperate climate is present at altitudes from 2500 to 3500 masl with an average temperature of 17 ºC. At these altitudes are located the most important cities of Ecuador. The cold climate is present at altitudes from 3500 to 5650 masl. At these altitudes temperatures vary from 1 to 10 °C. Climate conditions are cold and rainy along the year at this altitudes. Páramos of El Ángel, Mojanda-Cajas, Chasqui, Llanganatis and Buerán are representatives of this climate. The glacial climate is regularly the top of the high mountains at altitudes higher than 5650 masl. Temperatures at thise altitudes are lower than 0 °C and these areas have regularly permanent snow.

High variation in climates has created conditions for development of high biodiversity for which Ecuador is one of the mega diverse countries. Biodiversity is protected in the natural reserves of Cayapas-Mataje, Mache-Chindul, Machalilla, Manglares Churete in the tropical area; El Angel, Cotacachi-Cayapas, Cayambe Coca, Antisana, Sumaco-Napo-Gal, Pululahua, Pasochoa, Cotopaxi-El Boliche, Ilinizas, Llanganates, Sangay, Chimborazo, Cajas, Podocarpus and “Bosque. Petrificado Puyando” in the highlands, Cuyabeno, Limoncocha, Yasuní in the Amazon basin and Galapagos Nacional Park and the Galapagos Marin Reserve.

The national gene bank at the National Autonomous Institute of Agricultural Research (INIAP) together with many insitu projects is also conserving the agricultural biodiversity of Ecuador. The very variable agricultural ecosystems composed by traditional cropping systems guaranty conservation of crop genetic diversity in Ecuador.

Agriculture of the country: Main tropical crops of Ecuador regarding to cultivated area are cacao (434418 ha), rice (349726 ha), coffee (320911 ha), maize of durum type (275145 ha), banana (266124 ha), plantain (183599 ha),  African palm (162202 ha), sugar cane administrated by refineries (82821 ha), sugar cane for other uses as unrefined sugar and alcohol (49028 ha), soy bean (55980 ha) maracuya (31639 ha) and mango (19395 ha). Banana is intensively produced specially in the central and southern coastal area by mainly large companies. This is the most economically important crop of Ecuador.  African palm a high input crop is also very important in the humid areas. Maize and soybean are also intensively produced by large farmers. Most of sugar cane is produced in large areas by sugar refineries. The sugar cane used for unrefined sugar and alcohol are produced by small scale farmers. Rice is a very important crop grown by small and medium scale farmers. Cacao, coffee and plantain are grown primarily by small scale farmers mainly in tropical cropping systems. Most of plantain production is oriented to self consumption and local market, however exportation is presently increasing. Other crops as rubber three, papaya, palmito, piña among others are grown in less than 5000 ha.

In the Andean highlands the main food crops are climbing bean in association with soft type maize (105127 ha), potato (49719 ha), faba bean (43174 ha), barley (48874 ha) and bush bean (16464 ha). Other crops as pea, quinoa, chocho and Andean roots and tubers are grown less extensively. The Andean solanaceous fruits three tomato (4062 ha) and naranjilla (7903 ha) are very important crops for the local market. Horticultural crops are grown intensively by small scale farmers for self consumption except broccoli which is grown intensively by medium scale farmers for exportation. Fruits as avocado, black berry are grown also less extensively for local market. Flowers for exportation have become the main agricultural industry in the highlands of Ecuador. Roses are grown in greenhouses in 2519 ha and others different types of flowers are grown in 962 ha.

In the Amazon area the main crops are coffee (54967 ha), sugar cane (19542 ha), plantain (18685 ha), African palm (13887 ha), cocoa (9374 ha), rice (3783 ha) and maize (14496 ha). Others crops grown in small areas in the Amazon basin are citrus, tea and cassava.

Cattle is a very important activity in Ecuador. In the coastal area 1563494 ha are being grown with grasses while 212879 ha are covered with wild grasses. In the highlands 971656 ha are grown with cultivated grasses and 888958 ha are covered with wild grasses. In the Amazon basing 767576 ha are cultivated with grasses while 24695 ha are wild grasses.

Project sites:

Project will be carried out in the provinces of Carchi, Imbabura, Bolivar, Cañar and Loja in the highland valleys and in Manabi in the coastal area. Maize and common bean will be studied in Imbabura, Bolivar and Loja while faba bean will be studied in Carchi, Bolivar and Cañar. Plantain will be studies in Manabi the most traditional plantain area of Ecuador.

 Province of Carchi:

Carchi is located in the northern of Ecuador with a common border with Colombia. The province is divided in the municipalities of Tulcán, Huaca, El Angel, San Gabriel, Bolivar and Mira. “El Ángel” and “Reserva Forestal y Étnica AWA” are the natural reserve at this province. Main economical activity of Carchi is agriculture. The high input potato production has created serious problems of soil erosion, environmental and farmer’s health. Potato production is constantly decreasing in Carchi due to increase in production costs as well as potato importation from Colombia. Faba bean has been the main crop for rotation with potato and its importance is increasing.

Project will be conducted in la Libertad in the municipality of El Angel, la Matriz de Huaca in the municipality of Huaca, Julio Andrade in the municipality of Tulcan and Chamiso in the municipality of Montufar. Altitudes of these sites vary from 2800 to 3000 m.a.s.l. Average temperature at sites is 11 ºC. Most of the people at this place are mestizos. In these areas the UVTT of Carchi from INIAP has experience working with farmers mainly on potato IPM initiatives. Many international projects have taken place in these sites mainly to reduce pesticide use. Farmers at these places are organized and have been educated by different technology transfer approaches as participatory research as well as farmers field schools.

 Province of  Imbabura

Imbabura has a common border with Carchi at northern of Ecuador. Municipalities of Ibarra, Atuntaqui, Urcuqui, Otavalo and Cotacachi belong to Imbabura. The ecological reserve of Cotacachi-Cayapas is located at this province. The most important economical activities of Imbabura are agriculture and tourism. Traditional agriculture associated with the culture of Otavalos, the main indigenous group is the foundation of the socioeconomy at this province. Maize is the core of a very variable and traditional cropping system composed mainly by bean, chocho, quinoa, faba bean and cucumbers.       

The project will be conducted in Morocho, Perafan, Chilcapamba in Cotacachi and San Pablo in Otavalo. These are the most important maize areas of the province of Imbabura. In these places the NGO UNORCAC is carrying developing projects and farmers are also well organized. City of Cotacachi is located at 2440 m.a.s.l with an average temperature of 15ºC. The percentage of indigenous people in this area is 60 %, mestizos 35% and black people  5%. In  Cotacachi besides of agriculture, artesian, tourism and trade are important activities. Otavalo is located at 2480 m.a.s.l. with an average temperature of 14 ºC. Most of farmers in this site are indigenous and besides agriculture artesian and trade activities are also important.

Province of Bolívar

Bolivar is located in the west central part of Ecuador. Main municipalities are Guaranda, Echandia, Caluma, Chillanes, San Miguel, Cumanda, San José de Chimbo. Main economical activity of Bolivar province is agriculture and production of dairy products is an important at this province. The maize-climbing bean association is predominant in the municipalities of Bolivar. Faba bean, chocho and quinoa are also important crops in the maize-climbing cropping system in Bolivar.

Project will be executed in the Alto Guanujo in Guaranda, Santiago in San Miguel and La Matriz en Chillanes. Guaranda is located at 2667 m.a.s.l with an average temperature of 14ºC, San Miguel is located at 2450 m.a.s.l with an average temperatura of 15ºC and Chillanes is located 2300 m.a.s.l with an average temperatura of 15.5ºC.  In Guaranda maize and faba bean are main crops while in San Miguel and Chillanes the main crop is maize. As Bolivar is geographically close to Guayaquil the most economically important city of Ecuador, corn has become a commercial crop and it is apparently the main reason of maize genetic erosion in Bolivar.

Main development organizations working at site implementation are the Technology Transfer Unite of Ministry of Agricultura, “Promoción  Humana Diocesana” (PHD), Provincial Government of Bolívar (GPB), “Fondo Ecuatoriano Populorum Progressìo” (FEPP), Bolívar State University (UEB), Technological Institute of Agricultural Education San  Pablo (ITSA), Technology Transfer and Validation Unite (UVTT) of INIIAP and Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

At the “Alto Guanujo” two farmer organizations are implementing development activities: The Corporation of the Peasant Organizations for the Integral Development of the Alto Guanujo(COCDIAG) and The Indigenous and Peasant Committee for Integral Development-Union and Progress (CICADI-UP).

Province of Cañar

Cañar is located in the central part of Ecuador. Municipalities of this province are Azogues, Cañar, Biblian, Tambo, Suscal, Deleg and la Troncal. Agriculture is the main activity of Cañar although trade is also an important activity in this province. The project will be executed in Honorato Vásquez in Cañar, Matriz de Suscal in Suscal and matriz Tambo in Tambo. These are high altitudes of Cañar province where main crops are faba bean, barley, potato and wheat. Most of farmers in these sites belong to the ethnic group Cañaris and their main economical activity is agriculture.

Main developing programs taking place in Cañar are Agro-forestall Ecuadorian System (RAFE), Forestation Program phase–Ecuador (PROFAFOR), “Fondo Ecuatoriano Populorum Progressio” (FEPP). Municipalities of Cañar, Tambo and Suscal. Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), Swiss Foundation for Development and Cooperation for the Andean Region (INTER COOPERACIÓN), Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

Corporation of Indigenous and Peasant Organizations of Cañar “Tucuy Cañar Ayllucunapac Tandanacuy” (TUCAYTA) and the Agronomist Association of Cañar (AAC) are the main farmers organizations at highlands of Cañar.

Province of Loja

Located in southern of Ecuador Loja province has a common border with Peru. Main municipalities are Loja, Saraguro, Catamayo, Catacocha, Gonzanama, Quillanga, Cariamanga, Zapotillo, Celica, Pindal, Alamor, Olmedo, Quillanga, Chaguarpamba and Macará. Loja is geographically very diverse varying from tropical areas as Macara to high altitudes as Saraguro. The project will take place at sites of San Lucas, Tenta, Selva Alegre and llushpa in Saraguro at altitudes of around 2620 m.a.s.l with an average temperature of

16 ºC. Most of farmers at Saraguro belong to the Salasaca ethnic group. Saraguro is mainly an agricultural town with maize being the main crop together with barley and potato. Maize in this location is grown traditionally and although variability is still high there are evidences of genetic erosion.

The main developing projects at Saraguro are the Spanish Corporation for Agricultural Development working with INIAP and the “Fondo Ecuatorianum Populorum Progressio”. The main developing farmer organizations at Saraguro are the Saraguro Farmer Federation (FIS), The Indigenous Association of Tenta, (AIPT) and The Indigenous Association of Lagunas (AIL).