Gastronomy as an agent of change towards more diverse and sustainable production

Canopy Bridge
Published: 10 January 2018
Last edited: 30 March 2019
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Amazon indigenous communities have for generations integrated farms and forest to produce an extraordinary diversity of foods, but market and cultural forces are eroding these well-honed systems.


A burgeoning Latin American food movement is creating new opportunities. Relationships between rainforest communities and chefs can help incubate new enterprises and showcase the Amazon, through delicious food, to new audiences and allies.


Canopy Bridge works with a group of more than 25 chefs from Ecuador´s best restaurants, indigenous communities and conservation NGOs to develop value chains for Amazon fresh foods (aquaculture paiche- Arapaima gigas- from Ai-Kofán and products grown by the Kichwa people in highly diversified chakra production units) that have substantial conservation benefits and great culinary potential. Through the establishment of a distribution chain from the Amazon to Quito, these products are now reaching specialty food markets and restaurants on a weekly basis. 


South America
Scale of implementation
Forest ecosystems
Tropical evergreen forest
Access and benefit sharing
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Ecosystem services
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Indigenous people
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Ecosystem loss
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of technical capacity
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Unemployment / poverty


Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador | Sucumbíos, Napo


Through this initiative, positive impacts are generated in multiple scales. 


The fish farms of the Ai-Kofán provide significant revenue from very reduced areas – in contrast to extensive cattle ranches or oil palm plantations. Alternative income from fish farming thus reduces pressures for deforestation. The longer term goal is that these activities can contribute economically to ongoing Ai-Kofán conservation of their territory and co-management of national protected areas, while managing in-situ an emblematic and endangered Amazon species.


Sales of a diversified basket of products from the Kichwa chakras of Napo, contribute to valuing this farming system in an integral way. By promoting a variety of traditional products these alliances give economic value to diversity rather than emphasizing simplistic, single-crop solutions. The value is not merely economic; the relationship with new allies and audiences also celebrates and reinforces the rich cultural origins that gave rise to the ingredients.


The 4-month pilot resulted in a business road map for the  growth and consolidation of a distribution center of sustainable, natural products in Quito. 


A priority for ongoing work is to evaluate nutritional impacts, monitor market/home-consumption trade-offs, and work together with communities to identify opportunities to improve family nutrition based on local resources. 

Contributed by

Marta Echavarria Canopy Bridge

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