A trip to the 19th Century in Ecuador

Proyecto "Mejorando la Vivienda" en Guano, Ecuador

In the small rural community of Chingazo, Ecuador, most of the people are small farmers of very low income. Many of them live in traditional huts or half-finished houses that offer no or little protection from the cold of the Andean highlands and against the ash spewed from Tungurahua volcano, Because of their socio-economic status, these families can not improve their situation on their own.

DESWOS, a German NGO, along with the local partner Fundación EcoSur Ecuador, have started a project to improve Chingazo community. The program is funded through the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ, Germany.
After an intensive diagnosis with the participation of all the people in the community, they decided by themselves, who and to what extent needs support. Ceilings, floors, windows, doors and toilets with a shower stall, will be improved. Also, some new houses will be built. These repairs will provide 100 families with decent living conditions and improve their quality of life.

After his encounter with the people of Chingazo, in September 2015, Dr. Kurt Rhyner, from the EcoSur Network, reported:

Before and after
Rosa Ambi's house, before and after

The trip from the capital of the province, Riobamba to Chingazo is only 20 kilometers away, but it is a trip with the feeling of going back to the 19th century. Roads, strictly speaking, do not exist. Many of the houses are covered by grass, they are round huts or disrepaired houses with brick walls and thatched roofs. The few concrete slabs and the many pieces of plastic garbage on the ground, bring me back in time.

In Chingazo, I find Rosa Ambi. She became pregnant from her third child when her husband left. She was alone, with her two children, in a half built house. The house has only walls. It doesn't have floor or ceiling. Rosa covered a room with plastic in order to try to resist the cold of the night, at 3,000 meters above the sea level.

Rosa collaborates with the masons shoveling sand while her one year old son plays on the floor. Although she is not very communicative, while talking to her, she goes over and over again how grateful she is. She now owns her little piece of land and is no longer afraid of being evicted from her home. When the rains start in a few weeks, Rosa will plant corn in her small plot of land.

A little further in the road, lives her namesake, Rosa Pilco. This elderly lady lived in a simple round hut with the thypical thatched roof. She now lives in a small house rebuilt by DESWOS and the Fundación Ecosur Ecuador, with a wood stove, a dry toilet and place to wash her clothes. With the help of her niece, Rosa pays the small credit for this home improvement. According to the poverty level, a part of the renovation and construction costs must be repaid to a common fund that will provide more renovations or, if necessary, new homes.

Published in "DESWOS Brief" No. 4, December 2015 (PDF, 3,3 MB)

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Bernardo RhynerBernardo Rhyner
Swiss - Canadian
Spanish, English, German and some French.
Construction with ecomaterials, implementation of housing projects


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