Cotacachi democracy is very participatory. Here's the story of how one young couple immersed themselves in the local democratic process and made a huge difference in the general health and well-being of the population.
When the people of Cotacachi, Ecuador, spoke, Jorge Pazmino was listening. At the November, 2007, Cotacachi democratic community meeting, locals made it known that improving nutrition, especially for pregnant women and children, should be high on the agenda.
Jorge was the director of nutritional programming at Sol de Vida, a health and rehabilitation clinic in Cotacachi. The clinic offers energy healing treatments at a very small cost.)
With a degree in nutrition, and a wife who is also a nutritionist, Jorge has been intently focused on the health of the people of Cotacachi for some time. Together they started the rehabilitation clinic’s nutritional awareness program.
At the direction of the community, Jorge and Pamela initiated Phase I. They wrote radio ads to raise public awareness about the role of good nutrition in living a healthy life. They also worked with 3 theater groups--16 people in all--writing skits and presenting them to different groups—schools, barrios, towns and special interest organizations.
The skits began in September, 2007, and continued through January, 2008. They were all different, written to appeal to people who live in the Andes, the subtropics and in cities and are presented in Spanish and also Quechua.
“People in Ecuador often do not have adequate vitamins and minerals in their diet,” says Jorge. “In rural areas there is a lack of money and a lack of knowledge about proper nutrition. The basic diet is monotonous and very high in starches and carbohydrates--usually corn, potatoes, beans, rice and some meat and vegetables.”
The urban population is also uneducated about general nutrition. The intake of fast foods, snacks, packaged sweets, carbonated drinks, even by small children, is increasing.
According to Jorge, “Numerous television ads for junk foods greatly impact the culture and influence eating habits. The community realized that there is not enough information about the value of nutritious, high-quality foods.”
Jorge and Pamela have a big job, because the canton of Cotacachi is the largest canton in the province, which includes Zona Andina, Zona Urbana, and Zona Subtropical (Intag).
The couple worked diligently during Phase 2 of their nutritional program, which had the following goals:
1. Continue programs of nutritional education, also emphasizing the importance of organic foods.
2. Identify school children who have health problems and work with their teachers to get help for these children.
3. Work with doctors to write dietary manuals, suggesting specific foods that can help alleviate certain health problems.
They began in the Intag, a large mostly rural zone, and later spread throughout the entire canton. The process of Cotacachi democracy continues to be alive and well!
The inhabitants of Cotacachi take an active part in discussing and deciding what they want as a group. Then it's the job of their leaders to make certain that these wishes are carried out in a timely manner.