Food Voices: The Interviews
Marcelino Estucio Tenorio, Farmer and Fisherman
El Viento, Esmeraldes
Marcelino Estucio Tenorio is a farmer and fisherman from El Viento, Esmeraldes in Ecuador. He is a member of local, national and international organizations to protect the mangroves.
Many years ago, groups formed for the defense of the mangroves. My mother and father were two of the first people to fight at the start of the invasion of the shrimp farming. I continue their work because I believe in it. I like the rhythm of work and the defense of the earth, the environment. I came into this work through conservation. This is a process that is personal and comes from inside you. Fishing for me, is one of my main activities and I have been doing that since I was a child. Agriculture, I accompany my father. I belong to this community and grassroots organizations and one of our main goals is to defend food sovereignty and we will do everything necessary to defend it to the last moment.
To me, food sovereignty is the life that sustains us. It is these mangroves. The tropical rainforest, the flora and fauna. All of that gives us food life. In our territory, to all the citizens who live in this environment. That is the source of life and generates income to sustain our families. Aside from that, we also feed ourselves in a healthy and natural way. We eat what we want and what we like, without chemicals. If somebody has a fish, we eat the fish knowing it is going to be without chemicals, the same with the shells from the mangroves to the pot. When you taste it, you know those shells are directly from mangroves, fresh, rather than preserved to eat later. It is better for our health to eat them fresh. This is what we are defending and this what we consider food sovereignty. With all the effort managing the different situations, getting involved to avoid contamination, less destruction of the natural resources, less capture of our natural resources. And with support of everybody to join and get together, to maintain and keep our resources. That is our struggle for the defense of the ecosystem and the territory.
The biggest threat is first that we have increased crime because of armed groups, subversive groups, come from the other side and they kick us out of our land, from our place and force us to abandon our territory. Another big threat is increasing contamination. Also, our resources will disappear and be depleted if we, the people, won’t have the consciousness to protect our resources. That level of consciousness to selectively capture our resources is necessary, so we don’t deplete the resources. The citizenship must increase their own consciousness. The people need to take on their own responsibility to protect our resources and raise their own consciousness. We all live from it, but we all don’t take care of it. If we don’t push this forward as one community, not just me, but everybody, we will lose the territory, our habitat and our resources.
Some people from the communities do have a high level of consciousness. Communities and organizations are involved in the process of conservation and all the people who are in defense of nature. We are protecting it with some institutions. The Minister of the Environment is collaborating. We need government institutions to give us support - a little help to put limits on the destruction of the natural resources and more rules. So we could maintain the environment and also give us other alternatives, so the citizen won’t over-exploit the natural resources. They could be dedicated to other activities. We don’t have anything other than the mangroves in this area. Just the shell collection and fishing. We don’t have any other source of income to be able to stop putting this pressure on the natural resources. If we had other options, we would not have to place so much pressure on the natural resources and we could conserve it.
My role is trainer. We train a lot of people with partners from other countries at the national and international levels. I am also park guard of this reserve. For me and to all the citizens, one success has been to maintain these mangroves and all the flora and fauna of this area. If we compare our area with other provinces here in Ecuador, you find they have more shrimp farms than we have. More of their mangroves have been cut and cleared. We are proud to be able to protect these mangroves. To me, a success is we were able to maintain these mangroves. Here, all of our life is in the mangroves.
The future of the mangroves is in our consciousness, in our life that we don’t want it to be cut. And the mangrove will be there for as long as god wants it. If there is an invasion and they cut the mangroves, then it will stop existing and we will lose everything that we have. All the wealth that we have is in this environment. I will always fight and continue this work unless something changes drastically and changes the whole situation. I expect to see new projects and new things we could be working on to implement and broaden my work. If I had children, I would take him with me and make him participate in what I do.
I would like to send a message to other organizations that are living this same experience, that hopefully we all struggle for a change in life and that other organizations could help the people who really need it. Many people come here, take information and that information stays in the desk. They don’t pass it on to the grassroots organizations who need the support. See the hard work we must do for shell collection or fishing. Some days we capture some and some days we don’t. We don’t add value to our things, so our income is low. Our income is not enough to fulfill our basic needs and buy things – for education, for the family. We should share this information, so some of that comes back to help the people who live in this territory.