In August 2020, due to shifts in our strategic direction, we made the difficult decision to close the Vibrant Village Foundation office in Ecuador by the end of 2021.
Vibrant Village Foundation Ecuador was originally established in 2011 in Pimampiro, a highland community in the Imbabura Province of northern Ecuador. The VVF programs evolved over the years, but remained dedicated to supporting the well-being of rural Andean communities with a focus on food security, through the preservation of traditional farming livelihoods as well as gardens in homes, schools and senior centers throughout the region.
In the spirit of winding down with dignity, we agreed that the seven member team, four of whom were founding staff of VVF Ecuador, would lead in designing and recommending how to close down the VVF operations over the next eighteen months. Danny Cabrera, a long-time team member, stepped into a leadership role during this transition process.
In the months following the closure announcement, the team gathered input from trusted advisors and community leaders in Ecuador and weighed several options. Should they shutter the programs for good? Should they start a social enterprise for farmers? Should they re-form as a new organization? Or were there other options entirely?
Their stakeholders responded with overwhelming interest and support to carry forward with the programs established by VVF and to create a new and independent Ecuadorian NGO, called Fundación Tierra Viva (Living Earth Foundation). According to Danny, “We saw the creation of Tierra Viva as an opportunity to build on our experience and support long-term sustainable changes for farming families in our region.”
In a matter of six months, the team began laying the foundational pieces for Tierra Viva. They wrote new bylaws, assembled a board of directors, registered as a local nonprofit in Ecuador, developed a 3-year strategic plan, created a budget and wrote a fundraising plan with the goal of becoming financially independent from Vibrant Village Foundation.
As part of their strategic planning process, the team also re-articulated the program model they had been developing under VVF-Ecuador, to demonstrate how in four years, farmers and communities can transition to agroecological practices so they can achieve greater well-being, be more self-reliant in their food security and be recognized and valued as farmers. In the 5th year of the program, farmers will be confidently practicing agroecology on their own and supporting their fellow farmers to hone their skills even further.
Danny acknowledged the significance of this transition. “There have been many unexpected challenges this past year, including the anticipated closure of VVF operations. However, the transition to a local organization has been a huge feat. The transition has allowed us to learn, make decisions ourselves and look at development from other perspectives….with the confidence and ease to discuss and build the best options for communities. “
When Tierra Viva officially launches in August, they will continue working intensively with 215 families in 12 communities to transition their farms to agroecological practices. Their goal is to demonstrate that agro ecological transformation is not only possible in the highlands of Ecuador but is profitable and sustainable for rural farmers.
“As a team, we feel trust and gratitude for the learning we’ve had along the way - what we gained through our relationship with VVF and in the communities. Our spirits are lifted. We notice the difference when we do things from a place of empathy and not out of obligation, and when we can support each other as a team and advance at the same pace, all together.”
Vibrant Village Foundation will continue supporting Tierra Viva as a funder for the coming years and will remain a trusted ally as they take flight as an independent entity. We are in admiration of the leadership that has grown out of the VVF programs since 2011 and are incredibly humbled to see this team take full ownership and control of their own organization and lead it onto the next stage of growth and impact.
To learn more about Tierra Viva, check out their new website: www.tierravivaecuador.org !