With the financial help of the Go Abroad Fund I went to Ecuador for research on social entrepreneurship as well as on Amazonian food and beverage ingredients that could be used to provide indigenous communities with a more stable and profitable income stream. Most of this research was in the Amazonian parts of Ecuador, around 5-6 hours by bus from Quito, Ecuador’s capital.
As I was on a tight budget I predominantly stayed in Hostels that start at incredible 8 dollars per night for a single room in Quito. This freed up some budget for other activities like tastings within the emerging craft beer scene of Ecuador, a welcoming development that challenges the beer monopoly of the country. However, in most of my free time I took advantage of the amazing mountains in Ecuador and did a few hikes through thin air. The highest climb was up to 5300m, enjoying wonderful views and the pure nature this this very biodiverse country. I did this at the end of my journey and after a few other acclimatisation hikes to train my body for the high altitude.
5000m further down in the Amazon I had not only the chance to talk to the social entrepreneurs who mostly work with different indigenous communities, but also with the community members themselves, figuring out how the different social enterprises impact their lives over time. This made the trip especially valuable for my research endeavours.
Before I left I was worried that I would not be able to meet all the people that I wanted to meet, especially because some of them were not very responsive with emails. Particularly in the rural parts of Ecuador, people have very different ways of doing things. However, I knew where I could find the people I want to meet and how to get there, so that finally everything went very well. Everybody was very welcoming and happy to speak about the experiences and developments in the respective areas.
Another concern was that I won’t be able to fully understand what people wanted to tell me as many of the indigenous people do not speak much Spanish but their own tribal language, mostly Kichwah. I consider my Spanish skills as fairly good but I have my trouble with colloquial Ecuadorian expressions and when it comes to very specific topics. Nonetheless, I had great help from local anthropologists that I met before and who also provided me with some interesting background information.
The trip to Ecuador gave me many valuable insights for my work but also a general understanding of the enormous challenges faced by marginalised indigenous communities. There is definitely a great development going on, but far more needs to be done not only from entrepreneurial thinkers but also from businesses and policy makers. One trip to Ecuador is by far not enough to fully absorb everything in detail and I am already planning to go back as soon as I can. Many thanks to the Go Abroad Fund team for supporting me on this journey!