It stands to reason that the best, most direct effect you can have on an economy is to spend your money on localized goods and services. Here in Ecuador, the funds you liberate can make an immediate impact, especially if you put it towards the families who come from the small rural villages outlying most major metropolitan areas. One such city, Otavalo, about a two hour twisting bus ride north through the Andes from Quito, maintains a daily local market full of beautiful handmade items including alpaca scarves, blankets and sweaters, lamb wool hats and gloves, wood carvings and jewelry. Otavalo’s surrounding communities are home to an indigenous people who have become renown for the incredibly beautiful and high quality weavings. Many of these weavers descend into Otavalo daily to put their crafts on sale.
Beautiful carvings. Locals taking a break on a slow day to play a game of…?
Spending our money on this economy can make a big difference. According to a 2006 report, 13 percent of Ecuadorians live a state of extreme poverty, while a whopping 38 percent face moderate poverty. In the Amazonian region, we’re talking a range of 40 to 60 percent. I don’t know about you, but poverty is poverty. At the end of the day, being faced with a decision to buy either medicine or food, clothing or shoes, bus fare or not can really put a damper on your day. Think about this too: 70 percent of Ecuadorian women do not have an income of their own.
I’d wager that all of this is hand made. The famous ‘Panama Hat’, which originated in Ecuador, NOT Panama.
The Otavalo Market at Poncho Plaza. Despite improvements to social programs, some still cry for ‘more’.
The good news is that conditions are improving. According to that same report, malnutrition levels dropped from 26 percent in 1999 to 18 percent in 2006. Levels of poverty and infant mortality have also declined. Access to medicine, the work of rural doctors and improved social programs have lead to a general improvement in conditions for those living in the poorest areas. An emerging middle class has helped to turn the tide as well. With so many in need however, it will still take decades to see real change.
Modern conveniences. A stained glass street lamp in Otavalo.