2020 Mid Winter Update


Welcome to the 2020 mid winter update. Saying it’s been a funny year so far is probably the understatement of this century.

Thanks to our timely lock down we in New Zealand now look out upon the chaos that is developing in the wider world due to Covid-19 with dismay and horror. The kiwi classic “we don’t know how lucky we are” couldn’t be more true. And I think to some extent we were lucky, as there was a small percentage of our population that just didn’t want to follow the guidance the government was giving, which is still apparent with the many escapes from quarantine we have seen. It’s that kind of selfishness and greed globally that got us to this position in the first place, and only acerbating the problem globally now.

Sociologist and team leader Aron Coste (sitting) at work in Ecuador.

The global shake up has certainly made for an interesting work environment. Zoom, Skype and other tools of connection have become a new normal in a world of limited travel. Currently I have the pleasure of contributing to a rural and regional development project in Ecuador. These tools and other technology aids have helped me provide support externally and have given a unique perspective to “looking in from the outside” to see what options and ideas can be developed in country – without actually being able to be on the ground in the current global environment.

Senor Andres Moreira-Alcivar in a coffee drying tent

Ecuador has such a wide variety of environments and working across the zones and agricultural production systems, from the coast, rain forest and up into the Andes, is testing, stimulating and invigorating. There are not many places in the world were you can deal with a small dairy farm that is milking cows on pasture that is higher above sea level than New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Mt Cook.

Ecuadorian dairy farm at 4200 metres above sea level


Even with the sometimes limited cellular and internet connectivity in rural parts of Ecuador, the ability to directly talk, share video and documents through platforms such as WhatsApp have given the opportunity to be their almost first hand. As they say, pictures are worth a thousand words. Technology even helps with my very very rusty Spanish. This is a long term project that I’m excited to be involved with and I do look forward to a time when I can be on the ground.

Everybody pitches in

I have also had the pleasure to be included in a book being written by a former United Nations Food and Agriculture head of sustainability. This ties into work I did with the UN FAO on alternate food production systems, organics and work on desertification almost 10 years ago. It’s quite humbling to be one of twelve people identified as being able to contribute to the world wide discussion on the future of agriculture, and to be alongside such people as Allan Savory in the book.

Aron and friends
Andres’ son Ramone, and the ever present machete


A local hazard, the coral snake.


It will be interesting to see what the “new normal” is when the world passes through Covid, which it will. It remains to be seen whether we will benefit as a country by coming through relatively unscathed (so far, touchwood), or will find that we have missed the message from the trauma that mother nature has given, that is to sort ourselves out.

Either way, please stay safe out there, and be kind to others.

Ecuador’s Pacific coast

All photos courtesy/copyright of Aron Coste.

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