The Class

IARD 4011 ‘Experience Latin America: Ecuador Edition’ is a new class at Cornell University. The class is one component of a larger project aimed at connecting Cornell and Ithaca to a community in rural Ecuador, called Intag. IARD 4011 is a 3-credit Fall class that has student teams working on projects for community organizations in rural Ecuador. Students have the option of enrolling in  IARD 6011 (Spring 3-credits) and traveling to Ecuador for 3-weeks over winter-intercession to implement these projects.

This blog is a chronicle of this unique project. Throughout the course and the trip we will be posting updates and information about our projects and partners. Additionally each of our students will be maintaining their own blogs- in which they record and reflect on their experiences. Once the student blogs go live you will be able to find them in the Team Project Pages.

This class is intended to do more than prepare students. Three teams of four students will placed in contact with three community practitioners at the start of the Fall 2013 semester. These teams are expected to work in partnership with the community members in order to create a deliverable that will further the community goals and enhance the students experiential learning. These team projects will have a strong practical component that can be carried out once the class arrives in Ecuador.


Intag on a map of Ecuador (Damico 2012)

Intag refers to the area of Ecuador that we will be working in. It is unique and valuable area of the world, both because of its high biodiversity and because of its strong community structure. The Intag region is about 1,800 Km2 of cloud forests and small farms on the North Western Slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes.

The community partners that we will be working on in this class are part of an remarkable wave of initiatives directed at sustainability, conservation and social justice. The three community partners and their corresponding student teams are as follows:

  • Four students interested in design are paired with a women’s handicraft cooperative called Mujeres y Medio Ambiente (Women and the Environment).
  • Students interested in eco-agriculture and agroforestry are paired with a organic coffee farmers association called AACRI.
  • Students with a passion for in conservation are paired with a local conservation NGO called DECOIN.
  • Students studying Hospitality are partnered with REI– a network of  emerging ecotourism providers in Intag.

Some Context

These initiatives have come into being, in part, as a response to the threat of open-pit copper mining. The Intag region contains a rich deposit of copper, and since 1995 local community members have been combating transnational mining companies.

Paramilitary forces hired by Canadian mining corporation Ascendant Copper, attack community members with illegal weapons. Dec 2006.

So far they have been successful- a rare and remarkable feat in and off itself. However, the need to create alternative sources of income, and a model of development that was not environmentally destructive and socially corrosive was an urgent one. The community partners we will be working with are on the forefront of this initiative- they represent a push to make Intag a center of community-run sustainable development.



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