The southeastern wedge of Ecuador’s Cotopaxi province is filled with rich agricultural land. It sprawls in small divided plots of greens and ambers across the region’s hills, ravines, and mountainsides.
But the indigenous farmers that call this area home are facing perennial water shortages that are crippling crop diversity. The shortages spurred an investigation due to start this year by the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Aquaculture and Fisheries and the Secretariat of Water into possible causes.
A clear culprit is nearby tree plantations that cover hundreds of acres throughout the Nagsiche River water basin. Because they’re made up of exotic species like eucalyptus and pine, they wreak havoc on the soil, with each tree sucking about 5-10 gallons (20 to 40 liters) of water out of the ground every day.
This can thwart crop rotations for local farmers like Maria Beatriz Padilla.
“All this land used to give a great harvest,” Padilla said, listing her former crops. “Beans, peas, Andean lupin, lentils, garbanzos, quinoa.”
She’s spent her 50 years on this same small plot in the Cusubamba district of the Salcedo region, where she makes about $300 a month selling her produce. But now, across the plains surrounding her house are patches of eucalyptus trees reaching dozens of feet into the sky.
Read the rest over at Mongabay.