The proposal is to open 1,000 peasant apothecaries throughout Ecuador. The first has been running for several weeks in the Voluntad de Dios neighborhood, in Monte Sinaí, in the northwest of Guayaquil.
The strategy is developed as a network involving medicinal plant producers, transporters, and neighborhood leaders who are responsible for sustaining the project.
The antecedent is the Food Brigade of the Peasant Social Movement, which during the most difficult days of the pandemic was in charge of providing food baskets to the poorest population.
This worked in Guayaquil, Quito, Zamora Chinchipe and Tungurahua, through barter.
“The tours of the neighborhoods of those cities, especially Guayaquil, gave us the guideline to start the Health Brigade,” says Richard Intriago, president of the National Peasant Movement (Fecaol), promoter of the project.
Intriago explains that in the popular areas they found families without hope. “Elderly who had a simple flu, but believed they had covid, lying on a bed, put to death without the tools to heal themselves.”
Anita Fernández, national director of the Women Without Limits Foundation, with a presence in 16 provinces, details that through the network the exchange of products that supply popular drugstores was achieved.
Fernández recognizes that, during the coronavirus health emergency in Ecuador, they are the medicinal herbs that all the social strata have turned to in order to take care of their health in the body. For this reason, he ponders the importance of the ancestral health initiative that they carry out.
Intriago highlights that the people know well how natural medicine works and during the highest peak of the crisis “I was looking for it, but there was none. I was looking for ginger, garlic, but it cost seven or eight dollars a pound, there was no eucalyptus or bee honey. ”
Popular apothecaries have rue, eucalyptus, garlic, honey, lemon verbena, ginger, lemon, aloe, arugula, among other medicinal plants to relieve colds, stomach pains, colic and respiratory problems.
They are administered by women neighborhood leaders, who do not earn money for this work.
Many of the products are donations and others have a symbolic price to cover the cost of transportation, “but they generate health and confidence in the people, who work and generate wealth in the country.”
The network of peasant apothecaries is made up of the Plurinational and Intercultural Conference on Food Sovereignty (Copisa) , the Transport Association, Women Without Limits, popular educators, neighborhood federations and the National Peasant Movement.
Tito Freddy Barreno, President of Copisa, stresses that the initiative benefits the most vulnerable population, “those who do not have access to pharmaceutical medicines.” With the two vehicles that Copisa has, it is in charge of distributing the products that arrive from the exchange between the three regions of Ecuador.
The previous Wednesday, another 10 apothecaries were born, in Esmeraldas and Tungurahua, reported Anita Fernández, of Mujeres Sin Límites.
Intriago highlights that the project is a response to the health crisis from popular organizations. “It is a tool for people to feel safe knowing that they have something to count on.”
Intriago, Fernández and Barreno are aware that medicinal herbs do not cure covid-19, but they protect the vulnerable population from other common ills, strengthen the immune system and make the symptoms of the coronavirus less severe.
“All of us in this crisis, without distinction of social class, resort to ginger tea, honey, eucalyptus to protect ourselves from the virus,” says Fernández, who insists that the initiative is also an example of solidarity and collaboration between Ecuadorians. (I)