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2020 Topical Reporting, Climate Change finalist

Las mujeres que le ganaron al desierto

About the Project

The women who beat the desert (Las mujeres que le ganaron al desierto) is a multimedia project —with text, photo essays, videos, photo-videos, illustrations, gifs— that tells the story of four women farmers living in the Jubones desert, in the south of Ecuador, who in their daily lives adapt to climate change without being aware of it. They live in a dry area where the sunlight lasts 12 hours a day the whole year, and that has suffered the impacts of climate change: years ago they had a rainy season, now it barely rains one month a year. Due to these difficulties they have developed different techniques to bring water to their lands and to use it wisely in order to continue producing their crops, which are their main source of income.

Blanca, Daisy, Mélida and Adriana live in four different communities that are separated by a one, two or three hour drive by private car. To get there, one must drive on a winding dirt road and enter a valley surrounded by tall dry brown mountains. Their households are visible from a few miles away because they seem like oases in the middle of the brown and dusty landscape. This project shows the resilience of the four women, their leadership as women in a very sexist job, and their creativity to bring water to the desert, a dry place where government programs do not exist or exist partially.

The project also reveals the immense knowledge these women have about agriculture, which they are not even aware of. Water reservoirs, organic fertilizer, and drip irrigation are some of the techniques they have learned and improved on in their lands. These techniques have allowed them to diversify their products, earn more income, and take care of the soil by avoiding dryness or erosion.

The project was produced by Isabela Ponce (reporting and writing) and Ana María Buitrón (photography and video).

It had the support of Gabriela Valarezo (art direction and web design), Paula de la Cruz (illustration), José María León and María Teresa Ronderos (text editing), Diego Ayala (video editing) and Verónica Aumala (social media strategist).