Make a donation to save Muyu, the virtuous community from the Galapagos islands

The pandemic created problems for an inspired project on an island of the famous Pacific archipelago. A heartful appeal

by Luciana Bianchi
Muyu is a project with an important social value o

Muyu is a project with an important social value on the island of San Cristobal, Galapagos, Ecuador. The Covid-19 crisis threatens the community. Make a donation to support them (photos from Paulo Rivas Peña)

Muyu is a love story between two friends, Pablo and Luciana, and a magical place, San Cristobal, Galapagos, Ecuador, the archipelago considered a World's Natural Heritage by Unesco since 1979. Nine thousand people share this island with a unique fauna: marine iguanas, giant tortoises, sea lions, rare birds and marine creatures you can only see here. It's a place without native indigenous roots, which usually form the basis for the local cuisine followed by cultural confrontations. And it's a unique case of an entire community living on only one industry, tourism.

One thing that was immediately clear as soon as we arrived: there was a need for professional training in hospitality and gastronomy to make tourism sustainable. Pablo dedicated many years of his life to the Galapagos Island, he directed a family-run hotel with 21 rooms in San Cristobal. He was looking for a way to preserve the natural treasures of the Galapagos for future generations, and to be part of a community that could promote good projects in the hospitality industry. Together, 4 years ago, we started a journey that would change our lives, and the lives of many more people. 

We knew that most restaurants and hotels in the Galapagos Islands were contributing to the increase of carbon emissions in the archipelago, just like most food products were imported from the mainland. There was no environmental programme studied for the hotel and restaurant industry, no food artisans and many young people moved from one job to the other with no career plan and without the possibility of having a sustainable job and life. We also knew that many women didn't have a voice in a society that offered few possibilities of career development.

The island had a big potential for organic farming, but all the companies bought supplies from Quito or Guayaquil, and local farmers found it very difficult to earn a living with their harvest. We believe in the power of food, this is why we thought of a project that would involve the hospitality and food industries.

Marco Salamanca, chef at Muyu

Marco Salamanca, chef at Muyu

Iguana, the emblem of Charles Darwin's beloved archipelago

Iguana, the emblem of Charles Darwin's beloved archipelago

Octopus and beans, one of the dishes in the menu at Muyu

Octopus and beans, one of the dishes in the menu at Muyu

Muyu is a project born in June 2017. It means “seed” because it represents our personal promise: plant the knowledge and hope to change many lives. It has become a restaurant/school where every employee receives the right salary and professional training. There are no exclusions based on age, sexual orientation, religion or faith. You learn by doing, through various stimulating projects, connected with science, food, drinks. Most team members don't have any previous experience but after two years of hard work and dedication they have become skilled professionals, capable of working in any great restaurant around the world.

THE PANDEMIC. Ecuador is one of the regions in Latin America hit the hardest by the Covid-19 crisis. Since the Galapagos totally rely on the mainland to survive economically, the crisis has a huge impact here as well. People who visit the Galapagos must first arrive in Quito or Guayaquil and then take flight connections to the islands. There's no other way except for long journeys by boat. 

We're lucky that the island is still Covid-free, but until tourists won't return, we cannot earn a living. Without financial support we're forced to close our doors and end many of our projects. Closing Muyu could have a huge impact on the local economy and could put to a halt the process of professional training that has grown successfully over the past 3 years. Our team members would become unemployed and would see their dreams shattered.

Muyu's team is made of small families of farmers, fishermen, artisans and suppliers: today we support a network of over 200 families for whom the school/restaurant is the only source of revenue. Mothers and children work with us, single mothers who provide for their children. Farmers for whom Muyu is the only client.

Muyu is the first restaurant that has placed the Galapagos islands and Ecuador on the international culinary route, attracting food lovers from all around the world to the islands. We take care of our famers and fishermen, creating menus based on local seasonal products and on the daily supply. We promote a zero-waste philosophy, reducing the carbon footprint and developing the first cuisine of the Galapagos -  FarmForest and Sea on the table– as a tribute to the first inhabitants of the island, and as a testimony of our respect for nature.

We're foragers, permafarmers, craftsmen, promoters of a circular economy, of a new model of sustainable tourism, that could guarantee a sustainable future for the Galapagos, an archipelago where people, nature and fauna can live in harmony.

Today the situation is very precarious: we're in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, one thousand km from the mainland. The airport has been closed since March, most people are using up their savings to buy food, so much so they have already begun to barter food.  There are no revenues or other ways to support the local economy. For us now it is clear that after the extension of the Health Sanitary Emergency on behalf of the Ecuadorian government, the Galapagos islands will not return to enjoy tourism soon, and even when this will happen, it will be a slow process until we will be able to reach a new normality.

For all these reasons we're asking for your help. We know you're fighting your own battle against this pandemic, but we have realised that we can only survive through solidarity. Support Muyu with a donation, your help – big or small – could make the difference.