Cotacachi Landscape

by | May 4, 2008 | Archives

The Cotacachi economic landscape looks better all the time. Ecuador’s economy may be slow, but Cotacachi construction is booming and this creates many business opportunities. The main reason Merri and I are in Cotacachi to help create employment.

Our Land of the Sun foundation ( offers free English courses and provides free computers to help residents of Cotacachi create global internet businesses.

The foundation owns and runs our hotel El Meson de las Flores. All profits from the hotel remain in the foundation to help Cotacachi grow.

One of the best ways we can help Cotacachi is to bring people there to visit…to live and to retire. So far 40 or 50 families have joined us from Canada, the US and Europe in this beautiful Ecuadorian village. These new residents are creating impact. They are building…buying and using local services.

This is why I am tickled to share this story sent to us by our friend Deborah Nance.

Business is Blooming
By Deborah Nance

My husband, Robert Lofgren, and I retired in Cotacachi, Ecuador with our hearts set on philanthropy. We love many things about this area, but the indigenous Indians of Cotacachi have to be at the top of the list. Given our backgrounds, (we both have business degrees, Bob’s career was on Wall Street, and mine was on Madison Avenue) we feel that the best way for us to be of service is to help the indigenous start successful businesses.

Agroyura is the first, and this business provides landscaping and irrigation.

They are also available to act as consultants to orchard owners to improve and enhance their production. As their bi-lingual business card boasts (one side is printed in Spanish and the other side is in English…much like the business partners themselves) Agroyura is The Best Quality Around.

Agroyura is a word combination of Spanish and Kichwa, the language of the largest group of indigenous Indians in Ecuador. Agro is short for agricultura, the Spanish word for agriculture. Yura is the Kichwa word for tree. The reason yura was included in the name is that a lot of trees are being cut down in Ecuador, and the indigenous owner felt it was important to emphasize the importance of trees.

Meet Juan Bonilla with his partner and girlfriend, Katherine Penrod.


Juan lives in the Indian community closest to our housing development of San Miguel. Juan lives in this three room house in the village of Turucu with his mother, Virginia.


Juan was the former president of his village, and will soon have the equivalent of a Master’s Degree in Agriculture with an emphasis on irrigation. Juan is scheduled to graduate in August as an agricultural engineer from the Catholic University of Ecuador branch in Ibarra.

Katherine is a recent graduate of Denison University in Granville, Ohio where she majored in Spanish. She met Juan last year while studying in Ecuador.

Irrigation is important to Ecuador. The government takes the rivers that come from the tops of the Andes Mountains, and divides this water into canals based on the amount of people living in an area. This is done so that there is water access for the maximum number of people. Unfortunately, people with a lot of power, like hacienda owners, tend to control and receive more of the water.

For his Master’s thesis, Juan designed an irrigation system for the village of Alambuela, Ecuador. This indigenous village is located on the side of a mountain with a river running across the middle. People living below the river get water, but those above do not. The challenge was to find a way of getting water to the high part of the community, either by pumping water up, finding water to come down, or by using alternate sources of energy, like wind and solar, to control the water. Juan’s thesis is a brilliant solution that combines all three. This plan has been brought to the attention of CODENPE the national governmental organization in charge of irrigation, and is currently in the process of being government funded. This will be a great improvement in the quality of life for the 254 residents of Alambuela who currently live without water.

Together, they have exactly what it takes to do landscaping for the many Westerners who are buying and building new homes in the High Andes. With Katherine as a partner, clients can be sure that their desires and needs are interpreted correctly. Katherine has heard requests for gardens ranging from Formal English to French Rock and is able to research and design, with Juan, plans that fulfill the client’s wishes using plants that thrive here on the equator.

One of the most important functions of Agroyura is the preparation of the land and conditioning of the soil with organic compost and the adjustment of the Ph balance. Juan considers the soil as another living organism because there are so many different bacteria, funguses, and living organisms within it. Using organic materials to make it of better quality means that the soil will last a longer time and the plants will flourish.

Juan and Katherine are pictured with my husband, Bob Lofgren-manager of San Miguel, and client Wally Gilbert who is building a new home here.


Another advantage of working with Juan is his many connections. Through a combination of university field trips, and having spent his entire life working in agriculture, Juan has developed an extensive network of friends and acquaintances. This provides him with contacts throughout the entire country of Ecuador, and beyond. This enables him to get rare and healthy plants. Juan was able to get a magnolia tree for my front yard, for example. They are not found in Ecuador, but he was able to bring one in from Colombia through his connections.

Juan and Katherine spend many afternoons in our study at the computer doing spread sheets, estimates and proposals. Just like working with professionals in the West, Juan and Katherine are able to provide their clients with all the information they require to make informed decisions. All expenses are itemized and every penny accounted for. Juan has been able to hire a crew of indigenous, also. Almost everyone who has visited our development recently has commented on how focused and hard-working Juan’s workers are. As Agroyura grows, more and more ambitious indigenous people will be employed as well.

Like the gardens and lawns Juan and Katherine design and plant, they are happy to say…Business is Blooming!

We are very thankful to Deborah for this article. We keep business cards and telephone numbers of the many business services available for our Ecuador Living subscribers.

For specific information contact Steve in Cotacachi who just posted an article at Ecuador Living about Cotacachi medical information or stop by and visit.


Join us for a course or tour!

Here is our schedule for the rest of 2008

May 13-17 Ecuador Import Export Course

May 23-25 International Investing and Business Made EZ North Carolina

June 6-9 Ecuador Coast & Quito Real Estate Tour

June 11-15 Ecuador Spanish Course

June 16-17 Imbabura Real Estate Tour

June 19-21 Shamanic Mingo Tour

See discount package for attending more than one June tour.

September 17-20 Ecuador Coast & Quito Real Estate Tour

Sept 23-27 Ecuador Spanish Course

Sept 28-29 Imbabura Real Estate Tour

See discount package for attending more than one Sept. tour.

Oct 3-5 International Investing and Business Made EZ North Carolina

Oct 14-18 Ecuador Import Export Course

Nov 7-9 International Investing and Business Made EZ Ecuador

Nov 10-11 Imbabura Real Estate Tour

November 12-15, 2008 Ecuador Coast & Quito Real Estate Tour

See discount package for attending more than one Nov. tour.