Ecuador Field School: Sustainable Livelihoods and Global Environmental Change

This field school will explore the politics of conserving ecosystems, enhancing livelihoods and adapting to environmental change in Ecuador, a country that is often considered a model of sustainable human development. Ecuador’s 2008 Constitution upholds a right to sumak kawsay (buen vivir or “good living”), an Indigenous concept that is deeply informed by alternative worldviews of nature, harmony and sustainability.  At the same time, Ecuador is a petroleum exporting state whose economic and political fortunes remain highly dependent upon the supply and price of oil in the world economy, which has put mounting pressure on the social democratic model. The Ecuadorian Constitution also upholds principles of “interculturalism” and “plurinacionalism” but, like many Andean countries, remains deeply divided along Indigenous, racial and linguistic lines. The field school will critically examine these contradictions and how they play out in the everyday life of Ecuadorian citizens.  To what extent are they able to balance or resist the wider forces of urbanization, migration and resource extraction that are driving unsustainable practices?  How do the constitutional rights of nature and sumak kawsay contribute to processes of Indigenous self-determination, linguistic and cultural preservation and sustainable development? What are the alternatives, and how can local Indigenous responses in the Ecuadorian highlands inform our understanding of adaptation, sustainability and environmental change?  Students will spend time in Quito (the national capital) and Chimborazo, the latter a highland areas experiencing economic and environmental transformation resulting from processes of urbanization, agricultural intensification, mining, deforestation, and climate change.  The group will meet with academics, government officials, environmentalists and indigenous communities and farmers to engage in discussions and case studies.  


This international field school is open to students from all disciplines at the University of Guelph, but may be of particular interest to undergraduate and graduate students in International Development Studies, Environmental Governance, Environmental Sciences, Food and Resource Economics, Rural Studies, Political Science, Sociology, Anthropology, Geography and other programs with a focus on resources, livelihoods, sustainability and the environment.

Information Session

Thursday, Nov. 15

5:30 - 6:30 pm

MCKN 314

Field School Details

Instructor: Dr. Craig Johnson, Political Science

Offered: Summer 2019

Prerequisite: 7.5 credits or permission of the instructor, 70% cumulative average,

If you have any questions about the program, please contact Dr. Johnson or Allison Broadbent, Study Abroad Manager.

Program Dates

2 weeks in May, 2019


Students will be registered in 1.0 credits at the third year level. 

The school will commence with a pre-departure seminar series that examines the politics, history and cultural meaning of sustainability, Indigenous identity and experiential learning in the Andean context.  This will be followed by a 12-day field visit, in which students will live and engage in local case studies in Quito (the national capital) and Chimborazo, an indigenous highland area.  Through lectures, seminars, readings and participatory field visits, the course will provide an opportunity to engage in critical discussions about the nature of sustainability and development in one of the world’s most ecologically-fragile regions. By focusing particularly on highland ecosystems and local/Indigenous perspectives (sumak kawsay), it will offer critical insights into the challenge of understanding and sustaining livelihoods in this rapidly changing socio-ecological context. 


Students should budget for the following:

  • Round-trip airfare to Ecuador
  • Tuition and fees at the University of Guelph for 1.0 credits
  • The Ecuador Field School fee: approximately $800 which covers the following in Ecuador - accommodations, transportation for field trips, admission fees for venues. Amount is subject to change based on fluctuating exchange rate.
  • Mandatory travel health and emergency insurance through the company Guard Me ($1.65 / day)
  • ​Personal expenses (food, additional personal travel, etc) 


Students applying for the program must have completed a total of 7.5 undergraduate credits by the time the program begins in May 2019 (or permission from the instructor), and must have a 70% cumulative average. (Students with a 67 - 69% cumulative average may be considered if there are extenuating circumstances that affected their marks which are described on their application.)

The program is open to students from all disciplines at the University of Guelph, with a maximum of 20 students being accepted to the program. 

Apply to the Ecuador Field School

Students interested in applying to the Ecuador Field School must apply using an online application. To receive access to the online application you must first attend a Study Abroad Information Session through the Centre for International Programs. You will then receive access to the online application by early December.

Application deadline: January 25, 2019