EcoBurrito was an idea.

With growing human populations and overconsumption, the world and its ecosystems are under increasing pressure. Species are going extinct, forests are cut down, and biodiversity is dwindling. Scientists and conservationists around the world have identified solutions to many of the problems facing ecosystems and endangered species. The challenge? Money. Finding sustainable sources of income for addressing issues of sustainability is a major obstacle. 

Can businesses generate income for projects to protect the ecosystem?

Aaron Sandel, a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan, first came to Uganda in 2009 to study the behavior of wild chimpanzees. When Aaron returned in 2012, he visited his friend Julian Kizza who lives in Kampala, Uganda. Julian had spent his senior year of high school in the United States, and Aaron and Julian took an english literature class together at Brookline High School. Aaron wanted to bring a souvenir for Julian from Brookline, MA. Julian joked that he missed burritos.

Uganda has all the ingredients for a burrito--rice, beans, avocado, and even something like a tortilla.

The idea of EcoBurrito was conceived. Julian and Aaron identified a niche. Burritos are an easy to make food that draws on local ingredients and Ugandans and international tourists alike would enjoy. And if the restaurant succeeded, it could support conservation projects in Uganda (and around the world).

EcoBurrito remained an idea until 2014, when Aaron returned to Uganda to spend 15 months collecting data for his dissertation. Nathan Chesterman, a recent graduate from the University of Michigan, joined Aaron to help collect data on the transition to adulthood in male chimpanzees. In the long days in the forest, Aaron and Nathan discussed EcoBurrito. Nathan, who had a growing interest in food and sustainability, thought the project was feasible.

On their days off, Aaron and Nathan designed recipes and talked with community members in the nearby village of Bigodi. With the help of the Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (KAFRED), Aaron and Nathan identified a location for the restaurant and assembled a team. EcoBurrito became a reality.

Learn more about our story here: http://michigantoday.umich.edu/chimps-and-salsa/

Click Here to Meet the EcoBurrito Team

Click Here to Buy a Burrito for Someone in Bigodi Village.