The aim of this initiative is to enhance the food autonomy of the Arhuaca ethnic communities through ancestral models. It promotes self-consumption of a diverse basket of biofortified crops such as beans, rice, sweet potatoes, and corn. The goal is to improve the quality of life for beneficiary families, promote local and regional consumer actions, and facilitate the marketing of surplus crops, all while incorporating ethnic and gender-oriented technologies. This model has been proposed by the AgriLAC Resilient Initiative and Agrosavia in collaboration with the ASONEI community in the Cesar department, Colombia.
To achieve this, we ventured into Arhuaca lands to educate the families of the Umuriwa community about the nutritional benefits of biofortified crops, emphasizing the importance of having a basic food basket that can provide the necessary nutrients for optimal human development, particularly for children.
The process also involved sharing knowledge and practices for cultivating crops like beans, corn, and rice, employing agroecological and ancestral methods. The objective was to diversify the community's crops and ensure their food and nutritional security, in addition to their existing coffee and cocoa production.
In the El Palmar region, activities have been carried out as part of the AgriLAC Resilient initiative in collaboration with Agrosavia. This involved a participatory process of empowerment for technical assistants, ethnic representatives, youth, and women. Together with the community, we managed the biofortified bean plots using agroecological approaches.
As part of this effort, we conducted pilot tests for beans, focusing on agronomic practices such as fertilization, irrigation, and pest control using agroecological inputs. These tests were conducted in a 200 square meter communal plot, which was planted in early October 2022. By March 2023, six gardens were successfully established.
Over the course of more than four months, we have been monitoring the plots and gardens, ensuring that the community effectively follows the recommendations and protocols to maintain the crops and utilize the surplus. This enables them to provide food for an extended period to the families in the community.
One significant aspect of the initiative has been the empowerment of Arhuaca women. Oledis Izquierdo, one of the community members, expressed how this cultivation endeavor has helped her produce surplus crops for her family's consumption. She found that the flavor of the biofortified beans and corn was equal to or better than the conventional varieties. Her children were particularly delighted whenever she prepared meals using these crops.
The community's Commissioner, Jesús Ramón Torres, also acknowledged the benefits and recommended prioritizing the distribution of seeds to the community's ethnic agroecologists and authorities. This would allow them to share their experiences and knowledge about beans within their various vegetable gardens.
Luz Adriana Jiménez, the focal point of AgriLAC Resilient in Colombia, emphasized that this process aims to provide rural communities with nutrition- and climate-sensitive agricultural technologies developed in research centers. By validating these technologies based on diverse practices, including ancestral knowledge, they can contribute to agricultural development and sustainability.
Natali Rendón, an Agricultural Engineer, and Sandra Vargas, a Research Associate, who participated in the field day in March, explained that the AgriLAC Initiative seeks to integrate knowledge, technologies, and experiences within a community to foster innovative territories. The goal is to promote environmentally friendly agriculture, reduce plot maintenance costs, and facilitate the consumption and commercialization of surplus crops in the market.
Throughout the second year of implementation, the work dynamics have included sharing experiences with the community and addressing topics such as crop management, low-cost irrigation systems, market research, gender perspectives, and seed banks. These valuable and rewarding knowledge exchanges provide the community with the necessary tools for sustainability and resilience.
AUTHOR: AgriLAC Resilient Initiative, Work Package 1, Colombia.