GUALMATAN, Colombia – How to grow crops without chemicals, create one’s own fertilizer and administer resources are some of the basics for profitable and ecologically sound agriculture that peasants in Colombia’s Nariño province are learning with international cooperation to improve their precarious rural lives.
Ivone Taques, 35, is one of the women who has been making the change. She used to spend her days working on other people’s farms, a job that earned her between 10,000 and 15,000 pesos ($3-5) per day.
Nowadays, she has her own land in Gualmatan, an isolated town in Nariño on the border with Ecuador, where she grows peas with natural fertilizer, a task that provides work for her entire family, who has a home garden plot to supply their basic food needs.
The key to this change in Ivone’s lifestyle is a small amount of money and, above all, the training she received through the La Caixa Foundation and Inter-American Development Bank, who financed a project launched by Colombia’s non-profit Contactar corporation.
The aim of the program is to transform a traditional subsistence economy into a profitable, ecological and adaptive livelihood for peasants to let them create and build their own agribusiness operations.
The foundation’s representatives in the US, Gloria Cid, who traveled to Colombia to learn more about the project, told EFE about the need to “empower them and let them see that they’re able not only to grow crops for their own consumption, but ... they can change that into something bigger, to be able to market (those crops).”
There are 1,207 other farmers in Nariño, one of the provinces with the largest rural population in Colombia, who received small loans of up to $1,000 along with technical help to get the best production out of the land.
“For me it’s been something new, like waking up ... they also taught us that chemicals destroy the land and destroy us ... Now I have that knowledge and I must take care of the land so that it takes care of me,” Ivone told EFE.
The project has been under way since 2016 in eight Nariño municipalities and benefits about 10,000 people of the 50,000 who live in the region.