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A garden named “The romance”
FAO’s project, titled “Apoyo de emergencia para la Seguridad Alimentaria y nutricional de personas afectadas por la violencia en el Departamento de Putumayo” was funded by the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund, and enabled FAO to apply the “learning by doing” methodology in the Municipalities of Villa Garzón, Puerto Asís, Mocoa, Puerto Caicedo and San Miguel in Colombia.
The “learning by doing” methodology requires strong collaboration between the participant families and FAO technicians. Several training demonstration centres were established, in which FAO technicians trained participant families on good food production, seed procurement and small animal keeping techniques, as well as better agro-ecological management.
Since men generally work in the fields and women handle food preparation at home, it is rare to meet men who actively or permanently work in one of these centres. Many of the participants are women, some of which are heads of households. It was in the village of Santa Ana in Puerto Asís that we met Mr Jose Ismael Barragán, the only male member working at a training demonstration centre that was built on land provided by the parish for the project.
The women respect and admire Barragán, and appreciate that a man is enthusiastically participating and helping them. He says he’s been a farmer since childhood, but lacked the technique. “We had negative thoughts, we thought that here you don’t give what’s given in the cold”, says Barragán.
“Now I know there’s another way to survive”. He already has plans for the future, and is looking for people to join him in supporting the community. Barragán mentions that the first step is coming together and getting organized because he believes, “unity gives us strength”. He is convinced that, “you must put in a lot of effort and work, but things do happen”. Cucumbers, beans, lettuce, radish, cabbage, kidney beans, watermelon and tomatoes are a few of the vegetables that the 17 families in Santa Ana have grown.
When we asked Barragán what he likes most about working in the training demonstration centre he says without hesitation, “This has been a very grand experience… we are all very happy working together as a group”. And what is this training demonstration centre called? He slyly replies, “Oh no! Well I don’t know! They’ve all come up with this story, and I apologize, of ‘The Romance’ garden, because what’s happened is that we’ve all done very well, getting along and having fun, but through it all working together and with everyone’s combined effort”.
In this garden named, “The Romance”, the community of Santa Ana has found a space to meet, learn and work together as a community, and also rebuild social ties that were broken by violence affecting the region for years. These families are reaping the benefits of their harvest as they improve their daily diets, but also as they realize there is hope for a better future.