Sharing knowledge and flavour in Cocalito

Sharing knowledge and flavour in Cocalito

29/05/2013

Eight hours from Quibdó you find Cocalito, a small village located in the Alto Baudó by the Ancozó River shore, that is inhabited by an Embera’s indigenous community. Life is simple in Cocalito. Like many other indigenous communities in Colombia, agriculture is the main livelihood activity, but multiple climatic phenomena, including increased rainfall and flooding, have caused losses in crops and livestock.

In order to help these communities reestablish their main livelihoods, FAO technicians arrived under the Joint Response Programme for the 2010-2011 La Niña Phenomenon.

Over four months, Prof Yeni – as she is affectionately called – visited the village in order to train people on new agricultural techniques to improve their crop production yields. The Professor also brought banana, rice and maize seeds, as well as tools in order to ensure the community was able to resume cultivating their fields. FAO was able to improve agricultural practices, while also taking into account different risk factors.

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In order to improve nutrition, primarily of children, FAO introduced new vegetable seed varieties and worked with families to help them cultivate these new varieties in their home gardens. As soon as the first harvest was ready a workshop on vegetable preparation was organized. A cooking expert was brought in to teach the locals about the new vegetables and train them on vegetable preparation.

The community teacher, Libia Estela Achi, is one of the more focused students. She learns the recipes and then teaches other women to encourage them to prepare vegetables for their children, because she believes that vegetables are fundamental “for children to eat right”.

FAO organized a Knowledge and Flavour Exchange Fair for communities in the region that participated to come together and share their experiences. Representatives from neighbouring communities gathered around town to discuss and exchange the lessons they learned during their training. Composting, biopharmaceuticals for pest control and techniques for building henhouses were some of the topics of the meeting.

Libia Estela is satisfied with her experience. She herself leads the group, with the Governor’s council, and the discussion, enthusiastically showing the visiting communities all of the vegetables they have grown, how to prepare them and even their nutritional value. She believes the entire community will continue eating the vegetables, because even if they are new to them, they have brought new flavour and color to their food.

As the workshop comes to an end, Lidia is preparing a salad while the other women attentively look on. Hands need to be washed, first and foremost. Then, we peel and dice the vegetable and add a little bit of salt and lemon juice. The salad is shared and disappears within a minute. “See girls, that men really do like it?”, says Libya to her friends as she smiles.