EWEA mission in Colombia - Day 4

EWEA mission in Colombia - Day 4

14/07/2019

Fourth day, San José, municipality of Albania (La Guajira, Colombia)

We no longer have jetlag, we are perfectly acclimated, and we almost feel Colombian. Today, the community we are going to visit is the one in San José, which is located in the centre-eastern part of the department. Of the 46 families that live in this community, 27 are benefiting from the FAO project. Rigoberto Narváez, one of the agricultural technicians of the project, explains – this time, it was his turn to tell me – that in this area there are recurrent floods due to overflow of the Ranchería river. There are also windstorms between June and November, and, as in the rest of the department, high temperatures that often extend the period of drought, causing shortages of drinking water in rural areas and trigger forest fires.

He also tells us that the inhabitants of San José are semi-rural, Venezuelan migrants and displaced Colombians from other departments such as Sucre, Monteria or Cesar, who have lived in the community for several years, each bringing their own history and problems. Here there is no Wayuu population. As in other parts of the department, there is a lot of smuggling and there are not many opportunities to make a leaving in agriculture. It seems that the social connection has been lost, but in spite of everything, they do live in peace. Today I would like to talk more about the project and its results. Firstly, in all 19 project communities, vulnerable households received drought-resistant seeds and agricultural tools to produce both food for human consumption and animal feed.

The composition of the agricultural input kits was selected along with the communities and the tools provided were meant for the collective use of all the communities. Which are drought-tolerant seed varieties? For human consumption: guajirito beans, black beans, pigeon pea, creole maize, creole squash, eggplant, red pepper, tomato, cabbage, kidney beans, tomato and cilantro. For animals: fodder sorghum, mombasa and cuba22 fodder varieties, matarratón (Gliricidia sepium) and trupillo (Prosopis juliflora). The project also contributed to the rapid recovery of food production among vulnerable communities. This was achieved through the efficient use of available water, such as alternative energies for water supply with systems powered by solar energy or what we have seen a lot in all communities, the drip irrigation system that allows for minimum water usage for plant growth and production.

Another project result was mortality reduction and improved nutrition of sheep, goats and other minor species belonging to host communities. This was achieved, among other activities, through health brigades and the distribution of feed and nutritional supplements for animals. In the community of San José, for example, a brigade is organized every three months. The beneficiaries also received laying hens. Going back to the discussions and surveys we have carried out in the community of San José. Here, everyone insists on the drought and its dramatic consequences: they have lost many harvests.

Rosa tells us that she lost crops for five years. She tells us that before FAO they had no support. “La Guajira is a rich department, it has coal, gas, mines, but in the countryside are very much neglected. The field is our source of life. Before FAO’s arrival, we had organized ourselves, setting up a farmers’ association to better benefit from the project. We felt reassured from the moment that FAO arrived because although we have not yet harvested, we know that in a very short time we will.”

For the president of the community, the contribution of FAO is significant especially the component of water management. Just to remind you that in the department of La Guajira, only 4 percent of the rural population has access to drinking water, for which women and children sometimes work up to seven hours a day to collect water in rural areas. And to the question on what advice would you give FAO, he answers: to continue working with us!

Read more about the next day of the mission.