16 October 2019

World Food Day

Julia Membache

“My daughters tell me, we’ve done it, now we have our own food again.”



Julia Membache belongs to the Emberá indigenous community in Arimae, Panama. She has witnessed the progressive loss of seeds and native crops in recent years--and she’s felt its impact on the availability and diversity of food.

“We no longer had ñampí (a local tuber) here and we were also losing yams because of fungus,” Julia recalls.

Things began to improve after Julia was included in a programme to revitalize traditional food production systems and improve access to local markets in nineteen indigenous communities belonging to the Emberá, Ngäbe, Buglé, Naso Tjërdi, Bri-Bri, Guna and Wounaan peoples. 

FAO, working with partners and the Government (Ministries of Government and Agriculture), provided producers with seeds that had virtually disappeared in the area and introduced farmers to production techniques through the Farmer Field Schools training system, while incorporating local, ancestral knowledge.

“Before, we sowed a lot of the mountain but reaped very little. Now, with a small piece of land, we can produce much more,” Julia says, proudly observing her plot full of yam and ñampí crops

The increased food supply has been combined with nutrition education sessions to improve food security and nutrition in a sustainable way.

“These foods are good for your body because you produce and harvest them yourself and they don’t come overtreated with chemicals,” Julia says.

Julia has been an inspiration in the community, not only for her discipline and good results but also, for her ability to motivate other women to do the same.

“I tell them that not only the men can work but the women, too. I have brought them to my plot, I have taught them and I have given them seeds to sow.”

Back to stories page