Seeds of the Country Association

Project description

In Pereira, Colombia, a city of 600,000 people in the northwest of South America, a small group of citizens are working to ameliorate the poverty of farmers while ensuring for the protection and restoration of a healthy earth.

The group of recent university graduates, university students, and scientists, all currently volunteers, have been working for the last couple of years researching and applying organic farming techniques on their own plots of land. Operating with the ideology that no educated person should assume more knowledge than one without a university degree, this group has been living in the isolated hill country learning to raise a variety of organic vegetables and animals while simultaneously developing their organizational model for the region's struggling farmers.

Part of the struggle work of a Colombian farmer at this time is equal to that of a small farmer in any part of the world – competition and market prices. While everyone needs fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, and animal products, many farmers are either unable to produce what the market desires at a given time, or are unable to make a profit. In this area, where coffee used to rein king, farmers are left without the knowledge of how to compete in the market with other products (coffee prices have not risen in decades). Furthermore, this increasingly poor area is attractive to coca sellers in search of desperate farmers easily convinced to grow a lucrative crop, a possibility that is as devastating for the earth as it is for the social wellbeing – as fumigation planes roam the country, they spread dangerous chemicals across farms and in rivers.

Asociación Semillas del Campo (Seeds of the Country Association) hopes to alleviate the farmers' problems of poverty and desperation while developing new opportunities for future generations. The small group of volunteers has been teaching neighbors and community members about the benefits and possibilities of organic farming, showing them each time the fruits of their own labor. As the once popular knowledge of organic horticulture has been replaced by an overuse of pesticides and genetically modified seeds, learning to farm organically and grow natural products that consumers will purchase is a large part of their work. How, for instance, does the mixture of a variety of plants in one plot assist the development of all? How does one grow an organic cabbage for the market when the people are accustomed to cooking with the tightly packed leaves that only develop under pesticides? And, does garlic and hot pepper water really work to eliminate unwanted pesticides?

As the group’s organizers continue to teach themselves the methods of organic farming and the fickleness of consumers, they’re also organizing neighbors and polling community members to create a blueprint of products that the farmers will grow and the consumers will buy. Helping to assist the two groups also helps to eliminate the middleman and therefore lower prices while increasing the farmers’ profits. Their job also includes, of course, the social education of the benefits of organic produce and the dangers of pesticides, both for one’s health and for that of the planet.

While the group is just at the beginning of their work, their accomplishments of personal learning and community education are far reaching. By assisting farmers to return to a rich agricultural livelihood, they are helping to give back the possibility of a successful future in the country, which in turn helps to prevent further urbanization. In addition, they are helping to prevent the region from falling into the hands of drug traffickers which, among other things, ensures that it will be saved from harmful chemical fumigation and violence. Most importantly, however, Semillas del Campo is working toward these goals through the sustainable growth of knowledge, community relationships, and organic farming and ranching, all of which assist in the restoration and protection of Colombia’s natural environment – among the most diverse in the world.

Contact:

Satya Byock
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Deliana Cardoza Pelaez
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