EWEA mission in Colombia – Day 2

Second day, Juan y Medio, municipality of Riohacha (La Guajira, Colombia)

We left the hotel at 7 in the morning, the jetlag is still giving us all hard time…

In my car we are five: Maira, Javier, Miller, Andrés and Humberto, in addition, of course, to our driver. They are all so kind, very professional and above all they believe in the role that FAO can and should play in this difficult context that is in La Guajira.

Humberto Rodríguez Mártinez, the FAO project coordinator in La Guajira knows everything about Colombia and this region: we’ve already stated this, but it doesn’t matter, I’ll say it again, La Guajira is exposed to extreme climatic conditions characterized by very high temperatures and strong winds, tropical storms, hurricanes and drought. What we are all learning with this forestry engineer is amazing. It would be brilliant to be able to send Humberto in some of the regions that have similar agro-climatic conditions such as the Sahel, to exchange experiences…

La Guajira is a multicultural department where more than 56 percent of the population is of some ethnicity, of which almost 45 percent are indigenous people. The majority are the Wayúu people who represent 96 percent of the indigenous population and more than 38 percent of the departmental population. In the community where we were today there is a mix, they are Afro-descendants, Wayúu and Venezuelan migrants. A total of 55 families have received support from the early warning and early action programme in this community. We get out of the car and little by little the community members arrive and we all sit under the thatched roof in the shadow of a strong sun! The focus group discussion begins with Javier Márquez Ariza, one of the two FAO veterinarians, introducing with these words that say a lot about the participatory approach: “Here, there are no rules, you are the owners of the community, all is relevant”.

This type of discussions with the representatives of beneficiary households are needed for the collection of qualitative information. They allow to have additional evidence to that collected through the individual questionnaires on the perceptions of beneficiaries on the early actions, including on the opportunity of the actions, the socio-economic effects, the effects on food security and the potentially undesirable consequences, among others. One of the questions is as follows: How did you like the project from September 2018 until now?

At first everyone was very quiet, shy, until Emilia Armas broke the ice. The first thing that Emilia said was about integration, about working together, and more united, that Afro-descendants, Wayúu and Venezuelan migrants are working together. She tells us that with the intervention of FAO they have learned to work as a team. She tells us that thanks to what they have learned in the training demonstration centres (CDC) they already know how to classify the seeds better, that working together in the garden has made each of the participants feel part of something, part of a community.

I still do not want to talk in detail about what the CDC are as I will do so in the following stories, but let me just say that they are community fields where everyone learns to plant drought-resistant sedes, for human consumption and forage seeds for their animals. CDC is based on the same model in all communities. Once they have learned or relearned planting techniques in the community garden, they can replicate them in their own land. The seeds and tools necessary for planting are those given by FAO and the training is carried out by colleagues from the FAO technical team.

She tells us that, thanks to the training, her children were able to learn so many things that they are going to replicate on their plot of land. And she adds that the kit received, the tools and seeds (for Basilia the best ones were aubergines, maize, beans and coriander), was super useful as she doesn’t have to buy what she produced herself and is able to save to buy other things. Like Ms Basilia, Ms Laura seems to be very happy with the support received.

Laura, who has a very sweet voice, confirms everything that her classmates have said and adds that the trainings are very important, and even if they take a lot of time, she tries to attend them all. When she can’t, she sends one of her relatives who then explain what they learned. Another question is on the arrival of Venezuelan migrants, on their acceptance and integration into the host community.

He tells us that here in the community of Juan y Medio, he has been welcomed very well, he feels totally part of it. He has no intention of leaving for the time being. And the women with whom we have spoken before seem to be all in agreement about the fact that here, before Venezuelan or Colombian, they are all above all human beings.

Read more about the next day of the mission.

The FAO EWEA programme has been supported by the kind assistance of the European Union through the partnership agreement contributing to strengthen the Global Network Against Food Crises.

Source : Fao