fighting malnutrition with small farms in Colombia
Malnutrition is a chronic problem for the Wayúu people of the La Guajira region in northern Colombia, where socioeconomic factors and the arid terrain prevent access to food, basic services, sanitation and quality medical care. In fact, more than 25 percent of Wayúu children are malnourished.
With help from the Wayúu communities, Chevron Colombia developed a pilot program that has created 22 small, self-sustaining farms. Each farm is approximately one hectare (about 2.5 acres) in size and has access to water, allowing for the cultivation of yucca, watermelon, pumpkin and bananas. In addition to these traditional crops, the farms have added eggplant, sweet pepper, cucumber and tomatoes
"These farms strengthen and improve the living conditions of the Wayúu families," said Chevron Colombia general manager David Bantz. "This initiative also encourages more direct contact between the communities and Chevron, strengthening our relationship."
Families rotate to the different farms, so at harvest, work is distributed equally among the families. Excess produce is sold or bartered with other communities, guaranteeing food for the whole population.
By combining the participation of professional farm specialists with traditional Wayúu practices, the project also promotes conservation of native species, pest control, planting of timber species and development of foliage to provide shade in the arid region. Results of the pilot farms show improved nutritional conditions for the participating families, as well as a steady stream of additional income.
Chevron is currently negotiating with local governments to implement the project among the remaining 150 communities in La Guajira.
Published: December 2011