Comparte: Food in a people’s economy

Comparte: Food in a people’s economy

By Álvaro Idarraga Quintero

The Comparte (“Share”) program of the Jesuit Conference of Latin American Provinces (CPAL) is a community of learning and action comprised of 16 social organizations, as well as Alboan in Spain. It seeks to promote alternative economic processes and to reflect on these processes critically to ensure that they are economically, politically, culturally and environmentally sustainable.

Latin America and the Caribbean exist in a paradox of food crisis: in spite of their biodiversity and abundant food supply, adequate food is not accessible for around 15.3% of the population, or 68.5 million people (FAO, 2014). In a bid to address this crisis, Comparte is working to foster economic production in diverse regions and to promote food security, food sovereignty and the conservation of natural heritage. It also advances an environment of participation, based on principles of gender and generational inclusion.

Two examples follow from the many communities in the seven countries where Comparte serves.

Food security in San Ignacio, Paraguay

Since 2000, CEPAG (the Antonio Guasch Centre for Paraguayan Studies, a member of Comparte) has assisted 320 farmers in San Ignacio district, in southern Paraguay, toward greater food security. CEPAG’s work focuses on strengthening the technical capacity of campesinos (small-holder farm families). It also accompanies groups as they develop shared management and alternative marketing channels. One such group is AOSSI (the Association of Community Organizations of San Ignacio), which was established in 2008 to support coordinated action by producers.

Member of the Balbuena-Roda family prepare their garden for planting(Photo: P. Blain/CEPAG)

Members of the Balbuena-Roda family prepare their garden for planting. (Photo: P. Blain/CEPAG)

The Balbuena-Roda family is a member of AOSSI. Before joining the group, the family found that the cost of investing in the kind of infrastructure that assures production, such as an irrigation system, exceeded their financial capacity. So they turned to AOSSI’s micro-credit program for help. AOSSI also offered them the opportunity to sell their produce once a month at an agro-ecological fair in the capital Asunción.

Today Aureilio Balbuena happily regards his family’s prospects: “Our goal is to be able to establish a family-owned micro-enterprise where my children can work. With the help of CEPAG, we recently built a greenhouse and later I want to purchase a vehicle to take my products to market.”

Micro-dams in Ccatcca, Peru

Ccatcca is a rural district in southern Peru where 80% of the people are small-holder farmers. In 2000, when CCAIJO (Agro-industrial Training Centre of Jesus the Worker) began to accompany the people of Ccatcca, it found that the biggest barrier to improving productive capacity on family farms was the lack of water for irrigation. In response, a collective decision was made to build micro-dams to store rainwater for irrigation during the drier summer months.

Twelve micro-dams have now been constructed at strategic points in hydrographic basins where small quantities of rainwater naturally accumulate. With this technology, the farmers of Ccatcca have collected over one million cubic metres of water.

Along with micro-dams, CCAIJO has also helped with other capacity-building in agriculture and livestock production (cattle, llamas and guinea pigs). Farmers in Ccatcca now produce enough for their own consumption as well as surplus to sell at regional markets. Moreover, the food security and sovereignty they enjoy is serving as an example to campesinos in neighbouring districts.

This article first appeared in the 2016 Fall issue of CJI’s Mission News. Álvaro Idarraga Quintero is Executive Secretary of Comparte.

(Banner photo by P.Blain/CEPAG: The Balbuena-Roda family working on their farm)