The project aims on the one hand at agroecology. Farmers should be able to cultivate the soil in a long-term and sustainable manner. This is intended to improve the nutritional and financial situation of the families. Equality also plays an important role. Strengthen women – and thus break through the existing macho culture.
Women are the backbone of society: the photographer Luis A. Guzmán pays tribute to the female sex in a coffee-table book. The women featured are beneficiaries of a SWISSAID project in the municipality of Mongua in the Colombian department of Boyacá.
Deeply rooted macho culture
Strength, self-confidence, hope for the future: what the women farmers in the photos radiate does not at all correspond to the way their lives looked a few years ago. No tired peso rewarded their strenuous work at home and in the fields. Condemned to economic dependence, they suffered from violence and discrimination compounded by a deeply rooted macho culture.
The women featured are beneficiaries of a SWISSAID project in the municipality of Mongua in the Colombian department of Boyacá. For a long time, the Mongua farmers made over their small plots of land at 3,000 to 4,000 metres above sea level mainly to potato monocultures – a product and a cultivation method prone to production defects. The use of toxic, expensive fertilizers and pesticides contaminated the soil and the water. Many old vegetable varieties known to earlier generations were lost. The result was poverty, malnutrition and even famine.
An eye for agroecological cultivation methods: the women farmers were trained in them. Today the soil produces 70 different vegetables and fruits. This has improved the nutrition situation in their families.
In recent years, SWISSAID’s cooperation with two local farmers’ associations has greatly improved the difficult situation: farmers have been trained in agroecological cultivation methods. Today the soil produces a variety of 70 different vegetables and fruits. 11 lost varieties known to earlier generations were saved – such as pearl barley, red wheat or artichokes. The food security of families has increased. Women farmers can sell surplus fruit and vegetables at the market, to neighbours or through fashionable new sales channels such as organic subscriptions for city dwellers.
The challenge now is to embed the successes achieved. The final project phase involves strengthening the two farmers’ organisations in such a way that they can maintain their processes in the long term. Young people are being increasingly involved. Special attention is paid to improving the family dynamics: women are further strengthened, and men commit to non-violent contact with their wives and children.
Make strong women stronger: non-violent interaction in families is an important aspect of the SWISSAID project in Colombia.
Role of women
The promotion of gender equality is off to a good start: 85 percent of the farmers’ organisation members are women. Throughout the whole project, they were at the forefront of the development and implementation of proposals. The project has given them an economic, political and social alternative to their often bleak daily lives. Today they are already playing a major role in society. As housewives, mothers and farmers.