Village development the Colombian way

Step by step, the locals of Pueblorrico are battling to create a future for themselves – self-determined and ecological.

The dirt track up to Pueblorrico, winds in tight bends. Despite its name, the village is anything but rich. Over 85% of the population live in poverty. The soil is fertile, with coffee and bananas really thriving. However, the plots are small, no more than a half a hectare, and are completely covered in coffee trees. The income from the sale of coffee is not enough to feed the families, so the men and women do casual labour on the large coffee plantations in the region. However, there is only work during harvest time, and food is hard to come by in the other months. The men and women of the village want things to change.

Cooperation creates friendship

The ‘Comunidad en Acción’ group created by the committed peasant farmers three years ago has already achieved good results: to begin with the 110 families have worked together and with the support of SWISSAID to come up with a development plan for their village. They have identified the problems which they have to tackle and have devised solutions. Working together has brought them closer and clearly underpinned the solidarity within the community. Looking back, Adriana Rincón, the president of the organisation, says “Previously, we used to be very apathetic and didn’t even greet one another in passing. Nowadays, we create plans, are active and have become friends.”

First of all, the farmers switched over to mixed cultures on their fields. Small vegetable gardens were created, and they planted fruit trees and staple foods like corn. This meant that the ‘Cafetaleros’, as the coffee farmers are known, are now able to produce a considerable proportion of their food themselves, reducing the ill-fated dependence on the coffee monoculture. The fertility of the soil is ensured with organic fertiliser, and biological agents are used for pest control.

Dirty drinking water

It also soon became clear in group discussions that the 48 drinking water sources in the village were in a woeful state. They were all contaminated with rubbish, waste water and agricultural chemicals and were not protected. Following negotiations with the landowners, some of which proved to be extremely delicate, all the springs were fenced in, and the land around them was reafforested.

The organisation received official concessions for the three main sources from the environmental authority, ensuring that they will be used exclusively as sources of drinking water which is all the more important since the area lies in the ‘mining belt’. This is a region where the government issues concessions to multinational mining companies to mine for gold, effectively encouraging the contamination and industrial use of the drinking water. In addition, the farming communities run the risk of losing the rights to the water as soon as am mining company becomes active.

However, these are not the only areas in which ‘Comunidad en Acción’ is active. It has also addressed the issue of domestic violence through information events. And the group has set a good example; a further 110 families have already joined the organisation.

 

 

  • Project code: KO 2/14/04
  • Project duration: 24 Monate
  • Project costs: 58'085.- Swiss francs
  • Beneficiaries: 220 families