Farmer-to-Farmer in Colombia’s Orinoquia Region is making an impact for smallholder farmers in the lush and remote area despite facing an unstable security situation. The project, implemented by Purdue University through the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance’s Farmer-to-Farmer Special Program Support Project (F2F SPSP), aims to increase farm productivity, strengthen innovations along the value chain and enhance networks that support local food systems. As the project nears completion, Purdue is building on previous successes to ensure farmers experience sustainable solutions and the regional agricultural economy flourishes.
On October 2, 2016, Colombian voters rejected a peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) by a thin margin of only 50.2 percent. Due to the atmosphere of uncertainty surrounding the shocking outcome, F2F country staff reevaluated the safety concerns and decided not to field volunteers until the situation stabilized. However, Purdue staff were able to overcome these challenges and continue making progress, building upon the work of 25 previous volunteers. During the past six months, the project has worked with Agroempari to achieve their organizational goal of encouraging the campesino (rural smallholder farmers) economy. Farmers have used the skills they acquired during previous F2F volunteer assignments to create new products and improve existing ones. These include caramel, milk, corn, fresh cheese, yogurt and eggs.
Another host, Corporacion Entre Pueblos (CEP), worked with F2F to implement vegetable gardens on 45 of its members’ farms. CEP also used knowledge gained from previous volunteer assignments to improve the quality of their crops. These were then made into corn cookies, araza, cakes, caramels and other treats to be used in a newly created Christmas basket product. CEP was able to sell 50 baskets during the 2016 holiday season, bringing in $830 in additional revenue.
With the stabilization of the security situation in Colombia, Purdue plans to field 12 more volunteers over the next six months to teach skills ranging from pest management to using solar dryers. In August of 2017, they will also organize and host a small farms conference to connect smallholder farmers from different areas and provide information on small-farm production and profitability.
To read more about the project, check out the article that was published in World View magazine featuring Amanda Dickson, an extension educator who works for Purdue University Extension and served as a volunteer on the project March-April 2016.