The students will become the teachers

Photocredit: Manon Koningstein

Literally a fresh start: that is what it was when five of CCAFS researchers left for Cauca one early morning. However, when getting closer to Cauca and seeing the mountains, the forests and the blue sky, this chilliness was soon forgotten. This place has been named a new CCAFS site for Latin America.

When arriving, farmers of all ages and sexes were already present and we could start right away. The kick-off was done by local partner Luis Alfonso (better known as BamBam) and Ana Maria Loboguerrero from CCAFS. After five minutes, the farmers had already decided that this was going to be an interesting and above all, a fun meeting.

The main objective of the meeting was to decide upon the main activities for this new CCAFS site, the time line of the activities and to talk about some basic agreements.

The point stressed is that each participant is responsible for teaching the others. The students will become the teachers. This is done through realizing ‘the dream’. Various participants were asked what their dream is. One of them told us that he would like to be the best coffee producer in the area. Another farmer wishes that he could export his ‘chontaduro’ to the USA. An elderly woman tells us that her dream is to have a good working and big orchard full of seeds.

Photocredit: Manon Koningstein

The way these dreams were used in the workshop, is to explain the vision of the project and of the CCAFS activities. To be able to realize this vision, or this dream, the participants themselves named out some key words that were unmistakable for success: process, change, participation, organization, reality, unity, availability and integration, and all of this with the final outcome to be able to handle climatic events. 

In general, the female farmers are able to define very clearly who they are, and what they are expected to do: ‘Before being a wife or a mother, I am a daughter. I need to take care of my mother, for she is the one who has helped me forward.’

The women’s organizations in the community seem to be quite strong, despite the fact that the farmers themselves tell us that the gender roles are very strictly defined.

The dream: The communities of Los Cerrilos and El Danubio need to feel empowered in their climate management

All activities are to be conducted in the light of climate change, food security, gender, farmer-to-farmer networks and communication strategies for a social change:

  • Managing Climate from the Vereda
  • Campesino-a-Campesino: We are trying to understand the methods used for knowledge exchange between farmers (and we hope to compare the experiences in Nicaragua and Colombia).
  • Gender Survey: This is an in-depth survey to look at differences between men and women with regards to several aspects, including land use, labor allocation for agricultural production, how decisions are made on the farm/within the household, awareness and adoption of different CSA practices, access to and use of different sources and types of information, access to and use of credit and other financial instruments, etc. 
  • Gender Norms and Agricultural Innovation Case Study: This is a qualitative study that is comprised of various focus group discussions and interviews with a few people in the community.  The objective is to understand the local gender norms and agricultural innovations (and the interactions between them).  This is part of a larger, global study where we will compare the results from across the globe to see if any trends regarding gender norms and/or agricultural innovations emerge. 
  • Participatory Video and participatory communication strategies
  • CCAFS Baseline studies are going to be conducted. This in order to measure impact in a few years of the communities’ work supported by CCAFS and strategic partners (local, government, CG centers, multilateral and regional organizations, amongst others).
  • Promotion of South-South exchange within Cauca and similar communities from Latin America and other CCAFS regions. Lessons learnt and experiences from previous work with other communities will be shared with the Los Cerrillos and El Danubio communities.

Los Cerillos and el Danubio are communities located about 1.5 hours away from the city of Popayan, in the department of Cauca, Colombia. This site has been chosen as a CCAFS site for its extreme vulnerability to climatic conditions and climate changes in relation to food stability, availability and accessibility; for its dependence upon agricultural activities; and for the mix of indigenous, mestizo and afro-descendent farmers.

These communities are very special in terms of their organizational advances: due to adverse circumstances they have developed a strong commitment among their members and have achieved important results in the coordination of activities. They have a strong position in front of local and even national authorities to request support from the government and most importantly, they are aware of the changes in the climate they have been facing more frequently each time and they are willing to work together in order to be resilient to these challenges. 

The characteristics mentioned above make these communities a very attractive location for various partners (local, regional, research centers, NGOs, etc.) that would be interested in partnering in our activities to help these communities have improved livelihoods facing climate and improving food security. Also, Cauca is being one of the prioritized departments for the Colombian Government to promote and implement development initiatives facing post-conflict situation.

For pictures on this first CCAFS site visit, please look at this Flickr album: