Sowing is recovering
Because of the pandemic, social relations between neighbours and families suffered greater rupture than they had before. For Yeny Carolina, a social worker, this project offers a deeper vision: «The Terraza Verde project, from my point of view, creates a social fabric around ecology and agriculture, and generates links between people». For example, Odilia, a social leader of an informal settlement, has a community compost bin. Around 13 families collect organic waste in a small bucket. They also have a vegetable garden, where they grow mint, parsley, pennyroyal, rue and tomato seeds. «What they are growing is being consumed by the families themselves. The truth is that there is a lot of poverty here», Carolina remarks. She adds, «the people who are doing this are grandparents or mothers, who are heads of households and who grow their coriander and tomatoes for their own consumption. One of the advantages of being in this project is that at least we keep our minds on other things, we relate to each other, we are brought together and we are aware of each other’s needs». Meanwhile Blanca Díaz, who lives in another neighbourhood of Usme, explains that her life has changed with this project because they make better use of their time and have the opportunity to do things with other people. She adds, «Some of us from the parish visit the houses of community members, we help them to sow, and we take them the seeds. This is a project that is not personal, it is communal».
An alliance with a future
For Alfonso Canedo, the support of the Skat Foundation has made him feel encouraged. Now he has the backing and the resources to hire a technical expert, to buy seeds and to bring together 100 families. «Without this support, we would be working with a maximum of five families», Canedo says, suggesting that the project could be extended to the whole city through the Archdiocese, with the support of Javeriana University and other entities such as the Botanical Garden and schools. Furthermore, there is also the possibility to engage local city halls, the mayors and private sector actors such as supermarkets. «This laboratory allows us to demonstrate to other communities that it is possible to make this project a reality. With more time and resources, it could be replicated in other places», Canedo maintains. Sandra Méndez explains that this is the first phase of the project. «We are documenting it to facilitate its multiplication. It has been a very enriching process because we started with just a few families, and we have seen how the interest of other communities has grown during the course of the year», she says.
When talking about the future of the project, Canedo explains that it would be ideal to first rent a farm, because the parish borders with the rural area, and then start a community process. The urban area requires a lot of mosquito and pest control. However, in a more rural area, the management of the compost bins would be enhanced. «We have made projections, and in three years, with an investment of about 300 million pesos (75,800 CHF), this project would already be profitable, because people are liking this green wave, this organic food», he says.
The current phase runs until February 2023, and it is planned to continue with training and education workshops for families to keep implementing their Terrazas Verdes, and for those who are motivated to start their own business. The results of the experience will be disseminated so that it can be replicated in other places.