January 20, 2021

Colombian agriculture is modernized to attract "millennials" and overcome poverty

Colombian agriculture is modernized to attract "millennials" and overcome poverty



A group of Colombian peasants have undertaken modest ecological neighborhood projects and smart agriculture to bring millennials back to the countryside through plans focused on producing more with less and thus reduce poverty.

GPS criollos, online platforms and bird herding are part of the initiatives of peasant veterans such as Desiderio and Victoria, as well as boys like Germán and Juan Pablo, who seek to make profitable agricultural work and stop the youth exodus.

"We realized that we old people were staying alone on the sidewalks (villages) and without the health to work," says Desiderio Gámez, 67, of Efe, explaining how he became a partner of his neighbors in a plan of " happy chickens ", with which, in addition to making their plots more productive, they try to keep children and grandchildren in the field.

The breeding of birds in the town of Chinavita, department of Boyacá (center), is part of the "Weaving Rurality" initiative, which covers 150 families in five municipalities of that region, considered an agricultural pantry in Colombia.

However, Boyacá has a youth unemployment rate of 13% and that department left 30% of the total migration of young people in the country between 2010 and 2015, according to data from the regional government.

The Pastoral Social of Duitama and Garagoa, promoter of the plan, detected that the main concerns of the inhabitants were the exodus to the cities, which reduced production due to the absence of labor, and the lack of technical assistance to overcome poverty, that in Chinavita it reaches 75%.

In that area, the average income of a family is 200,000 pesos per month (about 66 dollars), which is 40% lower than the total expenses, estimated "Weaving Rurality", which has also driven at least 70 family gardens and 6 community.

With the project, which consists of raising chickens in open spaces and with a diet based on corn, vegetables, grasses and a minimum of concentrate, "we have an improvement in the economy, they have advised us to know what is needed and the first ones are already eggs to sell "says Desiderio, who has eight children but all residents in the city.

"The boys leave to look for better conditions, so we have to try to do everything better here," affirms Victoria Talero, 73, who together with her husband, Efrén, 88, maintain their vegetable cultivation in Chinavita alone.

That has also been the concern of young winners in the country like Juan Pablo Casadiego, of "Agrikua", an online platform to empower women in agricultural practices, and of Germán Andrés Vásquez, who applies precision agriculture to modernize small plots of the country.

"Beyond technology, we need to change the concept that the countryside is poverty and turn it into an opportunity for the country's growth, so that young people stay and make it productive," says Efe Germán, 25 years old.

In his model, for which he was designated "innovative young leader" by the Bayer firm, Germán uses simple mobile phones and tablets.

This is in addition to the experience of farmers to create maps using GPS devices and free geostatistical software, as well as analyzing pests, soil fertility and environmental conditions in order to allocate inputs where they are really needed.

This system has already landed in the town of Chinavita, where the Autonomous Regional Corporation of Suroriente de Boyacá (Corpochivor) began the analysis of the soil to make more productive crops of corn, beans, vegetables and pastures.

With these techniques and with the eggs of "happy hens", which the villagers now seek to commercialize -one of the great challenges of the countryside-, Desiderio and his neighbors hope that the exodus from rural areas will be reduced.

"There are already children and grandchildren who have realized that the field is productive and that is why it is necessary to promote initiatives in which the work of the farmer is valued," says priest Ricardo Lache, leader of "Tejiendo Ruralidad".

The challenge is "for consumers to realize that it is a political act to help improve the income of farmers by buying their products," agrees the Colombian Clara Inés Nicholls, president of the Latin American Agroecology Scientific Society.

Data released by FAO on the occasion of World Food Day to be commemorated on October 16, indicate that 70% of people living in extreme poverty in the world live in rural areas and most of them depend on the farming.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) considers that an "integrated" approach will not only "help increase crop yields and, therefore, their profits, but also improve the quality of their lands. "

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