With vegetables and fruits on their shoulders dozens of peasants appear on a road to meet a truck that will take the products they grow to the urban area of Medellín, where they cannot go because of the quarantine in which Colombia remains for the COVID- 19.
This ritual, which only started a few weeks ago, involves the farmers of the townships of San Sebastián de Palmitas, Altavista, Santa Elena, San Antonio de Prado and San Cristóbal, who have had to reinvent themselves in order not to weaken their finances, supply customers in the city and reduce food waste.
“It is a way of adapting to what is happening; if it were not so, the products would be being lost and we would not have a livelihood,” Alejandra Bedoya, who at the El Altico farm cultivates lemon, avocado, cassava, peas and cherry tomatoes, among others.
Among baskets, boxes and bags full of colorful supplies, they start the tours very early that allow them to collect part of the production that they sold before on weekends in parks in Medellin, within the Mercados Campesinos program.
Without the possibility of this space, in which the small and medium producers in the rural area of the city have commercialized their products directly with the consumer for more than 30 years, the economy of more than 300 families was threatened.
“When the virus broke out we didn’t know what we were going to live on because those markets were our only income,” said the young woman, who lives in Palmitas.
As the Mayor’s Office of Medellín works to strengthen food distribution channels amid the coronavirus contingency, some farmers have had transportation to facilitate the shipment of their products.
For this reason, Alejandra established with her neighbors in the Urquitá vereda (village) “a network to help us and supply”, which operates through WhatsApp requests and with logistics that little by little they polish.
On Thursdays, with notebook in hand, the young woman goes through farms in San Cristóbal to collect fruits such as blackberries, lulos and tree tomatoes, in addition to going to her grandparents and uncles’ crops to pick up onion and coriander to start assembling the packages that they will distribute.
“Last Saturday we delivered 70 markets at home. We have become visible; we went from being forgotten farmers to supported farmers because before people preferred to buy in large supermarkets,” said the farmer.
To these networks formed by the farmers themselves are added initiatives such as “Local Purchase”, a platform that allows producers of “Farmers’ Markets” to make their sales digitally through a page that, according to the Secretary of Economic Development of Medellín, Paola Vargas, received 12,000 visits on her first day and 120 markets were sold.
“It has been important because it is benefiting 250 peasants who were going to be greatly affected in marketing,” Vargas told Efe, who recalled that 70% of the territory of Medellín is rural.
Through “Local Purchase”, in three days 8.2 tons of food from peasant producers were sold, which represents the income of more than 16 million pesos (about $ 4,000) for the ten families who delivered their production with support in logistics and transportation of local authorities.
“It becomes a vital tool to support businesses and producers,” said the secretary, adding that with a pedagogical work, farmers have accepted this technological strategy, despite the fact that their average age is 58 years.
DIFFICULTIES TO DRAW
Although in the midst of the crisis caused by COVID-19, the authorities have fostered coordination between rural producers and private companies, a bet that has already allowed the sale and distribution of more than seven tons of food from the townships, there are still links to be reinforced.
Although 79 families who sold their production to the gastronomic company La Cocina de Luis have benefited, according to the Mayor’s Office, and these foods have been distributed among vulnerable populations in the city, there are still cases such as that of Álvaro León Cano, who has not been able to compensate for the sales he made in a market weekend.
“I hope this is removed lightly so that I can go out to the park to sell the little things,” the 61-year-old peasant told Efe, as he continues to plant and harvest, but a good part of his products do not find a buyer.
With the initiatives deployed, he has managed to find an outlet for part of the banana production of his La Manuela farm, therefore he also meets the appointment on the road before the truck passes, but there are fruits and vegetables that have been spoiled.
His wife, Ofelia Rodríguez, stated that by selling in a park in the Belén neighborhood they managed to raise about 600,000 pesos (about 150 dollars) each week, but now with the isolation and the closing of markets “we have lost limoncito, we have had to take that ripe because it can’t be left on trees. “
Despite the fact that some of her clients call them, there is the difficulty of “not knowing how to handle what the Internet is,” lamented the woman, who lives in San Sebastián de Palmitas.