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COVID-19 Relief in Colombia: Food security

Providing families in Colombia with food security through backyard farms during the COVID-19 pandemic

Crisis ResponseCrisis Response
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The Need

The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified an already dire food security crisis in Colombia, causing extreme shortages that have left thousands of vulnerable families in desperate need. The government has provided some support, but rural, isolated regions in the northern part of the country have been unable to access any help. Compassion’s frontline church partners in these communities have been distributing emergency food supplies to as many families as they can, but with limited resources at their disposal, providing this level of support was simply not sustainable.

Having access to sufficient nutritious food is necessary for children to be able to survive, grow, develop and thrive. Without a well-rounded diet, children can become chronically malnourished, which in turn causes health problems like severe stunted growth and weakened immunity, increasing vulnerability to infectious diseases including COVID-19. Hunger and malnutrition also impact children’s sleep patterns, brain development and school performance.

Food insecurity poses a massive threat to children’s future, hindering their holistic development in a profound way. As the impact of the pandemic continues over the months and years ahead, this crisis will only intensify for the world’s most vulnerable. In order to provide families in greatest need with a sustainable source of food, Compassion’s church partners in rural, northern Colombia knew they needed long-term solutions for hundreds of vulnerable families.

Our Response

With your support, 1,030 families from 45 churches in Colombia have been able to establish home gardens and begin rearing small animals on their own properties. While the proposal for this intervention included 741 beneficiary families from 35 churches, thanks to costs savings, the scope was expanded to include 289 additional families and 10 more church partners. To reflect this addition, the original timeline was expanded by 6 months.

Parents received virtual training on food production and sustainable farming practices through SENA, a Colombian public institution that develops vocational programs for the labour force. The classes were mostly virtual because of restrictions due to COVID-19. Church partners and SENA carried out training in breeding and management of minor species, customer service, bait pig breeding, broiler chickens and laying hens management, innovative entrepreneurship, project formulation and budget preparation, implementing urban productive animal units, stewardship, food handling and agricultural production for crops. After successfully completing their courses, parents received seeds and fertilizer, broiler hens, pigs and building materials for the animal sheds.

Under the ongoing support and monitoring of a professional agronomist, caregivers began preparing land for seeding and for constructing the garden areas and animal pens. When constructing the sheds, some caregivers were able to reuse building materials they already had, while others used recycled materials. Churches were also able to secure a good discount from their suppliers, who also absorbed the cost of transport as a donation to this project. These cost savings allowed 289 additional families to be included in this intervention.

An assessment showed 355 families at risk of malnutrition, so these families also received emergency food kits containing rice, oil, lentils, milk powder and pasta. These packages were distributed for three months, ensuring children and families had enough to eat while they were still preparing their gardens and animal sheds.

After just a few months, families who had planted vegetables saw their first yield, including eggplant, beans and cucumbers. Families were also able to enjoy fresh eggs and meat from their chickens. Some families have already begun selling their produce locally to earn income. By the end of July 2021, families were actively running their businesses and contributed cash or portions of their livestock and harvests to their local Compassion centres, which some centres used to support families with food and hygiene kits and even to support new families with gardens and chickens so they could benefit from this intervention, too. In the long run, it is expected that families will donate 10 per cent of their yield to their local Compassion centres, helping feed other children in need.

Activities

Sharing the blessing: Families with small gardens donated a percentage of their harvests to their local Compassion centres. This practice will be ongoing and will ensure that churches can continue providing nutritious meals for all children on centre days.

Monitoring and follow-up: Centre staff and technical advisors visited caregivers to inspect their farms, evaluate their yields and offer support where needed.

Training and graduation: Caregivers received training in agriculture and animal rearing from technical specialists. Those who completed the program successfully received diplomas for good farming practices.

Food and hygiene kits: Centre staff delivered food packages for families at risk of malnutrition so they could eat healthy meals until they were able to supplement their diets with the foods grown or raised on their backyard farms. Caregivers also received hygiene kits to help protect them from COVID-19. Staff took all necessary COVID-19 precautions.

Animal rearing: Some families received small animals to raise for meat and produce, including broiler hens, chickens and pigs. Children have been helping feed, wash and take care of their animals.

Home gardens: Families were provided with seeds, fertilizer and materials to start their own gardens at home. A professional agronomist monitored their progress and provided support where needed. Families worked together to prepare the land, plant the seeds, and tend to their crops as they grew. Children were excited and happy to help!

Your Gift Provides...

• Emergency food kits for 355 vulnerable beneficiaries and their families, for three months:
○ Rice, lentils, beans, peas, cornmeal, oat flakes, pasta, brown corn, eggs, milk, coffee, sugar, panela, oil, salt, chocolate bars

• Hygiene kits (facemasks, soap, hand sanitizer) for staff and families

• Virtual training program through SENA institute for 1,030 parents at 45 centres, including printed posters for beneficiaries

• Home gardens and farms for 1,030 families, including:
○ Soil analysis
○ Vegetable seeds and fertilizer for 161 families
○ 30 broiler chickens each for 803 families
○ 30 hens each for 29 families
○ 2 pigs each for 37 families
○ Animal feed
○ Supplies for garden and animal sheds

• Support from a professional agronomist for 1,030 families for nine months

• Banking expenses

• Monitoring and evaluation