ColombiaColombia

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 caused a major food shortage in Colombia—a country where food insecurity was already a major threat to children growing up in poverty. Chronic malnutrition during childhood results in severe stunting, low school performance, reduced immunity to infectious diseases and increased mortality rates, especially among pregnant women and new mothers.

Both Compassion’s frontline church partners and the Colombian government have responded to the food crisis by distributing food packages, but some rural communities in the northern part of the country have been unable to access adequate nutrition, especially for their children. Local church partners continued serving beneficiary families throughout this difficult time, but their resources were running out.

Food security reached a crisis level. Parents couldn’t find work to buy basic groceries, and children were suffering physically and emotionally. While distributing food packages has been a lifeline for many families Compassion serves, our church partners recognized that they needed to create a sustainable solution so children wouldn’t go hungry, and so parents could feel more autonomy in providing for their children’s needs.

Our Response

To address the critical need for food security, Compassion’s National Office in Colombia identified 741 vulnerable children whose families were especially hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis and had enough space on their property for a home garden or animal rearing.

However, churches and families were able to optimize their resources and save money. Some parents were able to reuse materials they already had to build their sheds, others had already started their gardens, suppliers assumed the cost for transportation, church partners negotiated discounts from agricultural warehouses and families saved funds by building both sheds and gardens at the same time. Since our church partners already had Internet, there was no need to invest funding in this service. These budgetary savings meant that nine more beneficiary families from one centre in Magdalena and a further 340 beneficiary families from ten centres in Cartagena could be included in this intervention.

Thanks to you, 45 partner churches are now training and providing resources to 1,100 families so they can establish their own sustainable agricultural practices and strengthen their household economies. By growing their own produce and rearing small animals like pigs and chickens, these families can finally generate their own resources and support local food security.

Suddenly with no work, school or outside distractions, parents and children had the opportunity to focus on the shared goal of setting up their property for their hens, pigs or gardens. Caregivers attended the Compassion centres to receive online training on food production and sustainable farming practices through SENA, a Colombian public institution that develops vocational programs for the labour force.

Skilled local technical advisors—including veterinarians, zoo technicians, agronomists, environmental engineers and agricultural professors—were carefully screened and hired by the 45 local churches. The advisors provided the caregivers with training about how to build their sheds, barns and gardens; how to maintain the property; how to care for laying hens and pigs; how to manage a budget; how to reuse and recycle materials; and how to create a sustainability plan. Knowing they would not be left alone to start their small businesses, parents felt reassured, thanks to regular support from the technical advisors. Due to the additional families to the intervention, access to the technical advisors was extended another three months so families can access help for nine months.

Church partners extended the delivery of monthly food kits from three months to four months for 255 of the families most at risk of malnutrition, giving parents guaranteed time to focus on establishing their gardens without fear of starvation or having to leave home to search for work. Families also received hygiene kits filled with personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Activities

Technical advisor visits: Technical advisors visited the families to assess their backyard farms and the animals’ living conditions.

Food and hygiene kits: For families facing malnutrition, churches delivered food kits and hygiene kits to help support the children’s healthy growth and development while also protecting them from COVID-19.

Education support: Caregivers were trained on how to construct their backyard farms and gardens, and how to raise the animals.

Home gardens and small farms: Families have been thrilled by the opportunity to raise chickens and pigs, and to enjoy the eggs and meat. Even the children are learning how to care for the animals and where their food comes from.

Your Gift Provides...

Your gift is helping our frontline church partners to provide:

• Emergency food kits for 255 vulnerable beneficiaries and their families, for 4 months:
o Rice, lentils, beans, peas, cornmeal, oat flakes, pasta, brown corn, eggs, milk, coffee, sugar, panela, oil, salt and chocolate bars
• Hygiene kits, including face masks, soap and hand sanitizer, for staff and families
• Virtual training program through SENA institute for 1,100 parents across 45 Compassion centres, including printed posters for beneficiaries
• Home gardens and/or small farms for 1,100 families, including:
o Soil analysis
o Garden construction
o Vegetable seeds and fertilizer
o 30 chickens each for at least 440 families
o 80 hens each for at least 80 families
o 2 pigs each for at least 38 families
o Shed construction for animals
o Support from a professional agronomist for 9 months
• Banking expenses
• Monitoring and evaluation