Permaculture Around Latin America – Women Empowerment in Colombia

Colombia is home to Nashira, an Ecovillage located in Palmira, which is 19 miles east of the main city of Cali. Ecoaldea Nashira is centered around the idea of having women, who are often heads of family as is the case in most of Latin America, create their own "housing solutions, production centers and workplaces" within sustainable and self-sufficient frameworks. As the video (sorry, Spanish only) explains, Nashira hosts 88 women and their families, and all of the community building has sustainability as a starting point, which has allowed for fertile and productive land, delving into appropriate technology, and alternative economies. Take a look at the gallery on their website for a glimpse into their work.

Now, check out this video (English subtitles), centered around Colombian farmers and fishing communities defending their right to food security and autonomy.

Ecoaldea Nashira and the video above showcase two central themes in Latin America: women’s rights and indigenous/local food security. Around the world, women provide much of the farm labour in small production systems (1), but [email protected] women must still face significant inequality, not to mention overwhelming abuse — emotional, sexual and physical — that is supported and encouraged by a patriarchal system. Income generated by Latin American women alone has reduced extreme poverty by 30% in the past 20 years (2), but the wage gap remains strong. The World Bank states: “Women are overwhelmingly employed in the service sector…. Furthermore, a persistent wage gap, particularly in Chile, Brazil, Mexico and Peru means male professionals can earn up to a quarter more than their female counterparts.” (2)

As one of the women in Ecoaldea Nashira, Erika Giraldo, points out, the ecovillage is important because it helps “to generate self-sufficiency, [so that] each woman can start to manage and develop themselves.” This is one of the core aims of women empowerment movements, and allows women to break free, to some degree, from the trappings of the patriarchy and gender inequality. As permaculturists blessed with the privilege of information and education, we would do well to continue to give permaculture itself, as a movement, a focus on women’s rights, particularly those of women in developing countries.

Indigenous and local food security ties closely to women’s rights since, as a significant part of the agricultural workforce, women suffer the effects of globalization and the commodification of food directly. Food sovereignty, as defined by the Via Campesina Movement, is "the right of pueblos [let us understand: small, rural, underprivileged and indigenous communities] to nourishment that is nutritious and produced in a culturally appropriate manner through sustainable and healthy methods. It is their right to define their own politics and agricultural and food systems."

Latin America is particularly vulnerable, as a developing region, to the globalization and appropriation of its native, often indigenous and cultural means of production in order to meet the demand of consumers in the global north. The World Food Program explains that, “Despite a prolonged period of substantial progress on the social and economic front in Latin America and the Caribbean, large segments of the population are still suffering from food insecurity and chronic malnutrition. Persistent inequalities in income distribution and access to social protection networks mean that the members of more vulnerable households in the poorer areas of the region’s countries receive insufficient food and nutrition, which impedes their normal development.” (3).

The International Food Policy Research Institute’s 2006 paper titled Conflict, Food Insecurity and Globalization points at the phenomenon of globalization as one of the main determinant factors of food security or insecurity in a given region. In the abstract they also point out that “Export cropping appears to contribute to conflict when fluctuating prices destabilize households and national incomes… Also, in these scenarios, governments have not taken steps to progressively realize the right to adequate food or to reduce hunger and poverty.”

Going back to the second video of fishermen in Colombia — through which we learned about the truly harmful effects of privatization and globalization, a problematic pattern seen in all Latin America, where people are no longer able to afford natural resources that are rightfully theirs, such as natural water resources, or where the natural resources are exported to developed countries — we learned about the gradual decrease of the biodiversity of natural fish species, and were told that with it went “the economic possibilities for the locals,” which then caused a decrease in quality of life.

Programs like ASPROCIG’s and Ecoaldea Nashira, which create “an alternative that is born in and is managed by the communities” are essential in Colombia and Latin America at large. Supporting local initiatives and women’s and indigenous rights should be a moral imperative and a framework for every permaculture undertaking, whether based in Latin America or not. We must stand in support of every poor, small farmer in Latin America, every women and their empowerment. In doing this, we can try to live, instead of just know about, the third ethic of permaculture.



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