Venezuela has suffered from a widespread decline in public services, such as electricity, domestic gas supplies and public transport, in recent years.
This crisis has prompted some members of indigenous communities on Venezuela’s western border with Colombia, including Río Negro, to regularly cross the border to purchase basic goods, including food. As their loved ones or partners leave on these essential trips, the women of the Wayúu indigenous community find themselves vulnerable to gender-based violence.
Community gardens can be the answer to the problems of self-sufficiency and safety. A garden created by a network of local women, Jieyúú Kojutsuu (“Women of Value”) is supporting local women and their families and helping them meet their subsistence needs.
UNHCR / Diego Moreno
There are now 26 members of the community working together to grow corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, celery, black beans, cantaloupe, and other vegetables and fruits in Río Negro.
They include many of the most vulnerable groups of the Wayúu indigenous community, including young people at risk of being recruited by armed groups, unemployed women at risk of gender-based violence and the elderly. have to beg and work hard to survive.
Guillermina Torres, one of the members, said: “Can you imagine? There are more women than men working in the garden. People who used to wander the streets have also participated in this project.”
“Traditionally, agriculture has been one of the main livelihoods in the region,” said Diego Moreno, a UN refugee agency.UNHCR) Assistant Security in Maracaibo who has been following this initiative.
He added: “Women who are most at risk of experiencing gender-based violence while their loved one or partner makes trips back and forth to Colombia now have a safe space for them to congregate. every day to grow food that will later benefit their families.”
UNHCR / Diego Moreno
With limited financial resources, the Wayúu indigenous community had to come up with new creative and sustainable ways to grow crops. A positive side effect is the move towards sustainable agriculture, which is less harmful to the soil.
To support these efforts, UNHCR has funded farm tools, seeds, water tanks and solar street lights, helping to ensure that communities have a clean and sustainable source of energy and irrigation water.
In addition, the United Nations migration agency (IOM) trained local families on how to make organic fertilizers and natural insect repellents, using ingredients — including animal waste — easily found in the community.
“We didn’t have to spend money buying chemicals that could affect our plants and the environment. Instead, we learned to make our own 100% natural fertilizers and repellents with ingredients part that we can find right here in our community,” Ms. Torres.
“The replacement of chemical fertilizers with organic fertilizers and agricultural toxins with natural pesticides made from neem leaves, tobacco leaves and plant ash, as well as the creation of seed banks, ensures a sustainable and ecologically efficient way of life, as well as a healthier diet for families and the community at large”, said Wolfgan Rangel, IOM Productivity Projects Supervisor in Maracaibo , explain.
Hundreds of supported gardens
In total, more than 660 community garden projects have been supported in the states of Zulia, Cádira and Barinas.
Both UNHCR and IOM have donated the tools and resources needed to support the community through the development of sustainable smallholder farming initiatives. In some of these communities, local markets have also been established to sell vegetables, helping to create alternative sources of income.
Given the remote location of the community and the lack of public transport, it is important that community garden projects continue to expand. This way, more indigenous families will be able to participate in these subsistence farming initiatives and stop relying on trips to neighboring countries to buy food.