Promoting domestic vegetable gardens to strengthen food security in San Onofre
Food insecurity is one of the main problems that affects the remote area of Montes de Maria in Northern Colombia. According to the National Nutrition Survey in Colombia (ENSIN), the incidence of child malnutrition in the country is 3.4%, while in the Caribbean region where Montes de Maria is located, it is 4.9%. The information collected by San Onofre local government indicates that 13.2% of rural children in the municipality are at risk of malnutrition, while 6.3% are underweight, and 0.7% face severe malnutrition.
Some factors which affect food security in the region include poverty, climate change, lack of land access, social breakdown caused by violence and internal displacement, geographical isolation, and poor hygiene and health conditions.
To respond to this situation, the Colombia Responde progam, the San Onofre municipal government and the social organizations Mugesco and K-pacitar designed a project to create 150 vegetable gardens for families with young children to improve their food security.
Each family is required to provide a small plot of land, usually located in their households, to establish the vegetable garden. The project will last 8 months, and includes training, planting, harvesting and creating seed banks. The participants will acquire the skills and knowledge to improve the land use, as well as their hygiene and nutrition habits.
Although the lack of access to healthy food is a cause of malnutrition, the problem also has a cultural root. Lastenia Berrio, the nutritionist of the project, explains that, “It is very common that a family sells the fruit they grow in their backyard to buy a soda and chips”. To bring about a cultural change, the project includes an educationcomponent to teach families about nutrition, the importance of hygiene, as well as the proper use and storage of food, water, and garbage.