The Rural Alternative School (ERA) of Cali launched a community garden project that encourages urban agroecology and supports food security in the neighborhood of Siloé. Reincorporated ex-combatants, community leaders, and local youths are undertaking different activities such as caring for seeds and seedlings, manufacturing organic fertilizers, and sowing medicinal plants. The ERA of Cali promotes community interest in urban agroecology and underscores the importance of homegrown vegetable gardens as a way to improve livelihoods in places with significant economic vulnerability.
The ex-combatant cooperative COOPRIPAZ, a member of the ERA, promotes social and economic reincorporation through projects that encourage dialogues with the local community, thus strengthening social cooperation, trust, and unity in environments substantially affected by conflict and poverty. Urban agroecology offers a wide range of benefits for participating families. Besides supporting food security, they promote ecological practices that avoid using harmful pesticides; they also encourage sowing and harvesting activities that integrate youths who are able to learn about environmental care in a mutually beneficial relationship.
“We’re going to get together to sow the seed in the earth. What will we harvest? Our union. We are going to break stigmas about Siloé and about those who live here,” says José Jovani Jojoa, vice president of COOPRIPAZ, explaining his proposal to consolidate an Agrotourism Corridor in the sector. The project would harness tourism and agroecology to improve the livelihoods of local inhabitants and to offer economic, cultural, and security opportunities that integrate Commune #20 with the rest of the city.
The ERA of Cali has partnered with the World Food Program (WFP), the Agency for Reincorporation and Normalization (ARN), and the UN Verification Mission in Colombia.