In March 2009, Nature Canada began implementing a 2-year project to support women in 4 rural communities in Paraguay to produce organic vegetables, improve their health and strengthen their awareness of their democratic rights. Last week my colleague Mohamed Niang from our project partner Place aux agricultrices : nourricieres du monde and I were in Paraguay to visit the project. Our local partners in this project are Fortaleser and our BirdLife Partner Guyra Paraguay. The project is funded mainly by the Government of Canada, through the Canadian International Development Agency.
On Tuesday, we visited Isla Pucu and Caaguazu which lie approximately 2 and half hours west of Asuncion. We were greeted by a large group of women who are participating in the project.
We were amazed at the progress they have achieved in their vegetable gardens. One woman is so excited that she expanded her garden by about twenty-fold! It was also a great opportunity for them to see each other’s work, as many had never visited their neighbors’ gardens.
On Wednesday we traveled over 6 hours southwest of Asunción to the Department of Itapua wherein lies the San Rafael National Park. We met with the head of the municipal government of Alto Vera, who confirmed that the municipality will soon install a water provision system for the community of Santa Ana, one of our project sites. This will enable the women farmers in the community to grow a wider range of vegetables in their gardens.
We stayed that night at Guyra Paraguay’s monitoring station in Kanguery, the reserve Guyra owns within the park. We marvelled at the beauty of San Rafael and were reminded of the many threats this remaining area of Atlantic Forest faces and of the urgent need to ensure its conservation.
The following morning, we met with women farmers from Santa Ana and from Libertad del Sur in the latter community. As in Isla Pucu, for many of the women it was an opportunity to visit a new place, and share experiences. The women from Santa Ana remarked on the differences in the soil: Libertad del Sur enjoying a much more fertile land than rockier Santa Ana.
Mohamed and I witnessed the commitment and enthusiasm of the project staff in Fortaleser (Aurora, Gladys, Liz and Perla) and in Guyra (Eli, Marcelo, Gabriel and Pepe). They are doing great work and have established trust and a good working relationship with the women in the communities. They shared with us their experience and knowledge and it was a real joy to spend the week with them.
With this project
we aim to improve the nutrition, health, equality and income of the women farmers in these four rural communities, while also raising their awareness of the importance of conserving biodiversity for their benefit and that of their children and grandchildren. These are no doubt ambitious goals, but we are making modest visible progress!