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Reconnecting Colombia and Venezuela: alternative solutions to food security and empowerment in the border

Schools in the border areas will re-build bridges between migrants and host communities to achieve food security and empowerment

Photo of Gilberto Moscoso
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

The Simón Bolívar Bridge doesn't connect two countries, nowadays it segregates two communities that aren't able to interact as they used to. This happens because of the massive migration caused by the political, economic and social instability in Venezuela that provoked a humanitarian crisis in which more than 1.408.000 migrants arrived in Colombia in poverty, malnourishment and unemployment conditions. It is estimated that 3.200.000 of pendular movements were made last year. This means people leave Venezuela to access to basic needs and return on the same day to get back to their houses. Relations between Venezuelan and Colombian communities are stronger than the institutional barriers to cross the border. People use irregular passages every day to send their children to Colombian schools not only for the education but to access to free food and nutritional caring. Families of the students spend their day and looking for food assistance without a clear purpose for their future. Our initiative provides safe places where people can develop and enhance their agency so they can bring sustainable solutions up to promote their food security in a context of uncertainty and reducing their dependency from charity. Schools became the location where migrants and host communities share common spaces and ideas and initiatives, being an ideal place to dynamize empowerment processes with those communities. Pendular population, host communities and students will be empowered to create innovative food security solutions, cooperate with food chain’s actors and satisfy specific needs: nutrition treatment, access to food, empowerment, technical training, and knowledge or helping others. These food solutions will not only provide more and better nutrition but they will enhance the minds and capabilities of the pendular population to identify and develop their life goals in a complex environment. Schools will be incubators of these solutions as a platform to grassroots initiatives

Geography of focus (500 characters)

Our initiative takes place in the Venezuelan border in Norte de Santander (Colombia). The target communities are the pendular population along the border. They risk their lives every day, in the irregular frontier passages, called "Trochas" where they are constantly harassed by armed groups who control illegal markets around the border. This population perceives greater challenges as they are not considered as migrants, although they are affected by the migratory flows.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

Our initiative turns schools into bridges. In the fieldwork with the students, it was clear that educational environments were appropriate spaces to rebuild the connection by joining shared needs and addressing common sustainable solutions. In this way, the community proposed to work together with their families and teachers to overcome the humanitarian crisis so they can enhance their agency by creating shared value in innovative food solutions.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

With our initiative, this population satisfies the need for food security. Migrant mothers were very specific saying that after covering this need it is possible to think in a better and happier future. Migrants, host communities and students will be able to participate within different stages of the food chain: production, manufacturing, distribution, commercialization, and consumption. Being part of this system will guarantee that these communities can create, understand, and pursue their own food security. Our communities are able to be proactive and productive individuals, exchanging their available resources (like time, willing to work and solidarity) to boost their prosperity, joy, and empowerment. This way, achieving their food security will bring gains in terms of self-esteem, dignity, empowerment, and agency.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

Just like migrants, host communities experience difficulties in access to food or jobs. With this project, both communities will create new food chains using (among some identified strategies) recycling, circular economy or urban gardens. These communities will be able to carry out sustainable solutions to their needs according to their user experience journey. One of the major goals will be to break their dependency from charity or subsidies. Additionally, we will use data analytics and digital platforms to measure indicators: not only size and weight but, more fundamentally, cognitive, emotional development of the communities. We will also, follow up the empowerment of our participants by monitoring its progress by using graphic storytelling forms to find out if the actors have regained their agency capacity and imagine a better future from their own reality.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

We have been working with this population for almost 3 years. On a daily basis, mothers carry their children from Venezuela to Colombia so they can attend classes and participate in the public or charitable feeding programs. Then elder siblings and mothers spend the whole day waiting for the children and looking for jobs, but most of the time they only come back home with empty hands. Then we could use the school as a platform individual, ideas and actions can take place. The importance of this project in the communities lies in their need to find a way to overcome this humanitarian crisis. We have seen how food can promote healthier life quality and conditions. But we are going further, by working together these communities will have the chance to rebuild the social fabric lost by political and economic context between Colombia and Venezuela, no matter their flag or nationality, they all are looking for better opportunities.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

Regardless of the cultural particularities and nationality, they conclude that they are the same population. Both migrants and host communities share the same territory, history, informal economy and the need of access to education for their children. Venezuelan boys and girls are capable of breaking the poverty cycle in which migrants are currently living. In our research, we realized that through education, these children are able to change their perspectives on their futures. Therefore, they enhance their agency by influencing their families and become key actors in terms of solidarity, cooperation, and empathy. No matter their flag, Venezuelan and Colombian children attend school without any discrimination or xenophobia, they see themselves as equals and become the engineers of the new bridges to a better future.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

We usually believe that children lack agency. On the contrary, children have a great creative capacity to find solutions in low-income environments and, above all, have an enormous influence on adults. Mothers (from migrant and host communities), on their side, have the most valuable asset: time. That time can be leveraged to generate income, replicate the help that they have received, create new ways not dependent on obtaining food and create ties of empathy with others. The project will give voice to those that have never the opportunity to speak. For the very first time, students will be heard in terms of including their needs into social programs, leveraging their own assets. That is how we will work, advocate and empower these communities, even the community surrounding the food systems will have the chance to train and leave capacities in those people.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

From de local government: Health office; Regional government: Internation Cooperation and border office; Civil Society: Cristian volunteers, Digisalud (in charge of the data analysis and measurements in physical and mental development) Private sector: Chaaks (neuro-nutrition measurements), ANDI (Food chamber cluster), Puerto Seguro (food supplier)

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Being on the move, crossing borders, and/or temporarily settled

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Platform: Creating a community or market that facilitates interaction between users and resources

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Pilot: We have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users. The feasibility of an innovation is tested in a small-scale and real world application (i.e. 3-15% of the target population)

Group or Organization Name

Comparte Por Una Vida, Colombia

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

Comparte Por Una Vida, has been working on the border cities in order to contribute to the stabilization of the migrant population between Colombia and Venezuela. Based on our experience, we realized that this humanitarian crisis is a long-term problem. As we prefer to focus on the individuals, we are one of the few organizations that monitor validated data in terms of the nutritional status of our population of interest, then we are able to better understand their context and difficulties. That is why we decided to work with migrants in vulnerable situation to achieve sustainable and transformative solutions that will rebuild our bridges. Our fundamental pillars: Malnourishment treatment (measurement and impact evaluation) Education Migratory grief Food security Communities agency and empowerment

Website URL:

http://colombia.comparteporunavida.com

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

Colombia

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Bogotá D.C. / Cundinamarca

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Photo of Diogenes Infante
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Hola, Mi nombre es Diógenes Infante tengo propuesto esta idea: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/2019-bridgebuilder-challenge/review/integration-project-for-venezuelan-migrants-in-northern-ecuador. Creo que tenemos varios puntos comunes, uno sobre todo: nuestros migrantes. Vamos a conectarnos, aquí en el norte del Ecuador tenemos una comunidad de profesionales que estamos organizándonos para trabajar en la atención de los migrantes. Por ejemplo, estamos desarrollando sensores inteligentes para la agricultura y tenemos una propuesta de una granja. Por favor, revisa mi propuesta y déjame tus comentarios. Así vamos avanzando. Saludos.

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