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Empowering rural youth by learning the methods of science in the context of the immense potential of biodiversity to generate employment

Empowering rural youth with the methods of science in search for fair and peaceful solutions to farmer’s problems, and the wellbeing of all

Photo of Leonardo Duque
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

FunbiChocó La fundación para el bienestar y desarrollo del Chocó

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Adriana Elisa Parra, FunbiChocó Pascal Molinaux, Professor Universidad Javeriana, Cali Leonardo Duque, Professor Bahá’í Institute of Higher Education BIHE , member of the Agriculture Working Group of the Association of Bahá’í Studies ABS FUNDAEC: Fundación para la Aplicación y Enseñanza de las Ciencias

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 10+ years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

FUNBICHOCO, Departamento del Chocó, Colombia, Panamá border. Localidades: Quibdó, Yuto, Samurindó, Tanguí, Doña Josefa, Arenal, La Vuelta

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Departamento del Chocó, Colombia, Pacific and Panamá borders. Towns: Quibdó, Yuto, Samurindó, Tanguí, Doña Josefa, Arenal, La Vuelta

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

We both have served in this region of Colombia for decades. We have been in direct contact with these farmers and their families professionally while working in FUNDAEC and doing research on how to accompany them to deal with their situation. These farmers fit very tightly with FAO’s description of “family farmers.” In FAO’s “Putting family farmers first to eradicate hunger,” we find, “Family farms occupy a large share of the world’s agricultural land and produce about 80% of the world’s food. “Family farms are also the custodians of about 75 percent of all agricultural resources in the world and are therefore key to improved ecological and resource sustainability. They are also among the most vulnerable to the effects of resource depletion and climate change. While evidence shows impressive yields on land managed by family farmers, many smaller farms are unable to produce enough to provide decent livelihoods for the families. Family farming is thus faced with a triple challenge: •yield growth to meet the world's need for food security and better nutrition; •environmental sustainability to protect the planet and to secure their own productive capacity; •Productivity growth and livelihood diversification to lift themselves out of poverty and hunger. ... all these challenges mean that family farmers must innovate.” “Yet they are generally much poorer than the rest of the population in these countries, and are less food secure than even the urban poor.” (Dixon, Gulliver and Gibbon, Farming Systems and Poverty: Improving Farmers' Livelihoods In A Changing World.). Norte del Cauca has served as the spearhead of an innovative educational system of education taken by the Bahá’í Institutions in no small number of rural communities all over the world. We want to contribute to further this system of education by scientifically empowering farmers to find solutions to their collective and individual needs.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

In 1974 FUNDAEC was founded by group of professors at the University of Valle. Its founding ideals included: Not seeing the people as masses of undernourished people, overwhelmed by problems and needs-housing, employment, sanitation, education, but instead to consider the participants of its programs as irreplaceable resources in a self-sustaining process of change. The strong conviction that every human being possesses great potentialities that an appropriate educational process can help develop and channel towards service to the community and to society at large. To analyze problems of poverty and social disintegration keeping an eye on the tendency to reduce people to an object of manipulation by either an unjust market or a deified state, to an insatiable pleasure seeking consumer of goods, or an untiring participant in power struggles. An acceptance of two interacting aspects of human nature: the basic drive of material survival and the reality of man's spiritual nature, with infinite potentialities for qualities such as love, justice, and generosity. Avoiding an unbalanced obsession with industrialization unattainable by and undesirable for the majority of humanity; not romantic conceptions of traditional untechnological societies of subsistence and peasant economies but a search for a scientifically and technologically modern society, which, however, would base its educational, economic, administrative, political, and cultural structures on the concept of the integral nature of man rather than his mere material needs. The rural university would be a social space in which two systems of knowledge, a modern one (in all its sophistication) and a traditional one pertaining to the people of the region would interact in a healthy way to produce important development processes from within the rural population itself. The Rural University would have to pursue its goals with the understanding that all the processes of rural life, production, simple construction and repair, marketing, the development of human resources, socialization, the flow of information, adaptation and the improvement of technologies, health care and sanitation, and decision–making are in need of structures that may connect them to the corresponding structures of the political, social, economic, and cultural life of an evolving global society. FUNDAEC has developed a number of development projects centered around a goal that rural populations should not only benefit from higher education, but should also actively participate in creating and generating knowledge and technologies, to improve their quality of life and standard of living. FUNDAEC sought to dispel the image of the poor farmer whose life must be planned and managed by more privileged members of society.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

To understand how a rural population became so disillusioned with the viability of its farming businesses and the reasons it is migrating to the misery belts around big cities, we should analyze: 1.Fifty years ago, the majority of the world's population lived in rural areas. Once the majority of the population was forced to migrate from the rural areas by different factors, such as political conflicts, violence, drug trafficking, natural disasters, high-interest rates, and development models, politicians diminished the funding to schools, institutions, and infrastructure. They shifted the priorities to urban areas, and the farmers' votes became irrelevant, and their sufferings invisible. Safety, food security, pensions, and higher education are beyond the dreams of most of rural Colombia. 2.There are prejudices related to dark skin, women, poorly educated, poorly dressed, and of course, being part of the farmers' social class. The correlation between the various kinds of discrimination and its cumulative effect on how much society values what peasants' produce. 3.The current economic model and the unjust distribution of the aggregated value among the farmer, the intermediary, the agroindustry, and the merchant is another challenge. Let us briefly take into account the risks involved in being a farmer without health insurance; risks associated with the environment, pest control, insecticides, insects, fungi, viruses, bacteria, and price fluctuations. Compare the farmer's amount of physical hard labor and risks, to those assumed by the agribusiness that transforms corn into flour, and those of the merchant who sells packed flour; and the profits received by each. However, there is something else. Compare now the complexity of the number of variables dealt by a farmer, with the no very complicated business of agroindustry that processes, stores and packs the food; to the limited number of variables that merchants handle. 4.The abuse of some intermediaries because of the vulnerability of the produce, they postponed unilaterally the date of picking up the fruit to renegotiate the price. 5.The ignorance of the long term consequences of decisions made during the planting, growing, and harvesting phases concerning the effects of the intensive use of herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and heavy machinery during many cycles, is another challenge. 6.Malnourishment is common due to the reality of this region. "Stunting is an indicator of severe malnutrition. Unlike wasting and low weight-for-age, the impacts of stunting on child development are considered to be largely irreversible beyond the first 1000 days of a child's life." (Hunger and Undernourishment. By Max Roser and Hannah Ritchie). Farmers must be aware of how acutely affected in their IQ will their descendants born in conditions of extreme poverty.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

a.The food system should be the foundation of the systems of education and labor. The first two years of a bachelor's degree program should focus on monitoring and evaluating the teaching of the methods of sciences to the youth of the region, especially the daughters and sons of the farmers. The potential of biodiversity will be the context for learning the methods of science and its results in terms of generating employment. b.There is a need to raise the level of understanding about the cumulative consequence of prejudices towards the so-called peasantry. The means to reach this objective will be formal and informal education, home visits, and neighborhood meetings. c.A profit sharing agreement between the farmers and the agroindustry and the merchants could be settle. Besides, a small-Scale rural agro-industrial park to lower vulnerability of the produce, and for local consumption, to process the biodiversity of the region is a serious option to be considered. A percentage of the profits of the park could be distributed, taking into account the processed quantity brought in by each farmer involved in the program. This suggestion will also reduce CO2 emissions. The rest of the profits could go to support the food security aid provided by the Village Storehouse. Any agreement reached between these actors should take into account the principles of moderation and gradation. The change cannot be abrupt. To avoid conflicts, please see the full vision for a more detail explanation. d.Reporting of abusive intermediaries and the awareness of all farmers should be part of the protection by the Institutions of the region. Also, an official registry of intermediaries seems recommended. e.To come up with a strategic solution and increase farmers' understanding (formal and informal education, and field trips), is necessary to determine the implications and the phases and stages that they have to monitor to follow up decisions made to: i.Decrease the use of pesticides because opting willingly for an integrated pest management strategy. For example: what happened to the worms, fungus, insects, and microorganisms that used to be in abundance in the soil? Fewer health risks involved ii.More intensive use of labor force iii.Choosing rotating polycultures instead of permanent monocultures. iv.Decreasing synthetic fertilizers applications and opting for composting, natural fertilizers, and using mycorrhizae and rhizobium v.Minimize water usage and emissions opting for cover crops vi.Prevent soil erosion towards sustainable agriculture. f.A system, similar to the food stamps in the U.S., could be put in place to guarantee respect for the institutional order by providing food security. Pregnant women and small children will be the first to receive food security from the Village Storehouse. The primary objective is stunting prevention, which is an indicator of severe malnutrition and later wasting and low weight-for-all

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

One of the roles of governments, managers, and mature individuals is to be able to monitor and evaluate the efforts made in pursuit of their vision. We should assess the advancement in the achievement of social justice, unity, and harmony in the context of the adopted arrangement. 1.We should monitor and evaluate the role and interest of the daughters and sons of the farmers of the region in committing to research the most promising potentialities of the existing biodiversity. The idea is to demonstrate that biodiversity is an excellent source in the generation of employment. 2.To come up with a proposal, we should evaluate the productivity of the investment required in the educational system to teach the methods of science in the context of the discovery of the potential of nature’s biodiversity. The idea will be to compare that investment with the investment required in the construction sector to generate one employment, which today is considered the motor of the economy. 3.Evaluate the impact of food security for those who needed the most 4.We must decide which parameters and indicators will be used to control and evaluate the protection of the ecosystem and the health of the most vulnerable inhabitants. 5.Evaluate if the marginal profitability for farmers has improved. Find out if those who pack and transform the produce, and merchants are happier, contributing to a fair society. 6.We must regularly monitor the progress of the farmers´ situation, evaluating the level of hope about the viability of their farming businesses and the reasons why not to migrate towards the misery belts around big cities. 7.Finally, but not less important, is to find out if the number of self-employed farmers appears in the periodical government report about unemployment in the rural areas, and how many have been able to jump from the informal economy to the formal one.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Environment There are scores of distinct chemical compounds in a leaf of a plant, each one of them with different potentialities for agriculture, nutrition, health, and environmental or industrial uses. “It has been estimated that well over 300,000 secondary metabolites exist, and it is thought that their primary function is to increase the likelihood of an organism’s survival by repelling or attracting other organisms.” (McMurry, John, et al.) To determine the potential number of combinations of 300.000 secondary metabolites is necessary to use a calculator. The results for a set of 2 compounds are 44,999,850,000 possible combinations; for a set of 4 compounds is 3.3749325004125E+20.” (Duque 2018) There are over one million species of insects, around 298,000 species of plants, and approximately 611,000 species of fungus” (Mora, Camilo, et al. How Many Species on Earth and in the Ocean?) How many different uses we can derive from the whole plant and its parts? How many beneficial species of insects, bacteria, viruses, and fungus do we know? Federica Bertocchini: “A caterpillar that eats and digests plastic in record time” “The researchers exposed 100 wax moth larvae to a common plastic bag from a British supermarket. And waited to see what happened. After only 40 minutes the first holes appeared in the bag. After 12 hours the larvae had eaten 92 milligrams of the plastic. Bertocchini suggests that the wax moth possesses a specific enzyme, which is able to break up chemical bonds that occur both in beeswax and polyethylene molecules.” Diets Duque, talking to women and pregnant mothers in Puerto Tejada, Norte del Cauca, and based in his research about stunting caused by protein deficiency (Duque 1.999) Offered as a solution Cajanus cajan or guandul or gandul, also known as a beans for the poor. Someone said that they were ashamed to be seen harvesting it on the stubble. Guandul is one of the favorite foods of Puerto Ricans. Respecting food culture is essential, but trying to eliminate this kind of prejudice is crucial to address one of the biggest problems in the region. They have the option to accept or reject the suggested solution, and we will always respect their decision! Minimal tillage, perennial, deep root, source of protein for the whole family, especially pregnant mothers and children. 22% protein and 28% iron. Economics We believe that it is possible to prove that the potential of biodiversity is much higher than the potential of the construction industry to generate employment. But this is not enough we should try to change the economic model, favorable to the farmers of the world: To avoid conflicts, our recommendations are: •Always avert debates and encourage consultation processes. Invite all the parties (representatives of the government, industry and business sectors, farmers, artisans, merchants, and academia), so they grasp with their understanding the outcome when applying a macro-economic forecasting software to evaluate the results of the proposal. •Have at least the same number of women and men participating in the consultation process, but a majority of women will help to ensure a peaceful end-result. Culture Hofstede expressed his perception of culture in the following terms: I treat culture as ‘the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group from another.’ This is not a complete definition …, but it covers what I have been able to measure. Culture, in this sense, includes systems of values: and values are among the building blocks of culture. Culture is to human collectivity what personality is to an individual. Personality has been defined by Guilford (1959) as ‘the interactive aggregate of personal characteristics that influence the individual’s response to its environment’. Culture could be defined as the interactive aggregated of common characteristics that influences a human group’s response to its environment. Culture determines the identity of a human group in the same way as personality determines the identity of an individual. Dominant ideologies, while praising the human being abundantly, tend to ultimately reduce him or her to an object of manipulation by either an unjust market or a deified state, to an insatiable pleasure-seeking consumer of goods, or an untiring participant in power struggles. This has led to a worldwide crisis in the very conception of the nature of the human being and society. Without entering into ideological and religious details, the group reached a common understanding of what was identified as the two interacting aspects of human nature. Student from the Norte del Cauca Region. The first, shared with the animal kingdom, is the product of the process of material evolution with survival as its basic objective. Although useful and necessary, if left to its own, this nature tends to show forth the characteristics of a lower existence, cruelty, ego, and violence. These characteristics, which in the animal world cannot be labeled as either good or bad, can be overcome, however, if man’s true and spiritual nature, with infinite potentialities for qualities such as love, justice, and generosity, is allowed to develop and rule over the first. In spite of all the manifestations of cruelty and injustice in the world, through a proper educational process, the spiritual nature of every human being can flourish and a prosperous and advanced civilization can come into existence. Through its programs, FUNDAEC seeks to contribute to this new vision of human nature. FUNDAEC’s development programs are carried out in the context of a search for a scientific and technologically modern society, but one that will base its educational, economic, administrative, political, and cultural structures on the concept of the integral nature of the human being and not only on his or her material needs.” We should consciously strengthen our moral principles and ethical values, and only those social values that are worthy of being preserved. Technology “The capacity of a people to participate in the generation and application of knowledge is an essential component of the development process. When the appropriate structures for such a participation are absent, knowledge is easily managed for the benefit of the privileged in the global society, responding only to the interests of the dominant social ideologies which are basically neglectful of the needs and aspirations of “campesino” populations. CUBR students doing lab work outside The villagers of the world receive a technology that is the result of scientific progress applied to the conditions of larger farmers whose logic of production is entirely different from that of campesino societies in the process of transition and/or disintegration. In its search for such structures, FUNDAEC conceived the University for Integral Development as a social space in which two systems of knowledge, a modern one (in all its sophistication) and a traditional one, pertaining to the people of the region, would interact in a healthy way. Research and education, the two main components of the activities of the rural university, would be carried out precisely in the context of this delicately balanced interaction of distinct knowledge systems.” Empowering a population with the methods of science, and being consciously aware of the tendencies of technology, gives them a choice to accept or reject a particular technology. Once empowered with these methods gives them the capacity to respond to any personal or collective issue. Among the attachments is Duque 2018 “A New Approach to Science. An exploration that fuses science and religion to perceive, interpret, and transform reality.” Policy After the massacre of 12 magistrates of the Supreme Court of Colombia in 1.995 by the M-19 guerrillas, the government opens the door to receive proposals to modify Colombia’s Constitution. National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Colombia under the guidance of the Universal House of Justice summited to the Asamblea Nacional Contituyente a series of proposals. Among them is this one: “Just as education is the basis for the progress and well-being of the people. Agriculture is the basis of all economic activity of man, and the producer of the land must be treated with priority. Economic life must be dynamic at the town and village level, and the adjustments between productivity and needs will be mostly managed locally. Also, take the establishment of rural agribusiness as a valuable tool to ensure the strengthening of peasant economies. If this is supported by a well-conceived research process, it should result in land and ecosystem use to ensure its conservation and improvement for generations to come.” •Article 65 of Colombia’s new Constitution says, “Food production will enjoy the special protection of the State. For this purpose, it will be given priority to the comprehensive development of the agricultural, livestock, fisheries, forestry, and agro-industrial activities, as well as the construction of physical infrastructure and adequacy of land.” • Of course, this effort was accompanied by a lobbying campaign by a team of three bahá’ís to associations of small and big farmers and the appointed representatives of the Asamblea Nacional Contituyente. • Leonardo Duque was one of the volunteers that assume the implementation of this task. •Encourage a regular village reflection gathering will serve as the best strategy to monitor and evaluate the evolution of the situation of the farmers and their families. Full vision with photos attached

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

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  • Paul Hanley shared it with the Agriculture Working Group of the Association of Baha'i Studies
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Team (2)

Leonardo's profile
Frederick's profile
Frederick Fox

Role added on team:

"He is a retired professor living in Choco with decades of experience working at the grassroots level. He is and will be supporting all activities of the project."


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