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Open access platform to share fresh agricultural products between the countryside and cities

Build a Fair Food concept embracing Information and Communication Technologies to democratize access to a diversity of fresh healthy foods

Photo of Carlos Manchego
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Funpalcat

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.

Palnorte SAS (Large company); Los Andes University, Semillero Territorio y Frontera (Research institution); Fundación Hablemos (Small NGO); ProCúcuta Think Tank (Small NGO); Corponor (Government institution); Alianza BioCuenca (Small NGO); Universidad de Pamplona (Research institution).

Website of Legally Registered Entity

https://www.funpalcat.org/

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

  • Just beginning now

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

Cucuta

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Colombia

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

Cucuta metropolitan zone and nearby rural areas, it covers an area of 5,300 km^2

What country is your selected Place located in?

Colombia

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Six months ago, my child was born in this corner of the world. Now that their teeth started to come out and demand solid foods, the priority is to find fresh and diverse fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious locally produced foods. Ideally, with minimum health and safety standards, e.g. that do not exceed certain agrochemical thresholds, free of pathogens, etc. The metropolitan area of Cúcuta and nearby rural areas, has a predominantly tropical climate with smallholders that harvest a great diversity of natural products. This diversity of locally produced foods is evident in rural markets. However, in large cities such as Cúcuta, the main food stores and supermarket chains offer almost the same generic products than similar stores in the rest of the developed world. From a local stanpoint, we ask ourselves: Why other fruits, vegetables, native and nutritious edible products prevalent in rural areas, are not easily accessible in the main cities?

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.

As every single ecotone between two different habitats, this region exhibits the gastronomical and cultural richness of being the historical middle ground between Colombia and Venezuela. The growth of its capital city, cúcuta, has been mostly driven by trade, as an intermediate step for the import and export of commodities between the two countries. Some historians argue that coffee first arrived in Colombia through this passage. Currently, permanent residents feel somewhat alienated, given the heavy flux of migrants, not only traveling to other destinations but also grouped under the concept of Floating population, given that they also behave as general consumers that cross the border back and forth in search of food supply. Many food products have different names depending on the ancestry of the seller, for example, Papaya and Lechosa are the same fruit, so it is Maracuya and Parchita, as well as Maiz Pira and Cotufas, among many other cases. In regards to geography, tastes, flavors, and smells in the lowlands tend to be heavily influenced by Caribbean cuisine, while mountain landscapes tend to have a more Andean influence. In regards to climate, rainy seasons are bimodal, with rains peaking in April and then again in October, temperatures vary significantly, 70% of the territory is a few meters above sea level, with hot and humid weather, perfect for the cultivation of sugar cane, banana, cocoa, oil palm, cassava, and pineapple. High altitude land has a cold and deciduous climate, ideal for vegetables and even suitable for peach, blackberries, strawberries, and physalis. However, the social dynamics in the region are tainted by the presence of dissident groups of the armed conflict. In regards to culture, spoken language is perceived as "harsh" some outsiders may interpret it as being disrespectful because it is perceived as shouting. Ethnic diversity is from mixed-race, as in other parts of Latin America, there is a small community of the Bari indigenous group, however, it is not well represented. One sport increasingly popular is cycling, fueled by the latest victory of a Colombian athlete in the Tour de France. There is a trend in the migration from rural areas to urban areas in search of opportunities. The role of agriculture is very strong, however roads and transportation systems are not suitable. The armed conflict and violence persist mainly due to the cultivation of the coca leaf. The major staple foods produced locally are rice, plantains, cassava, soybeans, yams, and potatoes. The upper basin grows a diversity of vegetables, to the point of being called the pantry shelf of the cities. From here, a subset of products go to the main supermarkets and chain stores, however, they mostly consist of standardized varieties of vegetables, such as tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, etc., the same happens in grains and tubers, such as corn and potatoes, of which hundreds of varieties could be consumed but only a handful of them are marketed. As for political stability, the hope for the people in Norte de Santander is that Venezuela's economic situation returns to normal.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

5300

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

1500000

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

Local farmers, both from lowlands and highlands, rely heavily on an external factor often neglected by development programs. They are dependent on agricultural inputs such as seeds and agrochemicals. The decision-making process to define the crops and their variety is mainly defined by the demand, which in turn is the result of a subtle interaction between the final consumer and the intermediary stores. To give an example, there are many varieties of tomatoes known in English as “Heirlooms”, which can be interpreted as ancestral assortments, but 95% of current sales in the region are from the Globe type known in Colombia as Tomate Chonto, which has a feature of a long shelf life and is not perishable over long-distance trips. Unfortunately, taste and nutrition compared to other varieties is not their most desired advantage. This demand created by the intermediary, together with a bad transport system and inadequate roads, leaves farmers and food producers at a disadvantage. The challenge, together with the global trend of migration from rural agricultural areas to capital cities, is to improve connectivity. Not necessarily in terms of roads and geography but also interpreted as social integration. We cannot leave the inhabitants of the region at the mercy of distributors and intermediary stores, which actually end up being the ones who decide what to feed to the citizens, fruits, vegetables, as well as dairy products and meats. In addition to this, the weakness of some institutions and public policies creates Out of sight, out of mind approach that allows some producers to abuse chemicals such as pesticides or herbicides, which have a residual effect, and also hormones or antibiotics in animal husbandry that can affect the health of a developing human being.

Moreover, solid base-line studies are required. The current information available for decision-makers, policy advisors, and project managers is precarious or out of date, for instance, the peasant population, their needs, major risks for production, the vocation of the land, distance to markets, and access to services that may facilitate agricultural production is unknown. Therefore, without the basic information, the capacity for change is minimal. Likewise, there is no information on the consumer end, known preferences about products or purchasing locations. Current research institution in the territory has a limited capacity for data generation since they do not have the infrastructure, technical capacity or budget to carry out this task on their own. All these lead to an increase in transaction costs, given that the intermediation process makes products more expensive in the cities and reduces the profitability of agricultural production in the department, by absorbing a portion of the producer's surplus. A lack of support for the family economies in the Cucuta metropolitan zone and nearby rural areas can mean an increase in conditions that favor phenomena such as the movement from rural to urban areas or the substitution of agricultural products to illicit crops, affecting food production to a greater extent.

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

Together with a multidisciplinary set of actors, from private companies, academic organizations and one government organization, we will leverage in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) platforms to promote and democratize the access to locally-produced, freshly-harvested, healthy foods, connecting offer and demand of rural areas with main cities. Traditional agriculture programs decades ago, focused on food security with an emphasis on production, prioritizing quantity over quality. Our vision incorporates the trait aspects of the food and aims to better connect rural productive areas with main cities. Our vision integrates the academic sector and local non-governmental organizations in order to articulate the vision of improving access to local and native products. We aim to generate a baseline of research on producers and consumers, with the decision-makers in mind. A process of characterization of the territory is sought to assess the impact of the program and whether it is effectively being a solution to the problem as we currently understand it. We also intend to articulate with key institutions in the health sector, to help farms where fresh products are produced to obtain a certification, developing food safety tests, aimed at the detection of intolerable levels of pesticides, high microbial load, among others. From the point of view of the consumer, our program will be built on open platforms already developed and tested in Colombia as 1) www.fincaya.com.co, 2) https://lamayorista.com, 3) www.ticuma.com, 4) www.facebook.com/sembrandoconfianza, 5) https://www.comproagro.com, which have not achieved much success due to lack of articulation. Under our vision, consumers will be able to find locally produced food directly and without intermediaries. It is important to highlight that this strategy will community-based, users will be able to leave reviews and recommendations of producers and vice-versa. We believe that this vision contains the germ of a very disruptive concept, returning the power to producers and a way to connect directly with consumers, an approach we understand as Fair Food. If an analogy has to be made, similar ideas have emerged in the shared transport sector (e.g. Uber), we think that our vision has the potential to disrupt the traditional experience of buying fresh foods. But, unlike what a private company would do, our idea is intended to be free and open access, replicable and scalable anywhere in the world. We imagine serving the following agricultural products: fruits, vegetables, grains and cereals, dairy products, meat, and other food-related items such as seeds and organic fertilizers. We also imagine the implementation of giveaways and the inclusion of third-degree actors, such as restaurants, bars, and cafeterias, so excess food does not go to waste.  

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.

Inhabitants of urban areas and newcomers will have access to a wider array of choices in terms of fresh products and their varieties. Consumers will find affordable to eat regenerative and nutritious foods, which will be diversified, locally-produced, and freshly-harvested, coupled with basic quality standards, directly from rural areas to dinner tables. This approach will greatly benefit small-scale producers and guarantee their livelihood and dignity without having to abandon their farms in search of better opportunities, perhaps even providing an incentive for new generations to remain in the territory, work, and subsist with all their basic needs covered. This vision has to be linked with key actors in the health sector, both in cities and rural areas, in order to foresee handling and hygiene, as well as to evaluate harmful residual chemical substances (e.g. pesticides or hormones), with the goal of achieving a decrease in human diseases associated with the unregulated use of these substances. We are positive, that as the vision spreads, more and more actors will come into play.

In a few years from now, consumers no matter if they are permanent residents or passing by, will be impressed by the easy availability of natural foods, they will be able to order their groceries online from their trusted producers and food could be shared with those who are in need. In the long term, there will be statistical evidence that diseases associated with agrochemical use have decreased and schools have better-nourished children. The labor of the farmer will be valued and recognized important. New government development programs will focus on the younger generation of citizen that now choose to live in rural areas. The rural lifestyle will be coveted, as the gap between the rural and non-rural gets harder to discern. 

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

Our vision is a community-driven development, it will address the environment given that one important point will be on the regulation of agrochemical use in all productive lands. It will also promote social change as it brings back the dignity to farmers. The diet of the entire population will improve with freshly harvested produce that has passed basic lab-test standards. The rural economy will be boosted given that producers will find their customers without intermediaries. Even big chain companies and food stores will use our platform to find their producers. Culture and farm traditions will be preserved as this strategy could be an incentive for younger generations to stay in rural areas. Technology will be a key driver of this strategy and as it remains open-source, improving and growing over time. In regards to policy and government, there will be improved standards that have evolved to fulfill the need for regulations. All these combined could even trigger better communication connectivity in rural areas, a wider electrical grid, better basic sanitation systems, and roads. We easily imagine this approach replicated in other border regions of the world. 

We believe our vision also provides a resilience aspect to the food supply of the future, which will be independent of the economic or political situation of the planet 30 years from now. The geopolitics of the present time gives us the impression that there is nothing guaranteed in terms of world order, global peace, or natural disaster responses, so it is very important that this becomes a community-owned vision, so there is an appropriation of the Fair Food concept and becomes the will of the people.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

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Team (5)

Carlos's profile
Jhon Steven's profile
Jhon Steven Contreras Marin

Role added on team:

"Economist researcher at Universidad de Los Andes"

Alba's profile
Alba Roa Parra

Role added on team:

"Leader of a natural resources management group, and lead-researcher at Universidad de Pamplona"

Astrid's profile
Astrid Araque

Role added on team:

"Researcher at Universidad de Pamplona and spokesperson between academia and policymakers"

Jhenny Salgado's profile

"Agroforestry scientist and focal point at Corponor, the leading government environmental agency in the territory"

Inspired by (1)

Surplus

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Photo of Fátima Musa
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I'm very happy and we appreciated to participated in the proposal

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