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Sustainable Food System in Colombia

Achieve the sustainability of our food system based on a network between producers and consumers to improve our positive impacts.

Photo of Giovana Reyes
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Fundación Red Agroecológica La Canasta (in alliance with Jero El Granjero SAS)

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.

La Canasta Foundation (Fundación Red Agroecológica La Canasta) works together with Jero el Granjero S.A.S. La Canasta Foundation works on the supply and support of the farmers and Jero el Granjero does the logistics, marketing and sales services. “La Canasta” is our identity for consumers and other organizations. We collaborate with the following organizations (agroecological producer organizations): Asociacion Red Agroecologica Campesina de Subachoque (ARAC), Cultivadores de Vida SUC, Agrosolidaria Viani. We also cooperate with Proyectar Sin Fronteras, an NGO that works in environmental education and that runs a similar delivery service to La Canasta, known as Sembrando Confianza. We are founding members of the Network of Agroecological Markets in Bogotá, where we cooperate with other like-minded initiatives.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.la-canasta.org

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

  • 3-10 years

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

Bogotá

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?

Bogotá (metropolitan area), Chia and Cajica for our supply and about 50 smallhold farms surrounding Bogotá. This is approximately 4000 km2.

What country is your selected Place located in?

Colombia

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

All team members live in Bogotá, where we started to distribute agroecological food to homes 8 years ago. Initially, as consumers, we felt the need to access agroecological food due to the low supply in Bogotá. That led some team members to be producers in small family farms and others to start a network of consumers who bought the crops directly from the producers, to then distribute it among households in the city. When we saw that other neighbors, family and friends, were also interested in having agroecological food delivered to their homes, we organized the logistics for a home delivery system, which allowed more people in Bogotá to access healthy and sustainable food in their homes. 

Our project has already contributed in the last 8 years to improve lives of more than 60 smallhold producers and about 3000 consumers per year. La Canasta is well positioned and well known by conscious consumers currently. But, our recognition must continue growing in order to increase our positive impact, both for consumers in the city and for smallhold farmers and the environment.

Bogotá is the largest city in Colombia, and therefore has a great need for sustainable food supply. As the main city in the country, Bogotá offers a very large target audience of conscious consumers the can generate a large impact on smallhold agroecological producers in the surrounding rural areas, and which can be an example to be replicated in other cities of Colombia. 

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.

Bogotá is the capital of Colombia, where 8 million inhabitants are concentrated. It is a city that receives people from all over the country and the world and is constantly growing, therefore it is cosmopolitan and has a broad cultural mix. The urban area is located at 2600 meters above sea level, but its rural area of influence can range between 500 and 3500 meters above the sea level. The city is surrounded by mountains and very rich lands for agriculture.

There is a huge cultural diversity, since Bogotá has received indigenous, afro and other cultures from Colombia, as well as immigration from Venezuela (lately) and other countries, being a small sample of Colombia in a City. This also reflects on the social structure of the city, since there is big inequality and social differences and hence big differences in the access to “good” food.

The food supply in Bogota is carried out by many medium and large intermediaries with long supply chains, where the producer receives a minimum percentage of the final price of the food. This is true, especially for small producers that have few opportunities to access markets in fair conditions. Food comes from all around the country and is also imported from abroad, even though most food can be produced close to Bogotá. The climate of Bogota and its surrounding area is diverse, providing conditions to grow many different varieties of food.

Most of the agricultural production that the inhabitants of Bogotá receive today is dominated by monocultures with excessive and uncontrolled use of agrochemicals. Consumers have very few information about the traceability of the food they are offered in the market. On top of that, a great portion of the food supply entails processed and ultraprocessed food. Given the fast pace of a big cosmopolitan city like Bogotá, many of its inhabitants have no access to healthy diets and even less to food with sustainable sourcing.

Inefficiencies in the food supply of the city, such as food waste due to oversupply, the many unnecessary links of the supply chain and the unnecessary transportation that go with these, contribute likewise to climate change. Trucks used to move food in and waste out of the city decrease air quality and affect the health of its inhabitants.

In this context, more and more consumers are looking for alternatives for better food supply, information about how their food was produced and the positive or negative impacts it has, both on the environment and on the people involved in the farming processes.

Some small growers around Bogotá still preserve traditional practices and seeds, and produce in sustainable manners such as agroecology. This movement, and all those related with healthy food, sustainable value chains, fair trade, are growing and starting to be more popular.

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

4000

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

8380801

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

Agriculture in Colombia contributes with 22% of the total Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GGE) and about 500 kg of chemical synthesis fertilizers are applied for each cultivated hectare, while the average in Latin America is 106.9 kg. The environmental challenge is to produce healthy and sustainable food in sufficient quantities to supply homes and restaurants in Bogotá. The end result is to ensure that food production and processing processes will be carried out respecting the rights of people, communities and nature. 

The principal of non-transmittable chronic diseases in Colombia are cardiovascular chronic diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, but also an increasing number of cases of obesity, overweight and malnutrition. These all share a common risk factor on an unhealthy food system: increasing consumption of sugar, saturated fats, ultraprocessed foods, and decreasing consumption of fruit, vegetable and whole foods. The dietary challenge is to improve access to complete, traceable, regenerative, healthy and native food for consumers. 

Currently, there is a minimal supply of native foods in supermarkets. Luckily, in La Canasta, we promote the consumption of native foods and for that we support ourselves in the knowledge of men and women of our farmer´s network that are seed guardians. One of our challenges is to maintain the traditions of the guardians of native seeds and traditional practices. Also, on a cultural level, is to expand the positive impact that this model generates to the largest possible number of producers and consumers in that way to consolidate a big community, reinforcing a trust network between producers and consumers. 

Currently, in Colombia, there is a lack policies that promote agroecology. In that sense, it is required that the political authorities, encourage agroecology with financial and technological incentives, and also with guaranties for the ones that produce and allow that an agroecological focus will be incorporated in the instruments for local and regional planning, with a vision of competitivity, improvement of income and dignified work, a perspective of environmental care and food sovereignty. In this sense, it’s important that, with political will, information will be made available for consumers, about the traceability, nutritional contents and agrochemichal residues in the products in the market. 

La Canasta incorporates the information of the produce ready to be harvested each week in all of our network of smallhold farms and offers it through our website that allow us to use the surpluses of the harvest. Consumers place their orders and we distribute them among the farms, trying to balance the orders to ensure minimal waste. We then bring the produce to the city once a week, to be packaged using the least amount of packaging possible and distribute it to the consumers. One of our main challenges is to sustain the operation of the system with the gradual increase in quantities of produce available and of consumers to distribute it to. The goal is to develop technological tools that allow us to have accurate information that connects production, logistics, sales and marketing. 

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

In order to address the challenge of enlarging the capacity and quality of the agroechological production and therewith the positive impact on the environment, health and socioeconomical level, we need to start by making a characterization of our current farmer network on all levels. We then need to plan the sowing and harvesting volumes knowing the technological and infrastructures needs and impacts in order to be more efficient and competitive. With this, we will understand the current capacity and needs for increasing in volume, types of products and even include more farmers in the network. We will also be able to plan for processing the fresh produce and make our offer of sustainable, native and healthy products more attractive for consumers.

 We see ourselves as an interconnected Network, where consumers know where their food comes from, how it is produced and who produces it; where producers have a decent life project and living wave through agroecology, supported by La Canasta and our team. This model manages an equitable relationship, adds value and brings the rural areas closer to the city. We will work together and support our producers, all based on the logics of solidarity economy. As a result we will improve the quality of life of agricultural producers and of consumers.

Over time our Food System must demonstrate its sustainability through the measurement of impact indicators, which will help us in the future to manage at the political level the strengthening and expansion of our network of agroecological producers. However, we believe that in the medium term it is easier to achieve political change through the consumer.

A Better information and communication about the benefits of healthy, sustainable food will gradually move markets and policy makers towards greener behaviors, pushing policy towards what challenges humanity today, which are our negative impacts on the environment of our planet. Having valuable information and good experiences, the consumer will be the main driver for policy and cultural change.

We believe that in the future our technological challenge is to improve the quality and flow of information in our food system, producers must have technological elements that improve their communication such as smartphones or tablets and some technological instruments that improve productivity without completely replacing the human work, but at the same time making the logistics and operation of the system more efficient, as the main gear between producers and consumers. Each level of the value chain must be connected through a technological platform and thus to reduce the time spent by the coordinating team in the consolidation of information each week, so that it focuses on impact work.

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.

Our model of an improved food system must ensure good life quality for all stakeholders that are part of it. Good life quality understood as the fulfilment of the needs that lead to a healthy lifestyle, in peace and harmony with nature and society. In this system, it is very important that all stakeholders of the Network (from farm to fork) maintain a close relationship, all being part of the whole cycle and not only a link in the supply chain. Transparency in the communications in all directions (producers, consumers, facilitators), will allow us to create a great community that bases its relationships on mutual trust.

We are convinced that conscious food consumption is the future and there is a growing need for sustainable sourcing. When we consume consciously, we need to know: Who produces and where? How? What consequences does the production process have on the life of the planet? Who is benefiting from it? For answer this questions, we promote knowledge exchange meetings, workshops and visits to the farms, where producers and consumers get together and share their needs and understand those of their counterparts. We also communicate stories and experiences related to food consumption and production, through newsletters, our website and our social networks creating a great digital community with a sustainable food system as the focus.

As team La Canasta, our purpose is to serve as facilitators of a relationship between consumers and producers. Working together (La Canasta Foundation and Jero el Granjero S.A.S) in a sustainable food cycle, with all stakeholders sharing principles of solidarity economy and fair trade, of cooperation and not of competition, respect for life, not only human, but that of nature, inclusion and non-exclusion of others recognition of human beings as ends and not as means. Having this comprehensive model as a base, allows us to comply with the principles we promote and generate fair relationships in which all stakeholders win.

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

We definitely believe that our model will allow us to achieve our vision to consolidate a sustainable food system, because it interconnects all stakeholders of the value chain and generates positive impact on the environment, the health of producers and consumers and encourages solidarity economy and fair trade. It will also help to break paradigms around agroecology and will support itself in technological innovation and the current trend of digital communities.

This sustainable food system will be accessible for most consumers by being efficient through the combination of traditional knowledge and new technologies, transparent in information and communication, with short and efficient supply chains with minimal food waste and less use of plastic, for which, we will strengthen the technical support and promote the adoption of technologies and practices that improve profitability and productivity of the family based agriculture of the smallhold farmers we currently work with, within the frame of agroecology, in order to guarantee the sustainable production of nutritious and regenerative foods, obtained from soils free of agrochemicals, in sufficient quantities to supply homes and restaurants in Bogotá. We will continue promoting the preservation of more native food and practices, conserving natural resources and contributing to the mitigation and adaptation to climate change. This will all be accompanied by the promotion of seed and knowledge exchanges between producers in order to continue building our capacities within our network and working towards food sovereignty. With zero greenhouse gas emissions with the support of environmentally friendly means of transport and distribution schemes based on local consumption. And finally, we believe that this model will can be replicated in other cities. 

We also believe in the empowerment of all stakeholders, fact that will be encouraged by our model, facilitating a somewhat direct relationship between consumers and producers, with the means of technology and digital communities to achieve the communication to sharing of information about one another. 

Increasingly, our consumers will learn about healthy practices, healthy food, responsible consumption, agroecology, climate change and will have read the stories about who produces their food and how it’s produced, but also with the exchange encounters in the farms where we will generate information that promotes the well-being (buen vivir) through food, educate and raise awareness of the consumers through a closer relation with producers, promoting the preservation of seeds and traditional practices.

At the same time, towards consumers in the city, to promote the use of native foods, the traditional gastronomy linked to these and increase conscious consumption of agroecological and local food.  

Increasing demand for agroecological products will require broadening the number of producers, increasing the crop area, adopting traceability systems and improving productivity to be more competitive. Through our Foundation we expect to improve efficiency by ensuring closer support to producers by our team with the help of adopting information technologies and other communication channels to help us communicate better. 

Reaching only 1% of the posible households and restaurants of Bogota per year, we can certainly increase the access to sustainable food for lower prices. But this requires initially to improve the production capacity and to create local consumption networks by city areas. This will result in larger quantities of food grown and sold, with fair prices for both sides, resulting in better income for our current producers and even allow us to increase the network of smallhold farms that we work with.

Currently, only 1% of the total cultivated land of Colombia (4,8 million hectares) has organic cropses, and 95% of them are exported. We still have 17 million hectares that can be cultivated in the country. So, if we gather the political will to improve land tenure with the demand for agroecological food by the consumers, together with the adoption of appropriate technologies for planting and logistics process, there are good chances to increase the access to the market, mainly local, and with this to improve the economic conditions for more smallhold producers focused in traditional and agroecological practices.

In order to scale the current model, we must have a robust technological platform that allows us to efficiently carry out all the processes in the cycle, both on the production and on the consumption fronts. The platform should allow us to monitor and retrieve information in the farms such as: production problems, availability of products ready to be harvested, characterization of producers and farms, track the origin of all products, establish the history behind the products, and let our network of farmers be connected among themselves and to the consumers of their produce. This platform will allow us to integrate the order and billing processes, inventory management, Consumer Relationships Management CRM, and should generate valuable information for both, consumers and producers. It should also help us measure our impact and sustainability, which will in turn allow to organize efficient distribution nodes and routes. This tool will make it possible for us to scale our model and grow towards incorporating more producers and serving more consumers.

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Photo of Dieuwertje Nelissen
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Hi Giovana Reyes , really interesting project and vision! Part of our vision is also based on directly connecting producers and consumers. We are currently running a project called Fresh that has many similarities with La Canasta. Is it an idea to schedule a zoom-call? We are very interested in learning from your experience and sharing ours! Abrazo, Didi

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