While strongly upholding the ideal of healthy future-proof farming and loyally following the mission and requirements of agroecology, Nelly admits that agroecological production remains a niche in Cochabamba and Bolivia.
We are still a long way from having a real social and environmental impact in the city. Our dream is to promote ecological fairs and disseminate agroecological products in the city. We would like the citizens of Cochabamba to know more about agroecology, that there is an ecological fair in their city, and about us. People of the city, the region and the whole country must be able to recognize agroecological products from the official agroecological symbol and must know that we, agroecological producers, use only natural fertilizers and plant protection products on our fields, and avoid any type of chemical treatment. It is frustrating to carry all the burden of respecting agroecological standards, and nobody knows about it. There is still a lot to do to promote our work and increase the public conversation about agroecology.
And what about those that do know about the labor and values behind agroecology? Are they willing to pay more for healthier and more environmental – and climate-friendly products?
In truth, many of our products are sold at about the same price as the conventional ones. When they are slightly more expensive, it is because we also value the increased complexity of agroecological production. Firstly, agroecological production implies satisfying all of the considerable requirements set by the National Service of Agricultural Health and Food Safety (SENASAG), the city administration and the ecological evaluation committee. Secondly, our crops are vulnerable to many plant diseases, which means sometimes we have to discard our entire harvest because we cannot take certain preventative measures that conventional agriculture uses. It is rather upsetting to see a plant disease hitting your field and hampering your production. As a countermeasure, we decided to diversify our products and incorporate poultry farming. When our vegetables are adversely affected, we can still rely on our chickens and ducks.
To tackle all these challenges, agroecological producers need administrative help to deal with the bureaucracy, agronomical expertise to eradicate diseases naturally and public promotion to boost a little-known farming method. While joyfully praising the excellent help offered by the AGRECOL Andes Foundation, Nelly denounces the lack of meaningful support from local public authorities.
We need a lot more help from the authorities to achieve significant results. Most people in the city do not care about agroecology. They live one day to the next. They do not think of human health, the climate, and the natural environment. The city administration should help us spread the word of agroecology and help us create a secure space dedicated to agroecology in local markets. We would be much more encouraged if we had one. But we are still a long way from having one.
Nelly’s views on our Agrecol Trees project are very different.
Receiving a tree as a gift is a blessing. Never in our life has somebody gifted us a fruit tree. You plant it, and you will see and collect its fruits in two or three years. And you are adding oxygen to the local atmosphere.