The Two Sides of a Chocoano and Costeño Exchange

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One opportunity that we have as Seeders is to plan an exchange with the community of another Seeder, traveling with a person from our community. In May, my husband Giles and I traveled to the Caribbean Coast with Jabes, the director of the agriculture program of the Mennonite Brethren of Chocó, and Genaro, a small-scale farmer from the community of Paimadó. We visited the two communities of Seeders Alejandra and Lani on the coast, Libertad and Pichilín, and additionally the farm of Sembrandopaz in the countryside near Sincelejo and the organization’s office in the city. The communities received us with generous, warm hospitality and shared their stories with us.

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Left to right: In the community of Pichilín, Alejandra, Lani, Andres Ruiz, Genaro, and Jabes discuss agriculture in Colombia, compare prices of crops, and share experiences.

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Left to right: In the farm of Sembrandopaz, Narciso, the farm director, gives various coastal varieties of seeds to Jabes, Genaro, and Giles.

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During our visit in Libertad and later in the farm of Sembrandopaz, a miracle arrived: rain after more than six months of dry season. Since Chocó is one of the regions that receives the most rain in the world, it was as if the Chocoanos had brought the rain with them. In the Caribbean Coast, the drought continues, having serious impacts for all but especially for the farmers.

Left to right: Aleja, Leonel, Giles, Jabes, Genaro, and Lani

Left to right: Aleja, Leonel, Giles, Jabes, Genaro, and Lani

In the office of Sembrandopaz, we had a meeting to hear more about their agricultural program on the coast and discuss the hope that we have in cultivating cacao in Chocó.

In August, three months later, Alejandra and Lani came to Chocó with two farmers from their communities, Juvernel from Libertad and Eliecer from Pichilín, to complete this side of the exchange. We visited the agricultural foundation FAGROTES of the Mennonite Brethren, several farms located along the San Juan River, and the community of Bebedó and its community council.

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Left to right: Lani, Eliecer, Juvernel, and Jabes check out the fish, moharra plateada, that are being cultivated in FAGROTES.

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In Genaro’s farm in Paimadó, we could see the progress of the seeds that we given to us on the coast three months earlier. On the left, hibiscus; on the right, a coastal variety of corn that is flourishing in Chocó.

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In a farm in Bebedó, Juvernel (left) and Jabes (right) examine grafts in the cacao plants. Grafting is essential in order to have a productive cacao harvest.

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Giles (left) and Eliecer (right) carry sugar cane given to them in a farm in Bebedó.

Additionally, we had a cultural night with chirimía, a typical dance of Chocó, and a rice bochinche, a typical Chocoano dish.

These exchanges are valuable. They create trust and build relationships between distant communities, providing an opportunity to share strategies, experiences, seeds, culture, and stories.

For me, it has been a beautiful experience to be able to participate in these exchanges. It is a privilege to be able to visit the communities of other Seeders and see connections between our work and also to share my experience here in Chocó. I was impressed by the warm hospitality of the people on the coast and their openness to sharing with us. One theme that came up in both of the exchanges was that of land, which has made me reflect upon the importance of land for the communities as an essential aspect for peace building in Colombia. Now when I visit farms here and see plants that were gifted to us as seeds growing and thriving on Chocoano soil, I view them as a good metaphor for certain aspects of our work as Seeders: to facilitate and accompany sharing of experiences and ideas to provide, someday, a harvest of hope, peace, and justice.

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