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A safe space for women November 5th, 2023 by

Nederlandse versie hieronder

In Ecuador, as in many other countries, the rural exodus of men to cities and abroad, in search of work, imposes new duties and responsibilities on the women who are left behind. Besides having to look after their households, they now are also left to manage the farm and sell their produce. For indigenous women, this poses special challenges because so many men have left, and until recently the women held few formal positions of leadership. Without the necessary confidence and proper skills to negotiate prices with middlemen these women continue to be exploited and forced to live in poverty.

As Marcella, Jeff and I visited the NGO EkoRural in Quito in 2022 to meet with the director Ross Borja and scientific advisor, Pedro Oyarzun, it was encouraging to hear how things are gradually changing thanks to many years of support by local organisations, backed by a growing pressure of the international community to advance women’s rights and consider gender in all their activities. For rural women to grow confidence and strengthen their agency, getting organised into women’s associations is crucial. To nurture future women leaders this can best happen when they are given a safe space.

When women grow food without agrochemicals this makes them stand out from other food sellers in the cities, and many urban clients are willing to pay an extra price for healthy food. ‚ÄúBut without the necessary skills and loaded with the historic mistreatment, indigenous women have little chance in conventional food markets to sell their produce at a fair price,‚ÄĚ says Ross.

She explains that for a decade, EkoRural has been helping indigenous and mestizos smallholder farmers to sell their produce and build a client base in urban centres by establishing new dedicated agroecological markets at family planning centres. ‚ÄúAs only women with children come to the health centres and most of the doctors are also women, this has offered a relaxed environment for indigenous rural women to gradually develop their skills and confidence,‚ÄĚ says Ross. Once a week the women set up their stalls in the garage of the family planning centres.

EkoRural has also supported workshops where the women doctors together with their patients and farmers learn about food and nutrition. The link between healthy food and human health is an obvious one, but using urban family planning centres to create a market for disadvantaged rural women is something I had never heard of before: truly an innovative approach that at the same time helps create a relationship between food producers and consumers.

That this approach is bearing fruit has been proven by the past two years of the covid pandemic. While the lockdown closed down these new markets, the urban consumers, including the doctors, have established such good relations with the rural women that they continue to buy their produce by placing orders on the phone or social media. Not all of the indigenous women are familiar with digital communication, but their children are.

Another example of EkoRural’s concern for rural women is the initiative to sell agroecological products at the Casa de la Mujer in Riobamba. This initiative allowed not only to sell but also for young rural women to come into contact with gender issues and leadership at the provincial and national levels and to experience leadership roles in this organisation.

When attention to gender is taken seriously and with the necessary creativity and investment in building rural women’s organisations, it is possible to establish alternative food networks. Gradually and in a supportive environment, indigenous women can gain the necessary skills and confidence to earn a decent livelihood in the absence of men.

Related Agro-Insight blogs

Marketing something nice

Strawberry fields once again


Ross Borja from EkoRural kindly commented on an earlier draft and shared photos on the markets at family planning centres. The visit in Ecuador to film various farmer-to-farmer training videos, including the one on ‚ÄúInspiring women leaders‚ÄĚ was made possible with the kind support of the Collaborative Crop Research Program (CCRP) of the McKnight Foundation.


Een veilige ruimte voor vrouwen

In Ecuador, net als in veel andere landen, legt de plattelandsvlucht van mannen naar de steden en het buitenland, op zoek naar werk, nieuwe plichten en verantwoordelijkheden op aan de vrouwen die achterblijven. Naast het huishouden moeten ze nu ook de boerderij beheren en hun producten verkopen. Voor inheemse vrouwen brengt dit speciale uitdagingen met zich mee omdat er zoveel mannen zijn vertrokken en de vrouwen tot voor kort weinig formele leiderschapsposities bekleedden. Zonder het nodige zelfvertrouwen en de juiste vaardigheden om met tussenhandelaren over prijzen te onderhandelen, worden deze vrouwen nog steeds uitgebuit en gedwongen om in armoede te leven.

Toen Marcella, Jeff en ik in 2022 een bezoek brachten aan de NGO EkoRural in Quito voor een ontmoeting met de directeur Ross Borja en wetenschappelijk adviseur Pedro Oyarzun, was het bemoedigend om te horen hoe dingen geleidelijk veranderen dankzij de jarenlange steun van lokale organisaties, gesteund door een groeiende druk van de internationale gemeenschap om vrouwenrechten te bevorderen en rekening te houden met gender in al hun activiteiten. Om vrouwen op het platteland meer zelfvertrouwen te geven en hun invloed te versterken, is het van cruciaal belang dat ze zich organiseren in vrouwenorganisaties. Om toekomstige vrouwelijke leiders op te voeden kan dit het beste gebeuren als ze een veilige ruimte krijgen.

Wanneer vrouwen voedsel verbouwen zonder landbouwchemicali√ęn, onderscheiden ze zich van andere voedselverkopers in de steden en veel klanten in de steden zijn bereid om een extra prijs te betalen voor gezond voedsel. “Maar zonder de benodigde vaardigheden en beladen met de historische mishandeling, hebben inheemse vrouwen weinig kans op conventionele voedselmarkten om hun producten tegen een eerlijke prijs te verkopen,” zegt Ross.

Ze legt uit dat EkoRural al tien jaar lang kleine inheemse en mestiezenboeren helpt om hun producten te verkopen en een klantenbestand op te bouwen in stedelijke centra door nieuwe speciale agro-ecologische markten op te zetten bij centra voor gezinsplanning. “Aangezien alleen vrouwen met kinderen naar de gezondheidscentra komen en de meeste dokters ook vrouwen zijn, bood dit een ontspannen omgeving voor inheemse plattelandsvrouwen om geleidelijk hun vaardigheden en zelfvertrouwen te ontwikkelen,” zegt Ross. Eens per week zetten de vrouwen hun kraampjes op in de garage van de gezinsplanningscentra.

EkoRural heeft ook workshops ondersteund waar de vrouwelijke artsen samen met hun pati√ęnten en boeren leren over voeding. Het verband tussen gezonde voeding en menselijke gezondheid ligt voor de hand, maar het gebruik van stedelijke centra voor gezinsplanning om een markt te cre√ęren voor kansarme plattelandsvrouwen is iets waar ik nog nooit van had gehoord: echt een innovatieve aanpak die tegelijkertijd helpt een relatie te cre√ęren tussen voedselproducenten en consumenten.

Dat deze aanpak vruchten afwerpt, hebben de afgelopen twee jaar van de covidepandemie wel bewezen. Terwijl deze nieuwe markten door de lockdown werden gesloten, hebben de stedelijke consumenten, waaronder de artsen, zo’n goede relatie opgebouwd met de plattelandsvrouwen dat ze hun producten blijven kopen door bestellingen te plaatsen via de telefoon of sociale media. Niet alle inheemse vrouwen zijn bekend met digitale communicatie, maar hun kinderen wel.

Een ander voorbeeld van EkoRural’s aandacht voor plattelandsvrouwen is het initiatief om agro-ecologische producten te verkopen in het Casa de la Mujer (‚ÄúHuis van de Vrouwen‚ÄĚ) in Riobamba. Dit initiatief maakte het niet alleen mogelijk om te verkopen, maar ook om jonge plattelandsvrouwen in contact te brengen met genderkwesties en leiderschap op provinciaal en nationaal niveau en om leiderschapsrollen in deze organisatie te ervaren.

Wanneer aandacht voor gender serieus wordt genomen en met de nodige creativiteit en investeringen in het versterken van vrouwenorganisaties op het platteland, is het mogelijk om alternatieve voedselnetwerken op te zetten. Geleidelijk aan en in een ondersteunende omgeving kunnen inheemse vrouwen de nodige vaardigheden en zelfvertrouwen verwerven om een fatsoenlijk inkomen te verdienen in afwezigheid van hun mannen.

Tourist development September 10th, 2023 by

Vea la versi√≥n en espa√Īol a continuaci√≥n

Rural communities are starting to welcome local tourism as a way to make money. And more people in the expanding cities of Latin America are now looking for outings they can take close to home.

This year, local officials in Anzaldo, in the provinces of Cochabamba, Bolivia, asked for help bringing tourists to their municipality. Aguiatur, an association of tour guides, offered to help.

In late June, Alberto Buitrón, who heads Aguiatur, and a carload of tour guides, visited Claudio Pérez, the young tourism-culture official for the municipal government of Anzaldo. They went to see local attractions, and people who could benefit from a tour. They also printed an attractive handout explaining what the visitors would see.

In late July, ads ran in the newspaper, promoting the tour, and inviting interested people to deposit 250 Bolivianos ($35) for every two passengers, into a certain bank account. Ana and I live in Cochabamba, 65 kilometers from Anzaldo, and we decided to make the trip, but the banks had already closed on Friday . So, I just went to the Aguiatur office. Alberto was busy preparing for the trip, but he graciously accepted my payment. ‚ÄúAnd with the two of you, the bus is closed,‚ÄĚ Alberto said, with an air of finality.

But by Saturday, more people had asked to go, and so Alberto charted a second bus and phoned the cook who would make our lunch on Sunday. At 8 PM, Saturday night, she agreed to make lunch the next day for 60 people instead of 30. In Bolivia, flexible planning often works just fine.

Early Sunday morning, we tourists met at Barba de Padilla, a small plaza in the old city of Cochabamba, and the tour agents assigned each person a seat on the bus. That would make it easy to see if anyone had strayed. Many of the tourists were retired people, more women than men, and a few grandkids. They were all from Bolivia, but many had never been to Anzaldo.

At each stop, Aguiatur had organized the local people to provide a service or sell food. In the hamlet of Flor de Pukara, we met Claudio, the municipal tourist official, but also Camila, just out of high school, and Zacarías Reyes, a retired school teacher. Camila and don Zacarías were from Flor de Pukara, and they were our local guides to show us the pre-Inka pukara (fortified site). This pukara was a cluster of stone walls on top of a rock crag. Tour guide Marizol Choquetopa, from Aguiatur, cautioned the group not to leave trash and not to remove any of the ancient pot sheds. And no one did, as near as I could tell. Our local guides told us stories about the place: spirits in the form of young ladies are said to appear on one rock outcropping, Torre Qaqa (Cliff Tower), to play music and dance at night.

We walked along the stone banks of the river, the Jatun Mayu. Then Camila’s mother served us phiri, a little dish of steamed cracked wheat, topped with cheese. It was faintly fermented, and fabulous.

In the small town of Anzaldo, we met Marco Delgadillo, a local agronomist and businessman, who has moved back to Anzaldo after his successful career in the city of Cochabamba. His hotel, El Molino del B√ļho (Owl Mill), includes a room for making and tasting chicha, a local alcoholic beverage brewed from maize. There was plenty of room for our large group in the salon, where we had a delicious lunch of lawa, a maize soup with potatoes, roast beef and chicken.

After lunch, our two buses gingerly navigated the narrow streets of the small town of Anzaldo. The town plaza had recently been fitted out with large models of dinosaurs to encourage visitors to come see fossils and dinosaur tracks. Two taxis were parked at the plaza, and the drivers evidently thought that they owned the town square. As the buses inched by, one taxi driver got out and angrily offered to come over and give our bus driver a beating. The passengers yelled back, urging the taxi driver to be reasonable, and he quieted down.

Our sense of adventure heightened by that buffoonish threat of violence, we drove out to the village of Tijraska. Local leaders clearly wanted to receive visitors. The community had prepared for our visit by putting up little signs indicating how to get to there. One of the leaders, don Mario, welcomed us in Quechua, the local language. Then he paused and asked if the tourists could understand Quechua.

Several people said yes, which delighted don Mario.

We strolled down to the banks of the muddy reservoir, in a narrow canyon. One young man, Ramiro, had bought a new wooden boat, with which he paddled small groups around an island in the reservoir.

For the grand finale, we stopped at the home of Ariel Angulo, a respected Bolivian musician, song writer and maker of musical instruments. Don Ariel played for us, and showed us the shop where he carves his wooden charangos, small stringed instruments. He explained that the charango was copied from a colonial Spanish instrument, the timple. After living in the city of Cochabamba for years, don Ariel has moved back home, to Anzaldo. The best charangos used to be made in Anzaldo, before the instrument makers moved to Cochabamba. Don Ariel hopes to teach young people to make charangos, and bring the craft back to Anzaldo.

This was the first ever package tour to come to Anzaldo. Local tourism from the emerging big cities of tropical countries can be a source of income for rural people, while teaching city people something about the countryside. Some people who left the small towns are retiring back in the countryside, and can help provide services to visitors and even bring traditional crafts back. It is easier for Bolivian tour guides to work with local tourists than foreign ones. For example, the local people speak the national languages. The local tour guides know how to deal with customers who sign up late. There may be risks of over-visitation, but for now, municipal governments are willing to explore tourism as development. And it can be done locally, with no foreign investment or international visitors.


Thanks to David Garviz√ļ, Irassema Guzm√°n, Marizol Choquetopa and Alberto Buitr√≥n of Aguiatur, for a safe and educational trip to Anzaldo. Alberto Buitr√≥n, Ana Gonz√°les and Paul Van Mele read and commented on an earlier version of this story.

A video from Anzaldo

Here is a video about producing healthy lupins, a nutritious. local food crop, filmed in Anzaldo in 2017. Growing lupin without disease


Jeff Bentley, 10 de septiembre del 2023

Las comunidades rurales empiezan a fomentar el turismo local para generar ingresos. Y más gente en las crecientes ciudades de Latinoamérica empieza a buscar destinos cerca de la casa.

Este a√Īo, algunos oficiales en Anzaldo, en las provincias de Cochabamba, Bolivia, pidieron ayuda para traer turistas a su municipio. Aguiatur, una asociaci√≥n de gu√≠as tur√≠sticos, ofreci√≥ su ayuda.

Fines de junio, Alberto Buitrón, el director de Aguiatur, y varios guías, visitaron a Claudio Pérez, el joven Responsable de Turismo-Cultura del municipio de Anzaldo. Visitaron a varios atractivos, y a vecinos que podrían aprovechar del tour. Además, imprimieron un lindo folleto explicando qué es que los visitantes verían.

Fines de julio, salieron anuncios en el peri√≥dico, promoviendo el tour, e invitando a los interesados a depositar 250 Bs. ($35) para cada par de pasajeros, en una cuenta bancaria. Ana y yo vivimos Cochabamba, a 65 kil√≥metros de Anzaldo, y reci√©n decidimos viajar despu√©s del cierre de los bancos el viernes. Por eso, fui no m√°s a las oficinas de Aguiatur. Alberto estaba en plenos preparativos para el tour, pero amablemente me atendi√≥. ‚ÄúY con ustedes dos, el bus est√° cerrado,‚ÄĚ dijo Alberto, con el aire de la finalidad.

Sin embargo, para el sábado más personas pidieron cupos, así que Alberto contrató un segundo bus, y llamó a la cocinera que haría nuestro almuerzo el domingo. A las 8 PM, el sábado, ella quedó en hacer almuerzo para el día siguiente para 60 personas en vez de 30. En Bolivia, la planificación flexible suele funcionar bastante bien.

A primera hora el domingo, los turistas nos reunimos en la peque√Īa plaza de Barba de Padilla, en el casco viejo de Cochabamba, y los gu√≠as tur√≠sticos asignaron a cada persona un asiento en el bus. As√≠ podr√≠an llevar un buen control y no perder a nadie. Muchos de los turistas eran jubilados, m√°s mujeres que hombres, con algunos nietitos. Todos eran de Bolivia, pero muchos no conoc√≠an a Anzaldo.

En cada escala, Aguiatur hab√≠a organizado a la gente local para dar un servicio o vender comida. En el caser√≠o de Flor de Pukara, conocimos a Claudio, el oficial de turismo municipal, pero tambi√©n a Camila, reci√©n egresada del colegio, y Zacar√≠as Reyes, un profesor jubilado. Camila y don Zacar√≠as eran de Flor de Pukara, y como gu√≠as locales nos mostraron la Pukara preincaica. La pukara era una colecci√≥n de muros de piedra encima de un pe√Īasco. Nuestra gu√≠a Marizol Choquetopa, de Aguiatur, advirti√≥ al grupo no botar basura y no llevar los tiestos antiguos. Y que yo sepa, nadie lo hizo. Nuestros gu√≠as locales nos contaron cuentos del lugar: esp√≠ritus en forma de se√Īoritas que aparecen sobre una un pe√Īasco, Torre Qaqa, para tocar m√ļsica y bailar de noche.

Caminamos sobre las orillas pedregosas del río Jatun Mayu. Luego la mamá de Camila nos sirvió un platillo de phiri, trigo quebrado al vapor con un poco de queso encima. Ligeramente fermentada, era fabulosa.

En el pueblo de Anzaldo, conocimos a Marco Delgadillo, agr√≥nomo local y empresario, que hab√≠a retornado a Anzaldo despu√©s de su exitosa carrera en la ciudad de Cochabamba. Su hotel, El Molino del B√ļho, incluye un cuarto para hacer y catear chicha de ma√≠z. Hab√≠a amplio campo para nuestro grupo en el sal√≥n principal, donde disfrutamos de un almuerzo delicioso de lawa, una sopa de ma√≠z con papas, carne asada y pollo.

Despu√©s del almuerzo, nuestros dos buses lentamente navegaron las estrechas calles del pueblo de Anzaldo. En la plaza se hab√≠an instalado modelos grandes de dinosaurios para animar a los turistas a visitar para ver a los f√≥siles y huellas de dinosaurios. Dos taxis estacionados se hab√≠an adue√Īado de la plaza. Los buses pasaban cent√≠metro por cent√≠metro, cuando un taxista sali√≥ y, perdiendo los cables, ofreci√≥ dar una paliza a nuestro conductor. Los pasajeros gritamos en su defensa, sugiriendo calma, y el taxista se call√≥.

Después del show del taxista payaso, tuvimos más ganas todavía para la aventura, mientras nos dirigimos a la comunidad de Tijraska. Los dirigentes claramente querían recibir visitas. La comunidad había preparado para nuestra visita, colocando letreros indicando el camino. Uno de los dirigentes, don Mario, nos dio la bienvenida en quechua, el idioma local. Luego pausó y dijo que tal vez no todos hablábamos el quechua.

De una vez, varios dijeron que sí, lo cual encantó a don Mario.

Caminamos a las orillas de un reservorio con agua color de tierra, en un ca√Ī√≥n angosto. Un joven, Ramiro, hab√≠a comprado una nueva lancha. Subimos en peque√Īos grupos y a remo nos mostr√≥ una isla en el reservorio.

Para cerrar con broche de oro, visitamos la casa de Ariel Angulo, un respetado m√ļsico boliviano. Tambi√©n es cantautor y hace finos instrumentos musicales. Don Ariel toc√≥ un par de canciones para nosotros, y nos mostr√≥ su taller de charangos de madera. Explic√≥ que el charango se copi√≥ durante la colonia de un instrumento espa√Īol, el timple. Despu√©s de vivir durante a√Īos en la ciudad de Cochabamba, don Ariel ha vuelto a su tierra natal, a Anzaldo. En anta√Īo los mejores charangos se hac√≠an en Anzaldo, antes de que los fabricantes se fueron a Cochabamba. Don Ariel espera ense√Īar a los j√≥venes a hacer charangos, y devolver esta arte a Anzaldo.

Nuestra gira a Anzaldo era el primero en la historia. El turismo local, partiendo de las pujantes ciudades de los pa√≠ses tropicales, puede ser una fuente de ingreso para la gente rural, mientras los citadinos aprendemos algo del campo. Algunas personas que abandonaron las provincias est√°n volviendo, y pueden ayudar a dar servicios a los visitantes, y hasta dar vida a las artes tradicionales. Es m√°s f√°cil para gu√≠as bolivianos trabajar con turistas locales que con extranjeros. Por ejemplo, los turistas locales hablan los idiomas nacionales. Los gu√≠as locales saben lidiar con clientes que se apuntan a √ļltima hora. S√≠ se corre el riesgo de una sobre visitaci√≥n, pero para ahora, los gobiernos municipales est√°n explorando al turismo local como una contribuci√≥n del desarrollo. Y se puede hacer con recursos locales, sin inversi√≥n extranjera y sin turistas internacionales.


Gracias a David Garviz√ļ, Irassema Guzm√°n, Marizol Choquetopa y Alberto Buitr√≥n de Aguiatur, por un viaje seguro y educativo a Anzaldo. Alberto Buitr√≥n, Ana Gonz√°les y Paul Van Mele leyeron e hicieron comentarios sobre una versi√≥n previa de este relato.

Un video de Anzaldo

Aquí está un video que muestra cómo producir tarwi (lupino) sano, un nutritivo alimento local, filmado en Anzaldo en el 2017. Producir tarwi sin enfermedad.


The market mafia April 9th, 2023 by

The market mafia

Nederlandse versie hieronder

In a previous blog, I wrote how smallholder, organic farmers in Bolivia struggle to sell their healthy, natural produce to an urban and peri-urban audience that is only slowly awakening to the health risks of  food produced with agrochemicals.

While the weekly home delivery service is a new way to sell fresh produce directly to consumers, the age-proven, open-air markets offer a more obvious way to sell ecological food. As in much of the developing world, weekly neighbourhood markets are widespread in Bolivia, but they come with their own challenges when newcomers want to enter the scene.

The NGO Agrecol Andes has been working for years to help agroecological farmers sell their produce directly on local markets, rather than through middle men. To help farmers in the department of Cochabamba obtain a space to sell in existing markets, Agrecol obtained agreements with various local authorities to help their farmers sell at markets. But that seemed to be the easiest part.

From experience Agrecol Andes learned that if one of the ecological farmers did not have vegetables or fruits to sell during one week, their place would be snapped up by a conventional vendor, who would keep the spot forever. So Agrecol increased its efforts to strengthen farmer groups, which let members to supply each other with ecological produce and ensure weekly presence on the markets.

But competition among market vendors is a fierce. While local authorities may set market rules, the real power is held by a few influential vendors. If the old vendors object, the farmer-sellers may permanently be blocked from the market.

‚ÄúIn some cases, my colleagues have been negotiating with specific market vendors for several years, but until they obtain permission, they are never sure whether their efforts will bear any fruits,‚ÄĚ explains Augusto Liz√°rraga, a young staff from Agrecol Andes who accompanied us during most of our filming days.

Clearly, for individual farmers to start selling ecological produce directly on markets, the challenges are huge. Working in groups helps, and so does the support of local authorities. But institutional support like the one offered by Agrecol Andes is essential to support agroecological farmers and trigger changes towards healthier and fairer food systems.

The market mafia may be invisible, but it does exist.

Watch our video on: How to sell ecological food

Related Agro-Insight blogs

The struggle to sell healthy food

Marketing as a performance

A young lawyer comes home to farm

An exit strategy


De markt maffia

In een vorig blog schreef ik hoe kleine, biologische boeren in Bolivia worstelen om hun gezonde, natuurlijke producten te verkopen aan een stedelijk en peri-stedelijk publiek dat zich maar langzaam bewust wordt van de gezondheidsrisico’s van voedsel dat met landbouwchemicali√ęn is geproduceerd.

Hoewel de wekelijkse thuisbezorging een nieuwe manier is om verse producten rechtstreeks aan de consument te verkopen, bieden de beproefde openluchtmarkten een meer voor de hand liggende manier om gezond, ecologisch voedsel te verkopen. Zoals in veel ontwikkelingslanden zijn ook in Bolivia wekelijkse buurtmarkten wijdverbreid, maar ze gaan gepaard met hun eigen uitdagingen wanneer nieuwkomers hun intrede willen doen.

De NGO Agrecol Andes zet zich al jaren in om agro-ecologische boeren te helpen hun producten rechtstreeks op lokale markten te verkopen, in plaats van via tussenpersonen. Om boeren in het departement Cochabamba te helpen een plek te krijgen op bestaande markten, verkreeg Agrecol overeenkomsten met verschillende lokale autoriteiten om hun boeren te helpen op markten te verkopen. Maar dat leek het gemakkelijkste deel.

Uit ervaring leerde Agrecol Andes dat als een van de ecologische boeren gedurende een week geen groenten of fruit had om te verkopen, haar plaats zou worden ingenomen door een conventionele verkoper, die de plaats voor altijd zou behouden. Dus verhoogde Agrecol haar inspanningen om boerengroepen te versterken, waardoor de leden elkaar ecologische producten kunnen leveren en een wekelijkse aanwezigheid op de markten kunnen garanderen.

Maar de concurrentie tussen de marktkooplui is hevig. Hoewel de plaatselijke autoriteiten de marktregels vaststellen, is de echte macht in handen van een paar invloedrijke verkopers. Als de oude verkopers bezwaar maken, kunnen de boerenverkopers permanent van de markt worden geweerd.

“In sommige gevallen onderhandelen mijn collega’s al jaren met bepaalde marktkooplui, maar zolang ze geen toestemming krijgen, weten ze nooit zeker of hun inspanningen vruchten zullen afwerpen,” legt Augusto Liz√°rraga uit, een jonge medewerker van Agrecol Andes die ons tijdens de meeste van onze filmdagen vergezelde.

Het is duidelijk dat de uitdagingen voor individuele boeren om ecologische producten rechtstreeks op markten te gaan verkopen enorm zijn. Werken in groepen helpt, net als de steun van lokale autoriteiten. Maar institutionele steun zoals die van Agrecol Andes is essentieel om agro-ecologische boeren te ondersteunen en veranderingen in de richting van gezondere en eerlijkere voedselsystemen op gang te brengen.

De marktmaffia mag dan onzichtbaar zijn, ze bestaat wel degelijk.

Bekijk onze video: How to sell ecological food

Gerelateerde Agro-Insight blogs

The struggle to sell healthy food

Marketing as a performance

A young lawyer comes home to farm

An exit strategy

Pheromone traps are social March 26th, 2023 by

Vea la versi√≥n en espa√Īol a continuaci√≥n

Farmers like insecticides because they are quick, easy to use, and fairly cheap, especially if you ignore the health risks.

Fortunately, alternatives are emerging around the world. Entomologists are developing traps made of pheromones, the smells that guide insects to attack, or congregate or to mate. Each species has its own sex pheromone, which researchers can isolate and synthesize. Insects are so attracted to sex pheromones that they can even be used to make traps.

I had seen pheromone traps before, on small farms in Nepal, so I was pleased to see two varieties of pheromone traps in Bolivia.

Paul and Marcella and I were filming a video for farmers on the potato tuber moth, a pest that gets into potatoes in the field and in storage. Given enough time, the larvae of the little tuber moths will eat a potato into a soggy mass of frass.

We visited two farms with Juan Almanza, a talented agronomist who is helping farmers try pheromone traps, among other innovations.

A little piece of rubber is impregnated with the sex pheromone that attracts the male tuber moth. The rubber is hung from a wire inside a plastic trap. One type of trap is like a funnel, where the moths can fly in, but can’t get out again. The males are attracted to the smell of a receptive female, but are then locked in a trap with no escape. They never mate, and so the females cannot lay eggs.

Farmers Pastor Veizaga and Irene Claros showed us traps they had made at home, using an old bottle of cooking oil. The bottle is filled partway with water and detergent. The moth flies around the bait until it stumbles into the detergent water, and dies.

All of the farmers we met were impressed with these simple traps and how many moths they killed. A few of these safe, inexpensive traps, hanging in a potato storage area, could be part of the solution to protecting the potato, loved around the world by people and by moths alike. The pheromone trap could give the farmers a chance to outsmart the moths, without insecticides. But the farmers can’t adopt pheromone traps on their own; it has to be a social effort.

Some ten years previously, pheromone baits were distributed to anyone in Colomi who wanted one. As Juan Almanza explained to me, the mayor’s office announced on the radio that people would receive bait if they took an empty plastic jug to the plant clinic, which operated every Thursday at the weekly fair in the municipal market. Oscar Díaz, who then ran the plant clinic for Proinpa, gave pheromone bait, valued at 25 Bs. (about $3.60), to hundreds of people. Farmers made the traps and used them for years. It may take five years or more for the pheromone to be exhausted from the bait.

Now, only a handful of households in Colomi still use the traps. But most farmers there do spray agrochemicals. Agrochemicals and their alternatives compete in an unfair contest, due in part to policy failure and profit motive. If pesticide shops all closed and farmers did not know where to buy more insecticide, its use would fall off quickly.

Had the municipal government periodically sold pheromone bait to farmers, they might still be making and using the traps.

During Covid, we all learned about supply chains. Sometimes, appropriate tools for agroecology, like pheromone traps, also rely on supplies from outside the farm community.  Manufacturers, distributors, and local government can all be part of this supply chain. Farmers can’t do it on their own.


Juan Almanza works for the Proinpa Foundation. He and Paul Van Mele read and commented on a previous version of this story.

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A los agricultores les gustan los insecticidas porque son r√°pidos, f√°ciles de usar y bastante baratos, sobre todo si se ignoran los riesgos para la salud.

Afortunadamente, están surgiendo alternativas en todo el mundo. Los entomólogos están desarrollando trampas de feromonas, los olores que guían a los insectos para atacar, congregarse o aparearse. Cada especie tiene su propia feromona sexual, que los investigadores pueden aislar y sintetizar. Los insectos se sienten tan atraídos por las feromonas sexuales que se los puede usar para hacer trampas.

Yo había visto trampas de feromonas antes, usadas en la agricultura familiar en Nepal, así que me alegró ver dos variedades de trampas de feromonas en Bolivia.

Paul, Marcella y yo est√°bamos filmando un v√≠deo para agricultores sobre la polilla de la papa, una plaga que se mete en las papas en el campo y en almac√©n. Con el suficiente tiempo, las larvas de la peque√Īa polilla de la papa se comen una papa hasta convertirla en una masa de excremento.

Visitamos dos familias con Juan Almanza, un agrónomo de talento que está ayudando a los agricultores a probar trampas de feromonas, entre otras innovaciones.

Se impregna un trocito de goma con la feromona sexual que atrae al macho de la polilla de la papa. La goma se cuelga de un alambre dentro de una trampa de plástico. Un tipo de trampa es como un embudo, donde las polillas pueden entrar volando, pero no pueden salir. Los machos se sienten atraídos por el olor de una hembra receptiva, pero entonces quedan encerrados en una trampa sin salida. Nunca se aparean, así que las hembras no pueden poner huevos.

Agricultores Pastor Veizaga e Irene Claros nos ense√Īaron trampas que hab√≠an hecho en casa, usando un viejo bid√≥n de aceite de cocina. La botella se llena hasta la mitad con agua y detergente. La polilla vuela alrededor del cebo hasta que tropieza con el agua del detergente y muere.

Todos los agricultores que conocimos quedaron impresionados con estas sencillas trampas y con la cantidad de polillas que mataban. Unas pocas de estas trampas seguras y baratas, colgadas en un almac√©n de papas, podr√≠an ser parte de la soluci√≥n para proteger la papa, amada en todo el mundo tanto por la gente como por las polillas. La trampa de feromonas podr√≠a dar a los agricultores la oportunidad de enga√Īar a las polillas, sin insecticidas. Pero los agricultores no pueden adoptar las trampas de feromonas por s√≠ solos; tiene que ser un esfuerzo social.

Hace unos diez a√Īos, en Colomi se distribuyeron cebos de feromonas a todos que quer√≠an tener uno. Seg√ļn Juan Almanza me explic√≥, la alcald√≠a anunciaba por la radio que la gente recibir√≠a cebos si llevaba un bid√≥n de pl√°stico vac√≠a a la cl√≠nica de plantas, que funcionaba todos los jueves en la feria semanal, en el mercado municipal. Oscar D√≠az, que entonces dirig√≠a la cl√≠nica de plantas de Proinpa, entreg√≥ cebos de feromonas, valorados en 25 Bs. (unos $3,60), a cientos de personas. Los agricultores fabricaron las trampas y las usaron durante a√Īos. El cebo puede mantener su feromona durante unos cinco a√Īos o m√°s antes de que se agote.

Ahora, pocos hogares de Colomi siguen usando las trampas. Pero la mayoría de los agricultores si fumigan agroquímicos. Los agroquímicos y sus alternativas compiten en una competencia desleal, debida en parte al fracaso de las políticas y los intereses de lucro. Si todas las tiendas de plaguicidas cerraran sus puertas y los agricultores no supieran dónde comprar más insecticida, su uso caería rápidamente.

Si la alcaldía hubiera vendido periódicamente cebos con feromonas a los agricultores, quizá seguirían haciendo y usando las trampas.

Durante Covid, todos aprendimos acerca de las cadenas de suministro. A veces, las herramientas adecuadas para la agroecología, como las trampas de feromonas, también dependen de insumos externos a la comunidad agrícola.  Los fabricantes, los distribuidores y la administración local pueden formar parte de esta cadena de suministro. Los agricultores no pueden hacerlo solos.


Juan Almanza trabaja para la Fundaci√≥n Proinpa. √Čl y Paul Van Mele leyeron y comentaron sobre una versi√≥n previa de esta historia.

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Naturally affordable March 5th, 2023 by

Certified organic farmers often complain that they need higher prices for their produce, but this means that they will only sell to rich people. The poor won’t have access to this healthy food.

I learned this recently from Mariana Alem, a Bolivian biologist of the AGRECOL Andes Foundation, which is working with smallholder producers to grow and sell affordable organic food in low and middle income areas in the Cochabamba Valley, in Bolivia.

Since 2019, Mariana and her colleague María Omonte, an agronomist, have worked with 36 farmers, mostly women, who were already selling produce in local fairs. The farmers self-declared that their produce was free of agrochemicals. The farmers self-declared that their produce was free of agrochemicals. To build rapport in the group, the women organized themselves to visit each other for a peer review. It started as a kind of inspection, but as the women get to know each other, these visits became a chance to exchange seeds or to share information about topics like recipes for controlling pests without chemicals.

Mariana and María found one group of these farmers at a market called El Playón, in a low-income neighborhood on the edge of the urban sprawl of metropolitan Cochabamba. At this market, buyers and sellers are dressed in work cloths, wearing broad brimmed hats of rural women. They are speaking Quechua, as country people do, rather than Spanish as is spoken in the city.

Since the market only started in 2019 it still has an unfinished look. The stalls are handmade from rough lumber.

Paul and Marcella and I meet do√Īa Gladys, who is selling tomatoes for 8 Bolivianos ($1.15) per kilo, a competitive price. Most of the other women try to sell their locotos (hot peppers) or cucumbers in small piles for 5 Bolivianos each, units that poor people are used to¬† buying.

Others are selling cut flowers and fruit. One of the older women, do√Īa Saturnina, is selling organic peaches, for the same price as conventional ones. Do√Īa Saturnina, who is joined at her stall by her granddaughters, also give us a glass of juice, made from fresh peaches boiled in water, so refreshing.

To offer organic produce at affordable prices, one trick is for farmers to sell directly to consumers. This way, the farmer can charge the retail price. It is easier said than done, because selling is work.

Mariana and María have mentored the women, helping them to make aprons and to identify themselves as self-declared ecological producers. They are not formally certified, but they are producing without agrochemicals.

To sell to retail customers, you have to be at the fair on every market day with a good diversity of products. This group plants many different crops, rather than each person planting the same thing. Then, by sitting near each other the women can attract and share customers. They also increase their range of produce by buying from their neighbor farmers and from wholesalers to sell. Unfortunately, that means that not all of their produce is organic.

With the wisdom of hindsight, Mariana and María insist that the main thing is to be transparent with the consumers when farmers adopt these strategies to supply their stall. . When the women come to sell, each one has a green cloth where they pile up their organic produce. They also have an orange cloth where they are supposed to display any vegetables that they are reselling. The distinction has been a bit too subtle for consumers and a little too hard for the farmer-sellers to manage.

‚ÄúDid you forget your orange cloth today,‚ÄĚ some vendors will chide their neighbors who are selling produce they didn‚Äôt grow, as though it were organic.

These are the kinds of learning experiences that one may have while setting up something new. These growing pains aside, the point is that selling healthy, organic food should be for everyone, not just for people who can afford to pay extra. It is important for farmers to get a fair price, while making organic food affordable. Healthy eating shouldn’t be a luxury.


Thanks to Mariana Alem and Paul Van Mele for valuable comments on a previous version of this blog. Mariana Alem and María Omonte work for the Fundación Agrecol Andes.

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Los agricultores ecológicos certificados a veces se quejan de que necesitan precios más altos por sus productos, pero esto significa que sólo venderán a la gente rica. Los pobres no tendrán acceso a estos alimentos sanos.

Esto lo aprend√≠ recientemente de Mariana Alem, una bi√≥loga boliviana de la Fundaci√≥n AGRECOL Andes, que trabaja con peque√Īos productores para cultivar y vender alimentos org√°nicos asequibles en √°reas de bajos ingresos en el Valle de Cochabamba, en Bolivia.

Desde 2019, Mariana y su colega María Omonte, agrónoma, han trabajado con 36 agricultores, en su mayoría mujeres, que se auto declaran producir sin agroquímicos. Para generar confianza entre ellas, han organizado que se visiten unas a otras para una revisión entre pares. Comenzó como una especie de inspección, pero a medida que las mujeres se fueron conociendo, estas visitas se convirtieron en una oportunidad para intercambiar semillas o para compartir información sobre cómo controlar las plagas sin agroquímicos.

Mariana y Mar√≠a encontraron a un grupo de √©stas productoras en un mercado popular que se llama El Play√≥n, al borde de la expansi√≥n urbana de Cochabamba metropolitana. En este mercado, compradores y vendedores usan ropa de trabajo y llevan sombreros de ala ancha de mujer rural. Hablan quechua, como la gente del campo, en lugar de espa√Īol, como se habla en la ciudad.

Como el mercado no empez√≥ hasta 2019, a√ļn tiene un aspecto inacabado. Los puestos est√°n hechos a mano con madera √°spera.

Paul, Marcella y yo nos encontramos con do√Īa Gladys, que vende tomates a 8 bolivianos (1,15 d√≥lares) el kilo, un precio competitivo. La mayor√≠a de las dem√°s mujeres intentan vender sus locotos (chiles) o pepinos en peque√Īos montones por 5 bolivianos cada uno, unidades que la gente pobre est√° acostumbrada a comprar.

Otras venden flores cortadas y fruta. Una de las mujeres mayores, do√Īa Saturnina, vende duraznos ecol√≥gicos al mismo precio que los convencionales. Do√Īa Saturnina, a quien acompa√Īan en su puesto sus nietas, tambi√©n nos da un vaso de jugo, hecho con duraznos frescos hervidos en agua, tan refrescante.

Para ofrecer productos ecol√≥gicos a precios asequibles, un truco es que los agricultores vendan directamente a los consumidores. De este modo, el agricultor puede cobrar el precio de venta al p√ļblico. Es m√°s f√°cil decirlo que hacerlo, porque vender es un trabajo.

Mariana y María han asesorado a las mujeres, ayudándolas a confeccionar mandiles y a identificarse como productoras ecológicas auto-declaradas. No están certificadas formalmente, pero producen sin agroquímicos.

Para vender directo al consumidor, hay que estar en el mercado todos los días de feria con una buena diversidad de productos. Este grupo siembra muchos cultivos diferentes, en lugar de que cada persona plante lo mismo. Así, al sentarse cerca unas de otras, las mujeres pueden atraer y compartir clientes. También aumentan su gama de productos comprando a sus vecinas agricultoras y a mayoristas para revender. Por desgracia, eso significa que no todos sus productos son ecológicos.

En retrospectiva, Mariana y María insisten en que la transparencia al consumidor es lo más importante cuando las productoras realizan este tipo de estrategias para surtir sus puestos. Cuando las mujeres vienen a vender, cada una tiene una manta verde donde amontonan sus productos ecológicos. También tienen una manta anaranjada donde se supone que exponen las verduras que revenden. La distinción ha sido un poco sutil para los consumidores y un poco difícil de manejar para las agricultoras-vendedoras.

“¬ŅSe te ha olvidado hoy la manta anaranjada?, rega√Īan algunas vendedoras a sus vecinas que venden productos que no han cultivado, como si fueran ecol√≥gicos.

Así se aprende sobre la marcha cuando uno pone en práctica algo nuevo. Dejando a un lado estos problemas, la cuestión es que la venta de alimentos sanos y ecológicos debería ser para todos, no sólo para quienes pueden permitirse pagar más. Es importante que los agricultores obtengan un precio justo y que los alimentos ecológicos sean accesibles. Comer sano no debería ser un lujo.


Gracias a Mariana Alem y a Paul Van Mele por sus valiosos comentarios sobre una versión previa de este blog. Mariana Alem y María Omonte trabajan para la Fundación AGRECOL Andes.

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