The Community and Food Insecurity

Indigenous communities of Nariño, Colombia

The total population of the Department of Nariño, Colombia is over 1.5 million with 54 % living in rural areas. The indigenous population of Nariño is approximately 155,000 people, settled mostly in 67 autonomous indigenous reservations. Nariño rural communities can be characterized by several factors which illustrate their food insecurity. In six municipalities selected for this project, the Index of Unsatisfied Needs range from 46.1% to 70.9%. Nariño rural communities have the second highest undernourished percentage of people in Colombia and 67.7% of the households suffer from food insecurity compared to a national average of 42.7%. The majority of these food insecure households are in poor families where mothers have a low level of education and 21.5% of the population younger than five years suffers from some form of malnutrition. There is a high prevalence of childhood iron deficiency anemia. It is estimated that 1 in every 2 children under 2 years old has anemia, and iron deficiency in pregnant women is 44.7%.

Food insecurity of indigenous communities

Potato production represents the main economic activity in the Nariño region where the smallholder farmers represent 91.5% of Colombian potato growers, each cropping less than 2 ha. In spite of the importance of the potato for food security, its nutritional quality has not been considered for improvement by breeders in Colombia. In 1995, the Federacion Nacional de Productores de Papa (FEDEPAPA) of Nariño, requested that the Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNC) develop new potato cultivars to improve the community family income. Through community participatory research, the UNC developed new cultivars with high yields and resistance to late blight disease, the most devastating potato disease requiring producers to make several applications of fungicides, leading to adverse environmental impacts. In conjunction with this research activity, FEDEPAPA started an organization of producers that culminated in the creation of a nongovernmental organization (NGO) called ‘Fundelsurco’, with more than 600 associates. Through educational programs Fundelsurco has reduced the number of fungicide and fertilizer applications, and the amount of seeds planted per hectare. Still, 6.2% of the potato crop income is spent on fungicides to control late blight. Farmers incorporate new cultivars but do not adopt Good Agricultural and Postharvest Practices (GAPs) to reduce adverse environment effects. In order to solve potato marketing problems and increase producer income, Fundelsurco promoted a society called ‘Sociedad Agroindustrial del Surco Nariño’ (SAS) with 1,340 small shareholders. This society has built and equipped a potato processing plant and has requested UNC to generate new cultivars better suited for postharvest storage and processing. UNC has made significant progress in collecting new potato clones but these have to be explored for nutritional and processing qualities to penetrate new markets.

General Objective

To improve global food security in indigenous communities by selection of potato cultivars with high yield and nutritional qualities to improve their daily diet, to empower women as axes of the family, to adopt new nutritional habits and to develop participative research on Good Agricultural and Postharvest Practices.