In Plaza Bolívar, the main square in the city of Bogotá, Sixta Tulia smiles behind her white apron as she offer the tomatoes and corn-on the-cob that she grows in her village: Duitama, a small rural area of Boyacá, a four-hour journey away. She is one of the more than one thousand farmers who, for the past three years, have been traveling in to the capital from areas near Bogotá to take part in the “Farmers Markets”, a project run by Oxfam and the Latin American Institute of Alternative Legal Services (ILSA), as part of the “Economic Alternatives” programme.
In 2005, when the government of Bogotá wanted to make the supply of food products to the city more efficient and proposed the Master Plan for Bogotá’s Agricultural Food Supply (PMAAB), these markets were brought into being by Oxfam and ILSA as an alternative proposal, since the plan originally gave preference to large supermarkets, not knowing where the food products came from: in fact 67% of the food eaten in the city comes from the farmer economy.
For the farmers this meant to enter to a bigger market “We do this because we want to be taken into account more, because we peasants have always been forgotten. It’s high time the State said: “We also have farmers in our country”, said Sixta Tulia. With political advocacy work, Oxfam managed to get the Government of Bogota to change its vision: now the document of the Plan for Bogotá’s Agricultural Food Supply acknowledges that the farmer economy is fundamental for feeding the city.
Moreover, the Government has resources available for the farmers communities, and includes two representatives of the peasants on the Steering Committee of the Supply Plan. As a result of these changes, the producers now organize more than 50 markets every year in four of the city’s parks, and they also sell their products directly in market places, obtaining 20% higher prices for their harvests by not selling to middlemen (who are not necessary in the supply chain) and at the same time offering the consumers prices that are 15% cheaper.“I like buying in the farmer’s markets because they have better prices and the products are really fresh”, comments Magdalena Rojas, who lives in Bogota and is an assiduous customer at the markets.
Oxfam is now working to replicate this example in the secondand third-largest cities of Colombia (Cali and Medellín), which are already looking at this project with great interest. It is also becoming an example of policy proposal in our advocacy activities in connection with the free trade agreements and with the official cooperation agencies such as USAID. Sixta and the other farmers in the market are giving a good example, showing that it is possible.