News ID: 214018
Published: 0757 GMT April 27, 2018

Women farmers in Peru bring healthy meals to local schools

Women farmers in Peru bring healthy meals to local schools
Rosa Rojas (2nd-R), stands with other women farmers participating in the Agroecological School of the Flora Tristán Peruvian Women’s Center, where they were trained in organic production techniques that they have been applying in their gardens, in the rural area of the department of Piura, in Peru’s northern coastal region.

Getting children and adolescents to replace junk food with nutritious local organic foods is the aim of a group of women farmers in a rural area of Piura, on Peru’s north coast, as they struggle to overcome the impact of the El Niño climate phenomenon.

“We have given talks about healthy eating in schools, because in today’s times we have forgotten what it means to eat healthy, nutritious food, and everything is fried or sweets, which is why there is malnutrition and obesity,” one of the women, Rosa Rojas, who has an organic garden in the community of Piedra de Toro, told IPS.

She is one of 25 women farmers trained in agro-ecological techniques by the non-governmental Flora Tristán Center for Peruvian Women. They are engaged in small-scale agriculture in the valleys and highlands of Morropón, one of the eight provinces in the department of Piura, whose capital is Chulucanas.

The department of Piura was hit between December 2016 and May 2017 by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a complex weather pattern resulting from variations in ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.

During that period, heavy rains and flooding affected more than one million people, left 230,000 without homes, and destroyed 1,200 hectares of crops, according to the governmental National Information System for Disaster Prevention and Response.

Rojas, 53, remembers those terrible months when many families were torn apart with the departure of parents or older siblings, forced to go abroad to make a living and to support those left behind in their communities.

“Women were left in charge of the homes and the plots of land, worrying about how to put food on the table for our children and grandchildren,” she said.

“We had to eat the beans that we had kept for seed, and supporting each other among all the neighbors, we have recovered little by little to be able to plant again on the land that had been washed clean by the rains,” she said.

Almost a year later, she has replanted her vegetables, including coriander, lettuce, carrots, beets, cabbage, leeks, tomatoes, yellow peppers and cucumbers, using organic fertilizer that she makes herself.

“My family’s diet is enriched with these healthy and nutritious organic fruits and vegetables. My community is waking up to what is natural food, we are learning the importance of eating vegetables daily, and that is what we are sharing at schools with teachers, mothers, fathers and students,” she said.

Yaqueline Sandoval, 42, a farmer in the community of Algodonal, in the neighboring municipality of Santa Catalina de Mossa, is also recovering from the ravages of the coastal El Niño.

She said she has resumed planting in her organic garden, together with her family, where the star product is the cowpea bean or black-eyed pea, which they call the ‘bean of hope’ as it is ready for eating in a short time.

“Just 40 days after planning we are eating our beans. It is a very generous plant, it feeds us and it is a seed for the future because it adapts to different conditions and is very strong, something vital now we are facing climate change,” Sandoval told IPS.

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