Since July 2017 the Lemonaid & ChariTea Foundation supports the non-governmental organization ‘Centro Ecuménico de Educación Popular’ (CEDEPO) in the region of Florencio Varela, close to the capital city of Buenos Aires. The focus of the work lies on the improvement of production conditions of Argentinian small-scale farmers by building a training center and through the marketing of agricultural products on regional markets.

CEDEPO was founded in1989 to face the existing problems of the region which constituted of a lack of healthcare supply and an expanding agricultural cultivation of monoculture. Through various project phases CEDEPO has been strategically implementing initiatives for the promotion of ecological agriculture over many years. Technical capacity trainings, workshops for organisational development, market access strategies and diversification of produce and products have been offered. CEDEPO has been taking the role as a facilitator between family producers, technical experts, students and state organisations with the aim to develop rural communities equitably and sustainably. There has been tangible success in achieving the overall objective of improving in health, protection of the environment, overall increase in profits and the general promotion of autonomy amongst small-scale farmers.

The diverse programmes of CEDEPO are making an impact

Through the establishment of ‘La Parcela’ a center for education, research and production was created which functions as a hub for ecological agriculture, health and social economy. Here the small-scale farmers can receive technical, organizational as well as commercial training, social economy and microcredits education and utilize consultancy services. CEDEPO has also set up a healthcare center on its premises where a number of volunteering doctors are providing regular office hours and dental services. Twice a week special medical advice is given by a gynecologist and a psychologist. In addition to providing the specific healthcare the primary focus of the health care center lies on prevention and education the rural population.

Declared goal of the organization is the sale and promotion of local and organic products from the region of Florencio Varela. After the economic crisis in 2001 permanent market stands have been installed in the district Palermo, Buenos Aires. In collaboration with other local organisations the ‘Mercado Solidario Bonpland’ arose, which follows the principles of social economy as an alternative to regular economy. Three to four times a week different products, textiles, handicrafts, baked goods and other products of the region are offered there. Here CEDEPO operates its own stall and sells products such as ecologically grown vegetables, fruit, dairy products, sauces, jams, chicken, eggs and mate tea. The organization also acts as a distributor and takes care of picking up the products from the farmers and bringing them to Buenos Aires. Over the years the demand for the high-quality and organic products has been increasing. Even though a positive development, CEDEPO has reached the limits of its capacity and is not able to respond to the increased demand. Further optimizing of production chain is needed. The Lemonaid & ChariTea Foundation supports the project in refining and organizing the supply chain. The funding is used for the purchase of a new pickup and larger cooling facilities on the market place.

In order to create sustainable working conditions for the farmers priority of the work of CEDEPO is improving soil quality and maintaining biodiversity at the same time. ‘La casa de las semillas’, the house of seeds, serves this purpose. Here the diversity of native, high-quality seeds – especially vegetables – is reinforced. The large number of seeds which are conserved and cultivated ranges from crops to trees and can be purchased there and exchanged with each other. The seed bank facilitates easy procurement of an essential and otherwise very expensive commodity for the farmers. For them this project means a continuous independence of expensive seeds. In addition to the positive effects on the environment and biodiversity, the seed house also serves as educational center where programs especially for school classes are offered to learn more about seeds and their contribution to biodiversity.

Local seeds from the region of Florencio Varela.

Consulting in ecological cultivation as developing factor for the region Florencio Varela

The current project that contributes to the improvement of production and marketing of organic agricultural products of small farmers from the region Florencio Varela follows the previous success of the organisation. The professional training activities of CEDEPO enable the small farmers to change to organic cultivation in the longer term. The region affected by the fact that many young people often do not want to continue to work the agricultural farms of their parents since the profits in (organic) agriculture are very low. Here Matías and his family resemble an exception. Together with both his brothers and his parents, he cultivates the one-hectare family farm, which compared to other farmers is a big areal. The family has converted their lands into organic and sustainable agriculture between 2003 – 2009. Since 2009 all planting comes along without pesticides and artificial fertilizers. The counselling services of CEDEPO have been an important part in order to follow this path:

Working with CEDEPO is valuable for us because CEDEPO offers us another market for our products. It is also of great benefit to have the advice of CEDEPO in terms of cultivation techniques in the field of organic farming.’

Through the implementation of the current project together with the Lemonaid & ChariTea Foundation, professional trainings and advisory services for small producers are performed. Topics included in these trainings are the production of bio-fertilizers and organic seeds, commercial skills for the local market as well as the handling of food and food processing, especially for vulnerable families. All these activities result in the development of the product portfolio and in the expansion of the market access for the local farmers. Higher profits can be achieved which makes organic farming a viable and attractive alternative for small-scale farmers.

Through the implementation of the project CEDEPO manages to combine and utilize local resources from the region Florencio Varela. Within the area small-scale farmers can increase and widen their production and commercialization capacities due to training, consultancy and service programs. In addition to the positive effects on the environment and biodiversity, CEDEPOs work aims to provide a balanced and sustainable development of rural communities and improve the living standards of many small-scale farmers and their families.