MOSQUERA María Adriana - Los Cerrillos rural community, Colombia

Boundless creativity in changing regional food customs

This is unquestionably one of the most creative and innovative nominations we have received since the prize was created.

The project centers on creating a school garden adapted to climate change, which has had a significant impact on the local community, working with preschoolers in a rural farming community. The goals of the project which have already been reached are to contribute to the future and vitality of rural life in the community through awakening a passion for sustainable agriculture and local and nutritious food among young children who have already started changing eating habits in their homes.

 Adriana’s (38) project resulted from her own efforts to solicit resources to reorganize and expand the preschool curriculum mandated by the organization Bienestar Familiar that financially supports rural preschools such as her own. She has managed to successfully motivate and organize her children’s families and other members of the local community. She has had to overcome major cultural obstacles such as the deeply ingrained notion that rural life is inferior, that agricultural products produced by smallholder families are inferior, even “dirty” and the attitude of parents who were telling their children to leave the “hopeless” rural areas for the glitter of the cities. So initially Adriana had to fight it out alone as there was very little if any community or institutional support for her ideas, even from Bienestar Familiar which originally opposed her project.

But, with grit, determination and her indomitable spirit she finally managed to elicit growing interest for this highly innovative and so evidently intelligent and creative project which has three main dimensions:

a) Setting up a small climate adapted garden where she involved the children. She manifested great creativity in integrating lesson plans on other topics into the garden through a “work-play” pedagogical approach in which the children learned the curriculum through playing in the garden. She even invented songs with the students around plants and food to develop a sense of pride about growing their own food and the importance of eating well.

b) As part of the focus on climate change, she set up a simple climate station where the children were taught how to measure temperature and precipitation levels and how to use these data about what to plant in the garden and when.

c) The final aspect of the project was organizing the children into a group to commercialize their products.

The whole experience taught the children that the food they produced was not only beneficial to their health and that of their families, but enabled one to diversify livelihoods. Integrated into this experience was a pedagogical approach to learning the basics of accounting and maths as well as managing and spending money.

Whereas before the children and their families preferred processed food to the “vulgar” vegetables, they now eat fresh produce they cultivated themselves and approach the task of caring for the garden with excitement and joy. Finally, Ariana has proven that even very young children can play a significant role in community level change.

Her experience has been so successful that she is now working to have her approach formally integrated at the middle-and high-school levels. It has raised authentic interest in other areas of the country and there presently is talk of expanding it outside her community. Finally, she has been successfully contributing toward several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including zero hunger, climate action and life on the land.

Her work contributes to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals-Agenda 2030 - Target #10, #12 and #13.