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Tierra Buena farm school: a space for the exchange of knowledge and the transition towards peasant agroecology.

The local production of bioinputs has had a background in its organizational process for approximately 14 years, within the framework of the Agroecological Farmer Schools, with a permanent interweaving with food production, peasant agroecology and the transition from conventional forms of production, highly dependent on external chemical inputs, to more autonomous proposals. 

Given the relevance of this issue in the Sumapaz peasant territorial process, with families from five municipalities in the province, since 2016, bio-input plants have been implemented in the municipalities of Pandi, Tibacuy, Fusagasugá, Silvania and Pasca, in addition to the one built in the municipality of Zipaquirá, in which the practices and spaces for exchange described above are framed. Particularly, the experience developed in the municipality of Pasca, involves between 90 and 100 families that integrate the regional peasant process to the processes carried out, in addition to the people who develop other family and organizational experiences that have participated in the schools, workshops, forums, seminars, diploma courses and other exchanges in these six years.

The experience developed in the school farm tierra libre since 2016, consists of the implementation of actions around the commitment of peasant agroecology and the transition towards it, developing practices that promote the conservation of soil, water, biodiversity, productive diversification around food production, the use of local resources of the farms for the local production of bio-inputs. These bioinputs are implemented in the production systems of the school farm and are shared for use on the farms, within the framework of the exchange of knowledge and learning by doing as fundamental axes of the work done with farmers from five municipalities in the province of Sumapaz, with whom we work to strengthen the sovereignty and autonomy of communities and territories, with the implementation of practices and knowledge that value peasant knowledge, appropriate practices and technologies that reduce the consumption of external inputs, optimize the energy processes used in food production and the resulting impacts on the environment. In addition, they offer possibilities that reduce production costs, which has a direct impact on improving the economic conditions of the farming families that make up the regional farming process, within the framework of Agroecological Farmer Schools, forums, seminars, diploma courses, visits for the exchange of experiences in agroecology, soil management and conservation, agroecological transition, regenerative agriculture, among other topics. 

The bioinput plant at the Pasca school farm is connected to other bioinput plants currently implemented, mainly at the family level in the territories inhabited by families of the regional peasant process in the Sumapaz province. All of the above consolidates the community organization and political advocacy processes carried out by the social organization together with the families that make up the regional peasant process of the Sumapaz province.

Technical characteristics of the proposal

1. Live fences, windbreaks and fodder sources – biomass
2. Blackberry and passion fruit cropping systems in agroecological transition processes and soil management, cover crops.
3. Diversified food plot (vegetables, aromatic herbs) under agro-ecological management.
4. Local bioinput production plants:

-Solid organic carbons
-Capture and activation of forest microorganisms.
-Liquid fertilizers enriched with ashes, phosphites, rock meals and mineral salts.
-Phosphite processing
-Aloe vera adherents
-Plant repellents
-Bioactivated carbon
-Mineral broths

The school farm has basic tools for crop management (hand tools, scythe, stationary fumigator for the application of liquid preparations, grinding mill) and within it, the bioinputs plant, which has a covered structure of approximately 70 m2, with channels for collecting rainwater (quantity collected not quantified), Inside, there are plastic tanks of different capacities (20, 30 and 55 gallons) that together make it possible to generate approximately 1.2 m3 of solid preparations (efficient solid microorganisms and bio activated carbon) and a total of approximately 3.5 m3 of liquid fertilizers, adherents and repellents used on the crops.

In addition, there are metal tanks for the production of mineral broths and “mortars” for the efficient calcination of vegetable materials, rock meal and bone meal (phosphites). A base of materials (mineral salts, molasses, rock flours, bakery by-products, etc.) is available for the production of bioinputs.

There is a stationary fumigator, which makes it possible to apply the liquid preparations more effectively in the different production systems, which is in operation, and two 20-liter backpack fumigators. There is also a scything machine to control live cover crops (weeds), which is nearing the end of its useful life, and a crusher for plant and mineral materials (mill) that optimizes the processing of materials used in the production of bioinputs, which is not in operation because it broke down due to its intensive use.

Productive, community, environmental, or economic processes or activities that were positively impacted by the implementation of the community experience of TEJ.

The implementation of agroecological practices, the application and rescue of knowledge, has allowed in the context of the productive systems of peasant families, the reduction of economic costs in its implementation, since the production of inputs at the local level, reduces the total resources required for its maintenance, compared to those acquired in the trade of agricultural inputs, These are also petroleum derivatives, are imported products from different parts of the world and have suffered sustained price increases in recent years, which makes their use increasingly costly and leads to rethinking other ways of making agriculture more sustainable, based on local resources available in the environment or lower-cost inputs. In addition, crops fertilized with these bio-inputs encourage the supply of food for consumption by families, an issue that becomes more relevant after the period of pandemic caused by Covid 19, and that has been assumed by families participating in the process, which in turn results in a reduction of food costs for families, no need for resources or energy to transport the food consumed (as they are generated on farms or in their immediate environment) and a better use of available space on farms.

Beneficiaries of the experience

120 women, 90 men, 25 adolescents and young adults (between 12 and 18 years of age), 15 children (between 0 and 12 years of age)

  1. Reconversion of conventional production systems dependent on chemical synthesis inputs and the fossil fuel energy matrix to agroecological production systems. 
  2. Reduction of environmental impact and production costs around self-sufficiency crops and production systems developed by farming families.
  3. Community organization and local incidence of the families participating in the process in their immediate environment around production, care of the territory and political participation.
  4. Appropriation and collective recovery of knowledge by participating families for the transition to agroecology and adaptation to the context of climate change experienced locally and globally.
  1. The development of this experience has faced challenges related to the initial investment costs of the materials and inputs required for its replication in other territories.
  2. Given that the installed capacity of the bio-input plant of the school farm allows a basic sustainability of the minimum required to continue the development of the practices (despite the increase in the price of some required raw materials, such as mineral salts), a process of appropriation of knowledge and technologies has been carried out, which initially contemplated a wide range of practices to be appropriated, which was problematic, to prioritize those of easier replication and usefulness for the farming families.
  3. In addition, the replication of the practices carried out in the farm school implies the availability of time, space and labor by the farming families in the territories, which has led to the proposal that spaces such as the bioinputs plant of the farm school and spaces adapted by families in each of the territories, could supply the local needs of bioinputs in a more efficient and constant manner.
Women’s participation in the TEJ community experience

In the spaces carried out in the farm school and in the replicas carried out in the municipalities, women who are part of the families of the regional peasant process participate to a great extent, they join the spaces convened and participate actively in their development, raise doubts and concerns about the experiences carried out and are largely responsible for the replication of these experiences on their farms, this, in the production of food for the supply of families and in the use – family production of bio-inputs for crops on their farms. A number of them have positioned themselves as leaders at the local level who participate in these and other formative spaces, from which they share their experiences and influence their families, close environments and spaces for dialogue and representation on behalf of the process at the local, regional and national levels.

Impact of the community experience of TEJ on public policy

From the social fabric of the Sumapaz regional peasant process, we have convened and participated in spaces of dialogue with local and regional governmental actors, for the positioning of proposals around the transition to agroecology and peasant economy. Within these spaces there have been regional forums for local public procurement of food, environmental forums for water and territory, and spaces for dialogue with regional and national actors such as the “National Agroecology Meeting”, which resulted in inputs for the National Development Plan, for the strengthening of peasant agroecology through proposals such as the generation of the country’s agroecology law, which contemplates axes such as food sovereignty, national food production, local-community production of agroecological bio-inputs, strengthening of popular education strategies (farmer to farmer), among others, as flagship axes of its content and which are directly related to the work done in our experience.