“I have unlimited confidence that we can improve the world through food. My dream is that we can inspire a generation of young people to create prosperity and hope, working together to exploit the bases of basic foods in each country.” - Claus Meyer co-founder of the world famous NOMA restaurant Denmark.
MANQ’A, “food” in Aymara, is a social model for gastronomic education, created by ICCO Cooperation and Melting Pot. It is a model that aims at generating better life conditions through education in gastronomy. It enhances traditional cuisine and that transforms local products, valuing the work of local small farmers and ensuring a healthy proposition for consumers. It is a Latin American movement with presence in Bolivia and Colombia. MANQ’A is a sustainable business model supported by Dutch private companies and has been supported by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO).
Manq’a ‘s long term vision to contribute to better (decent) job perspectives for Colombian small holders and young people (men and women), who gain more self-confidence, are able to generate their own sustainable income and are conscious of the importance of healthy, local food and put this into practice.
What does this mean so far for women participating in the project?
For more than 50 years Colombia has been involved in an armed conflict that is considered the worst humanitarian crisis in the Western Hemisphere and the longest in the world. This internal conflict has left more than 7 million victims, being surpassed only by the region of the Middle East.
In Colombia, there are just over 40 million inhabitants, 4.3 million of whom are Afro-Colombians. The Afro community has been one of the most affected by the conflict. The territories of the Pacific (including the Chocó) recorded the highest concentration of armed groups, leading to drug trafficking, violence, poverty and abandonment by the State. Of the nearly 7 million registered displaced, 30% are Afro-Colombians. It is estimated that approximately 70% of the Afro-Pacific population has been displaced as a result of the conflict. One of them is Aliana, one of the students of the first semester in Manq’a.
Now Aliana, after her graduation, is working in a restaurant and is following her dreams of learning more about cooking.
Wendy is the oldest of seven sisters and has a little girl of 5 years. The dream of her family is to be able to set up a restaurant where everyone can work, but her personal dream is to continue studying to be a teacher in a kindergarten.
“My family always wanted to open a restaurant, and now with the knowledge of MANQ’A, I think that we could open one someday. I hope to teach them some of the things that i have learned here”.- Wendy Macol
In its first year, MANQ’A has contributed to the economic empowerment of young women, such as Aliana, Wendy, Jenny and Astrid, giving them new perspectives to find employment, to undertake their own projects and other perspectives such as continuing their studies.
Manq’a has allowed them to believe in themselves, has given them more confidence and the strength to make autonomous decisions. In the family environment of the students, the influence of MANQ’A is also noticed, for example in the change of the divisions of roles in the homes, where the mothers express their happiness because they see their children (including their sons) now taking care of the kitchen. This gives the mothers time for all their other responsibilities, while at the samen time enjoying new Colombian and healthy dishes.
Access to the labor market is a major challenge for young people in difficult conditions in Colombia. This second year of the project, partners will give even more attention to the creation of opportunities to link education with this market and help them to increase employment opportunities for these young talents who have so much to contribute to Colombian society.
One of the Colombian companies that is promoting employment posibilites for women is Frutireyes. This company shares the model’s belief in the importance of local, healthy and sustainably produced food.
Frutireyes is a Colombian conventional fruit company, offering a comprehensive range of fruits including Physalis, passion fruits, tamarillo, Pitahaya, and many more. It is built by and for single headed female households. The latter is an intrinsically motivated choice and in communications to the outside world this is hardly communicated. Business wise this is a smart choice: Frutireyes has highly motivated staff, very positive energy in the workplace and is a stable company.
During a market survey in the context of the RVO funded Manq’a Colombia program, the ambition for ecological sustainablility became clear. The combination of Frutireyes’ ambitions triggered interest among the Dutch project partner EOSTA.
Meanwhile, Frutureyes is accompanied by an agronomist of EOSTA and developing towards the organic cultivation of Goldberry. Additionally, one of the ladies from the management team was invited (and funded) by EOSTA to travel to Kenya to experience the implementation and the principles of the by EOSTA developed Trace and Tell system. The intention is that Frutireyes will put this system into the Colombian practice with support of EOSTA. With this a pilot for implementation of the Tracel& Tell system has become a fact in South America.
In September 2017, EOSTA expects the first delivery of Frutireyes biological goldenberries in The Netherlands.