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The Frutos de Utopia project: alimentary chain as a common good

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
8th July 2010


Frutos de Utopia seeks to impact the practical and creative transformation of the economic, social and political reality of small agricultural producers and popular classes through a strategy of collective appropriation of the alimentary chain. We develop social projects that integrate the necessities of those marginalized and exploited into proposals that emphasize alternative sustainable development, coming full circle between seed and consumption. Those of us who cultivate the land are being deprived of our liberty to choose what we grow and consumers are being robbed of their freedom to choose what they eat.

Visiting this agro-ecological farm outside Bogota, was one of the highlights of my recent trip to Colombia.

Sandra Botero recently translated the webpage, see here for the full translation.

To give you a taste: (you can order their wonderful organic coffee and chocolate via frutosdeutopia@yahoo.org)

Utopia is an agroecological farm located behind the western mountains surrounding Bogota, Colombia, 3150 meters above sea level, in the middle of a forest inhabited by the Muiscas indigenous people. Our mission is the recuperation and multiplication of native seeds, the defense of small peasants, of seeds as a common good and the recovery of our cultural knowledge. Our job is to bring the agro-biodiversity of native seeds (like quinua, amaranth, maca and yacon) to consumers, as a nutritious and safe alternative that makes possible a dignified living in rural areas. We seek to raise awareness regarding the importance of caring for the earth through our workshops, visits to our land and projects. We propose an alimentary reservoir within a forest, as a territory that is sacred to life, to nurturing and to knowledge. Our natural products and Andean foods are available in our land and on earth-friendly shops in Bogota.

Native Seeds

Utopia is located in the Colombian Andes at 3150 meters above sea level, an ideal location for the production of high quality Andean seeds.

At a time when seeds are being threatened and kidnapped by multinationals, we are determined to save them, and to do so we plant them, multiply them, interchange them and spread them to increase our agro-biodiversity.

In this line, we have two main projects: the Bancos de Semillas Comunitarias (community seed banks) and the Fincas Madres Productoras de Semillas (Seed-producing Mother Farms).

So far we have focused on recovering in our farm, Utopia, thirthy-three varieties of native potatoes, to prepare with them dishes such as the “rainbow ajiaco”, a hearty soup with seven potatoes each of a different color: blue, green, red, yellow, black grey and white. We also seek to transform these potatoes into, for example, chips, organic and colored, chips. This diversity is a tool to fight the transgenic potatoes that the FTA agreement will bring.

In 2007 we planted seven varieties of high-altitude corn, amongst them the “maiz de caballo” which is being recovered by the indigenous communities in southwestern Colombia. We have seven different varieties of Quinua, 2 of amaranth, yacón, maca, cubios, ibias, ullucos, chucuas and five kinds of habas. All of these crops are and will remain devoted to the multiplication of native Andean crops.

In 2008 we implemented the first four “community seed banks” in Bogota, seeking to foster alimentary autonomy and sovereignty in the context of urban agriculture initiatives. The banks in Engativa, San Cristobal Sur, Usaquen and Suba have been possible thanks to the efforts of these communities, support from the Bogota Botanical Gardens, Bogota’s secretariat of the environment and our work at Utopia.

“Community seed banks” lend urban and rural growers a wide variety of native seeds; in return, he or she must return to the bank double the number of seeds that were lent to him or her in order to guarantee the sustainability and growth of the bank. These banks do not function with scientific protocols, they do so based on collective knowledge and leave to community what has been, from the beginning, a common property: seeds. Those who control the seeds will control our alimentary future.

“Community seed banks” were enriched by an earlier initiative Utopia advanced with the Bogota Botanical Gardens as part of the urban agriculture program to train leaders of neighborhoods in Bogota to become ‘seed guardians’. These men and women not only plant the seed but have also learned to reproduce them as a fundamental part of their autonomous struggle for alimentary sovereignty. Utopia’s part in this project continues through our “Platarforma Rural” initiative, through which we continue to provide support to the network of community seeds banks.

The alimentary chain: a common good

Utopia seeks to impact the practical and creative transformation of the economic, social and political reality of small agricultural producers and popular classes through a strategy of collective appropriation of the alimentary chain. We develop social projects that integrate the necessities of those marginalized and exploited into proposals that emphasize alternative sustainable development, coming full circle between seed and consumption. Those of us who cultivate the land are being deprived of our liberty to choose what we grow and consumers are being robbed of their freedom to choose what they eat.

* Earth workshops

Aside from seed banks and alliances with local organizations and grass roots initiatives, we organize a series of workshops that have as center and classroom earth. Through our workshops we teach about agroecological farming and native seed recovery, focusing on Andean farming techniques, Andean culture and spirituality.

A sample of the workshops we teach, at Utopia or elsewhere:

- Agroecological farming in the Andes – Growing quinua and other Andean crops. – Fincas Madres Productoras de Semillas (Seed-producing Mother Farms) – Community Seed Banks (or reservoirs) – Andean cooking made easy – Transforming Andean foods – Agroindustrial processing of quinua – Culture, policits and spirituality in the Andes – Andean econofeminism – A new economy: resisting and producing.

* Alimentos Ancestrales

Utopia’s products were developed with our daughters in mind; seeking to offer them and all the children, women and men who refuse to eat dead or toxic foods, an alternative. Utopia products give you the option to consume foods that are ecologically sustainable, biologically apt and are tied to efforts at rescuing our ancestral history. We offer (amongst others): Andigeno (quinua, amaranth and maca); the Andean porridge (quinua, oatmeal and maca); the ChocoAndino (Cacao, Quinua and Maca); quinua, maca and yacón.”

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