The COOMFASOL cooperative, in coordination with other institutions in San José del Guaviare, participated in the organization of the first Virtual Farmers Market: Guaviare Buys Local. The initiative was created to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on the local economy. The Farmers Market sells a basic family basket of goods, produced by rural farmers and ex-coca grower families, at a fair price.
COOMFASOL brings together families that eradicated coca and was established thanks to the support of the Contingency Plan to Support Ex-Coca Grower Families, funded by the UN Multipartner Trust Fund for Sustaining Peace in Colombia, and implemented by PASO Colombia in coordination with the Presidential Office for Stabilization and Consolidation. During the Contingency Plan, COOMFASOL organized two farmer markets in the municipality of San José del Guaviare and received training to create markets to improve their agricultural production, and participated in other activities. Regarding the training received, Flor says that it "has been very useful because we realize that we, as PNIS families or peasant families, need to look at how we get our products to market, whether they are in good condition, large or small. We saw the importance of teaching our farmers that they have to sell them in different presentations (by size, weight or quality), and that quality and presentation are very important."
Virtual Market as an adaptation strategy to COVID-19
This Virtual Farmers Market was created in response to the COVID-19 crisis and its strong impact on the country's economy, which has limited access to work and food for peasant communities. Flor says that "This first Virtual Farmers Market was created because we had the products. Due to this situation of isolation we had to stay in our farms, but the community needs food. So this Virtual Market arose to offer these products at a lower price to the local community and, as farmers, to have the opportunity to sell without loss of harvests in our territory."
The first version of Guaviare Buys Local had 99 producing families participated, including peasant and ex-coca grower families, and achieved sales of approximately USD $5,400.
One of the strategies was to carry out an inventory of agricultural products available for sale, as well as a census of stores, supermarkets and restaurants in the municipality. This information allowed them to connect producing families to these establishments as direct suppliers. On the other hand, the Virtual Peasant Market offered food baskets by virtual media. The content and price of the baskets vary to provide different purchase options. Another resource used to promote the initiative was the inclusion of exotic products such as açaí and sacha inchi, that were very attractive to buyers.
Example of collaboration
The Virtual Peasant Market was possible thanks to the collective effort of 20 organizations and institutions that used technological and logistical tools to inventory agricultural production, and to deliver orders in the best conditions. About this experience of joint work, Flor recognizes that "there have been more ties of friendship between institutions and us as COOMFASOL. There have been several hands helping and that is satisfying because one is aware of the other and that is good. When one works separately, as in the previous peasant markets, each one goes his own way and if you sold well and if not so. While here at this moment we are still selling the products that were left over and the institutions are here helping us." Without a doubt, the realization of the Virtual Farmers Market encourages agricultural production as a sustainable productive project. It also demonstrates the advantages of working with the local market to guarantee economic income to the families that eradicated illicit crops to work strengthen the Colombian rurality.