New research on rural food systems in Colombia

Four Stories researcher Natalia Giraldo Osorio has successfully completed her research on rural Colombian food systems at the Universidad de Antioquia, and her findings are now available. We thank Natalia for her fantastic contributions to Food Sovereignty research, and encourage everyone interested in rural food systems to check out her work! You can also find a slideshow Natalia made at

Title: El territorio visto como una colcha de retazos: Transiciones de la Ruralidad y los Sistemas Alimentarios en el municipio de El Carmen de Viboral.

Abstract: In this degree work I make an ethnographic description of the transformations of rurality in the municipality of El Carmen de Viboral and its repercussions on the food system. The methodology used in this study was an intimate ethnography, where I carried out life stories and interviews with my relatives, friends, and close acquaintances, complemented with territorial tours, archive review, participant observation, a visual field diary, embroidered cartographies and maps of food routes. I found through this thesis that the great changes that, since the mid-twentieth century, have been taking place in the municipality have generated unprecedented transformations for food systems and rurality, where both phenomena influence and have mutual repercussions. In the same way, rurality today, together with food systems, cannot be seen through dichotomous contrasts; rather they are permeated by an amalgam of dynamics, appropriations and actors that, like a patchwork quilt, configure the territory in more complex and diverse ways every day.
Keywords: Rurality, Food Systems, Transitions, Intimate Ethnography, El Carmen de Viboral

Resumen: En este trabajo de grado hago una descripción etnográfica de las transformaciones de la ruralidad en el municipio de El Carmen de Viboral y sus repercusiones en el sistema alimentario. La metodología empleada en este estudio fue una etnografía íntima donde realicé historias de vida y entrevistas a mis familiares, amigos, cercanos y conocidos, complementada con recorridos territoriales, revisión de archivo, observación participante, un diario de campo visual, cartografías bordadas y mapas de las rutas de los alimentos. Encontré a través de esta tesis que los grandes cambios que, desde mediados del siglo XX, se vienen gestando en el municipio han generado transformaciones sin precedentes para los sistemas alimentarios y para la ruralidad, donde ambos fenómenos se influyen y repercuten mutuamente. De igual forma, la ruralidad en la actualidad, junto a los sistemas alimentarios, no se pueden ver desde contrastes dicotómicos, más bien están permeados por una amalgama de dinámicas, apropiaciones y actores que como una colcha de retazos van configurando el territorio de forma más compleja y diversa cada día.
Palabras clave: Ruralidad, Sistemas Alimentarios, Transiciones, Etnografía íntima, El Carmen de Viboral

Download here: Natalia Osorio, El territorio visto como una colcha de retazos

“Stories of Rurality” in El Carmen de Viboral

Natalia Giraldo Osorio, a Four Stories partner at the Universidad de Antioquia in Colombia, has created this slideshow of life in the rural village of El Carmen de Viboral. Translations into English have been provided by Four Stories researcher Fernanda Pacheco.

From herb gardens and carrot harvests to scenes of local kitchens and chiva buses, these images provide a glimpse into rural life in north-western Colombia.

Natalia adds: "I have been accompanying the project Four Stories as a young researcher and inspired by this project I carried out a personal project of the food system in my region. I carried out this project in a town named El Carmen de Viboral in Colombia with cartography and embroidery techniques. In addition to this, I would like to mention that our team in Colombia has a study group of the food systems. In this group we learn and build knowledge together."

News from La Guajira: “Community Gardens Restore Hope to Indigenous People of La Guajira”

The following article brings some good news from La Guajira, where a participatory-research project has resulted in a thriving community garden.

Currently, they have crops of watermelon, squash, corn, beans, melon and yucca. The rainwater has also made possible the significant increase of goats and goats, and the care of the cows recently incorporated. This production directly benefits 45 families from the Taiguaicat, Pañarrer and Limunaka communities of the Manaure reservation, in which 206 people live.

Huertas comunitarias devolvieron la esperanza a indígenas de La Guajira

News from La Guajira, Colombia on the impacts of COVID-19 in Wayuu communities

The Crop Captain

"And here I am asking Juya - Father of the Rain, to visit these lands soon, because the livelihood and economy of hundreds of families throughout the La Guajira peninsula depend on the rain and much more in this confinement due to the pandemic."

Photographic rights of: Belkis Fontalvo Ramírez

By Covid 19 Hunger and thirst get worse in Wayuu territory

"With the closure of all commercial activities by governments as a preventive measure to avoid the spread of Covid-19, the Wayuu are forced to abandon their daily activities such as the street selling of food, checheres and handicrafts, the offering of means informal transportation systems, and the high migration flow that takes place at the border to commercialize anything that can be bought or sold has stopped."

Photo License: Miguel Iván Ramírez Boscán

Colombia: Indigenous Children at Risk of Malnutrition and Death

"'The indigenous communities of La Guajira do not have access to enough food or the water necessary to practice basic hygiene, including washing their hands, and information and access to health care is extremely deficient,' said  José Miguel Vivanco , director for the Americas from Human Rights Watch. 'This situation has contributed to the fact that for years the Wayuu have suffered one of the highest levels of child malnutrition in Colombia, and it is extremely worrying in the current context of Covid-19.'"

Hunger: the other pandemic of the Wayuu

"The coronavirus pandemic has further undermined the fragile situation of Colombian indigenous peoples. One of the most worrying cases is that of the Wayuu, who make up 20 percent of the total indigenous population of the country. As the data shows, the situation was dire before covid19 arrived."

Plants that heal the body and soul

"According to the Wayuu, although the healing properties of traditional medicines are not scientifically proven, several cases of daily life in the communities show encouraging results about their usefulness in preventing and curing the symptoms of covid 19."

La Guajira food and climate virtual museum

A fantastic virtual museum dedicated to food and climate issues in La Guajira has been created by Dejusticia, a Colombia-based research and advocacy organization. The museum displays a series of beautiful artwork which, in their own words, "shows one of our crudest realities: the constant violation of the fundamental rights of the largest indigenous people in Colombia and Venezuela."

Visit the museum at and explore the gallery!

The virtual tour culminates in Dejustica's five recommendations to address the food and climate emergency. Make sure to check it out!

Notes and Photographs from La Guajira, by Natalia Giraldo Osario

The following fieldnotes and photographs have been prepared by a research assistant on the Four Stories project. They outline some of the challenges faced by Wayuu communities today.

La Guajira, Colombia
Notes and Photographs from the Field, January 2020
Prepared by Natalia Giraldo Osario

Rancheria (Settlement) St. Martin du Puloy
This community is made up of approximately ten families of Wayuu Indigenous people, who go through the seasons there. Families have major problems with access to food. All the food comes from outside since the land is very dry to cultivate and they do not have irrigation systems. Economic livelihoods depend on temporary jobs and selling handwoven bags (mochillas) made by the Wayuu women.

Everyday Life
At about 5:00 a.m. you start to smell the wood fire that announces the beginning of the day. Women gather in the kitchen to prepare food, and they collect water and care for the children. The men perform animal care and look after the land and housing arrangements.

There are many children in the community, who spend their time playing with discarded items found throughout the ranch. They also help to collect firewood and do chores. The school that was at the ranch was recently closed, meaning children must now travel to Manaure to receive their education. Children are the people most affected in the crisis situation occurring in La Guajira.

Women in the community have created mutual support networks, and help to provide each other with items including food, water and other essentials. In addition, some are specialists in traditional medicine. Women are in charge of caring for the nuclear family.

To get to the mill, the only place where there is access to water, involves a walk of about 20 minutes. Women are in charge of collecting the water. This vital element for life, both human and other-than-human, plays a very important role in the social order and cultural life of the settlement. The Wayuu territory is facing challenges of water injustice, which exacerbates their food crisis.

To the rhythm of the drum and the sound of the wind, the Wayuu people dance the Yonna. This is a very important dance for the Wayuu because it is an opportunity to perpetuate their cultural traditions.