Under a scorching sun, with no less than 35 degrees Celsius, the men of the El Carmen community, in San Julian, exhaust their strengths at the banks of Rio Grande. Together they build “defensivos” (defensive barriers) to protect their homes from the river flow that roars with fury, raising its waters. The zone’s vulnerability to flooding has worried these farmers, who do not rest during their work day of filling bags with polypropylene and sand, and stacking them orderly at the border or the river. They are confident that their effort will be greater than the impetus of the waters that year after year have been flooding their houses and the few extensions of land they farm to survive. The work days and the effort are rewarded with coupons that the farmers’ families will exchange for food in grocery stores in the cities of San Juan and Montero, in the department of Santa Cruz.
Decreasing the risk of disaster and increasing food security
The construction of defensivos for disaster risk reduction is the second phase of an intervention by the WFP for the recovery of homes repeatedly affected by natural disasters, under the modality of coupons for work. This modality, financed by Switzerland and the WFP is not new to the community of El Carmen. In the first phase of the intervention, the women of the community built and regenerated communal and family orchards to grow vegetables and improve their and their family’s nutrition. For doing this work, they also received coupons to exchange for food. This time, even though the job corresponds only to the boys, some women have arrived to the banks of Rio Grande. Some men helped the women in the hard tasks on the orchards, as well.
Don Sabino, a member of the community, explains that the defensivos are extremely necessary “to prevent more suffering to the neighboring populations, that year after year have withstand the ‘fullness’”, referring to the floods. He assures that “with the works carried on—orchards and defensivos—we are facing up to the difficulties.”
Orchards: an opportunity to generate income
The women of El Carmen, who already had the chance to swap food, are very happy. They mention, in general, having exchanged mainly dry foods (quinoa, rice, a variety of legumes, noodles and eggs) that complement the vegetables they grow in the communal orchards for their daily diet. In a near future, when they dominate the production techniques in orchards through trainings, they assure that they will take the production surplus to the market to get additional income. The savings they have gotten for now through exchanging and growing vegetables for their families’ consumption instead of buying them are being destined to their children’s education, just as the new school year starts.