Project Niyat: Three Years of Impact on Food Security in the Gran Chaco

20 Dec 2023

Project Niyat has been more than a project; it has been a catalyst for change in indigenous communities in the Gran Chaco region of Argentina. Financed by the European Union and executed by the Gran Chaco Foundation in collaboration with Slow Food, the Rural Communities Network (RCR), the Rural Women’s Cooperative (COMAR), the Department of Gender Studies of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO), and the Ministry of Social Development of the Nation (MDS), this project has focused on redefining local governance through indigenous leadership over the past three years.

The initiative, aimed at strengthening the role of women and youth, sought to promote a process of inter-institutional coordination to consolidate communities as leaders in public policies in the Gran Chaco region. Over the past three years, concrete actions were implemented in twenty-four indigenous communities to address challenges such as food insecurity and limited access to education. Niyat’s dialogical and inclusive approach aimed to overcome societal fragmentation, enabling effective collaboration between civil society, communities, and the government. In this process, Slow Food was responsible for coordinating the project component aimed at reducing food insecurity for the involved families.

Agroecological Practices and Promotion of Local Biodiversity

Indigenous communities in the Gran Chaco region have developed various forms of survival over time based on their profound knowledge of the territory. This knowledge allowed them to harness the rich variety of resources offered by the forests during different periods of the year, including fruits such as carob, chañar, molle, tusca, prickly pear, and others. However, progressive deforestation led to the loss of food and a decrease in food security for these communities. Additionally, factors such as drought exacerbated by climate change, soil aridity, and the loss of traditional agricultural knowledge contributed to an unfavorable situation in family and community food production.

In response to these challenges, 2,626 indigenous individuals were trained with “Proyecto Niyat: Módulo de Seguridad Alimentaria“, developed in collaboration with local communities. This manual, coordinated by agronomists and technicians from the Gran Chaco Foundation and Slow Food, proposed a replicable and adaptable model in the Gran Chaco region. Based on agroecological practices, it combined horticultural production, sustainable use of forest fruits, and the breeding of animals adapted to the local context.

The 129 food modules created have not only improved food production but also strengthened agroecological practices. The significant increase in the number of families adopting practices such as composting, sun protection, rotation, and association has demonstrated the successful adoption of sustainable cultivation methods among producers. The incorporation of native plants in the modules, as well as seed preservation, has contributed to functional biodiversity. Agroforestry and training in syntropic agriculture have enhanced productivity and diversity, promoting a sustainable approach.

Training and Knowledge Development

The project’s focus on training has resulted in lasting impact. The participants’ self-perception of learning reflects improvement in key areas such as access to water, seed conservation, pest management, and agroecological production. The training was not only effective in terms of content but also adapted to circumstances, multiplying through virtual platforms during the pandemic. The collaboration in creating food modules has generated valuable written material available for future initiatives.

Looking Towards the Future

Project Niyat has not only been a catalyst for addressing immediate food security challenges in Gran Chaco communities but also has laid the groundwork for long-term sustainable development. The integration of agroecological practices and the diversification of the diet have not only improved the availability of healthy food but also strengthened communities’ resilience to potential environmental and climatic threats. The project’s closure is not seen as the end of the initiatives, but rather as the beginning of a sustainable path toward the overall well-being of these communities. The consolidation of acquired knowledge, the continuation of agroecological practices, and active community participation in resource management are crucial for maintaining and expanding the achievements. Furthermore, the implemented local marketing strategy provides a solid economic foundation, fostering autonomy and income generation for the involved families. The legacy of Project Niyat translates into more empowered communities, aware of the importance of a healthy and sustainable diet, as well as the preservation of their cultural practices and traditional knowledge. This holistic approach to food security not only helps improve the quality of life for communities in the present but also contributes to building a more resilient and equitable future in the Argentina’s Gran Chaco region.

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