2014-15: Colombia – Socota Project with Colombian Evangelical Lutheran Church Diaconal Ministry

This project  is in partnership with the Colombian Evangelical Lutheran Church Diaconal Ministry (IELCO) to assist in conservation of water resources and to encourage local production and self-sufficiency in food for local families. Titled Nutritional Security and Protection of Hydrological Resources, the project is in its second year. Through the installation of household gardens and protected ponds, the project aims to

  • orient families and raise awareness about taking care of the environment and water,
  • reskill families in agriculture as a means of employment,
  • provide opportunity for additional income from selling portions of what they produce, and
  • improve food security and nutrition.

The first year of the project saw the construction of 15 household gardens and 5 protected ponds for human consumption. In the second year, the number of gardens and ponds have been doubled, with 138 individuals in 30 households being directly impacted by the project. Socota is a vulnerable community primarily due to the extensive coal mining in the municipality over the past 25 years. Most families have largely abandoned agriculture to work in the currently declining mining industry, thereby creating a complex situation. First, many families no longer produce their own food. Second, mining has contaminated many water sources and caused major erosion in the mountainous region. Third, families have become heavily dependent on income from mining, although the industry is currently declining and jobs are being lost. As a result, may are forced to migrate to larger cities in search of employment. Our intern, Leah Johnson, is surveying both the first and second groups of participants to assess the impact of the project. She will measure how much produce was grown, and how the gardens have impacted their diet in terms of fresh produce consumption, as well as money saved by growing their own food, and any additional income generated by selling surplus produce. Our Phase One contribution was about $27,000, of which$12,000 was a matching grant from the Community Initiatives Program of the Government of Alberta. Phase Two of the project is now underway with an additional $35,000 in funding, and a third phase is under consideration. Dittmar and Pat Muendel carried out a monitoring visit in October 2014. Our project partner reports that the gardens are regularly checked for progress and fencing. They also monitor the natural springs which provide water for the community. One of the additional benefits is that some of the families are able to sell produce in excess of their family needs to other members of the local community.

2014-15: Colombia – Intern

Sahakarini is pleased to be co-sponsoring an internship in Columbia with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Colombia (IELCO). Beginning in May 2014, Leah Johnson has been sharing her time between the Environmental Deacon (project co-sponsored by Sahakarini and described above) and the Human Rights Deacon of IELCO.  She is expected to return to Canada in June 2015. Leah’s  research on violence and human rights will look at questions such as how people experience such situations, and how communities are collectively responding to issues in the environment and human rights, and how local and national governments respond and work in communities with such issues. From Sahkarini’s perspective, interns are a wonderful investment in both our work on the ground, and the future of international peace and development. Leah has been sharing what she is learning through regular updates to her online blog found at

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