While big cities seem to grow rampant in Latin American contexts, diverse agricultural practices persist at the rural margins populated by smallholder farming. Urbanization transforms rural lives in the peripheries of the Colombian capital, Bogotá. In particular, the diversity of cultivated plants is rapidly decreasing, according to local farmers interviewed by Stefan Ortiz-Przychodzka (PhD candidate in our project) and other researchers during fieldwork in the area. This agrobiodiversity loss entails changes in place-based practices and knowledges, resulting in the simplifications of diets, the homogenization of landscapes, and the increasing dependence on external inputs and markets for buying food and medicine that were once obtained in their own farms or with neighbors. In this context, the researchers assessed the existence of several agroecological practices in 25 home gardens in rural Bogotá, showing the persistence of local knowledge related to plants, their uses and management. The results were recently published in the paper Agroecological functions of the agrobiodiversity niches of rural Bogota, Colombia, by Ortíz and colleagues.
Despite being very small, home gardens are important places for farmers’ daily life, especially women: they use the plants for cooking, medicine, decoration and spiritual practices. Some also sell fruits, tubers and vegetables grown without synthetic chemicals, through associations of local farmers that place the products in urban markets specialized in organic food. Interestingly, home gardens are also places for biodiversity conservation: in 23 of them, farmers protect water sources, and maintain trees and plants species from the region.
Farmers recognize several key agroecological functions of the more than 200 plants that, according to them, grow in their home gardens. Most plants serve as attractors of pollinators, others help controlling pests and protecting the soil from droughts, or as windbreak barriers. Finally, many plants are food for birds and insects, or are valuable for the sole reason of being part of the local biodiversity. Considering these multiple functions recognized by their caretakers, the authors call these places “agrobiodiversity niches”.The paper closes with some reflections on the potential role of agrobiodiversity niches, such as home gardens, for increasing landscape connectivity and promoting sustainable social-ecological dynamics in the area. This is especially important considering that most of the tree species in these home gardens are native species. There are also local varieties of food and medicine species, especially Andean tubers and roots that are increasingly becoming scarce in local markets. Moreover, these places are close to water sources, streams and rivers, within high Andean ecosystems above 2600 meters above sea level, and help to preserve them. Home gardens are lively, multifunctional places, in which biocultural relationships are held together.
If you want to learn more about agrobiodiversity niches in rural Bogota, you can check out our paper (in Spanish):
Ortiz-Przychodzka, S., Quiroga Manrique, C., Monroy Hernández, J. & Pérez, D. (2023). Funciones agroecológicas de los nichos de agrobiodiversidad en la ruralidad de Bogotá, Colombia | Agroecological functions of the agrobiodiversity niches of rural Bogota, Colombia. Íconos – Revista de Ciencias Sociales. XXVII. 201-224. 10.17141/iconos.75.2023.5534.
and other related publications:
Consuegra, C., Ortiz, S., Cely-Santos, M., van der Hammen, M. C., Pérez, D. (2021). “Plantas que toda la vida han estado”: una co-investigación alrededor de la cocina y las relaciones bioculturales asociadas a plantas alimenticias locales en la ruralidad de Bogotá | “Plants that have always been there”: A co-research around cooking and biocultural relationships associated with local food plants in rural Bogotá
Ortiz, S., Consuegra, C., Hammen, M. & Pérez, D.. (2021). Perspectivas urbano-rurales sobre la circulación de dos frutos silvestres del bosque altoandino en sistemas agroalimentarios de Bogotá, Colombia | Urban-rural perspectives about the circulation of two wild berries of high-Andean forest in agri-food systems of Bogota, Colombia.