After Years Of Violence, Chef Offers Colombian Farmers Pride And Profit

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

By Nancy Matsumoto

On small peasant farms across Colombia, panela, or unrefined whole cane sugar, is grown, picked and processed entirely by hand. It constitutes the basic economy for hundreds of municipalities, and is second only to coffee in the number of people engaged in its production.

Yet in the country’s central Cundinamarca region, between Bogotá and Medellín, it was not until the summer of 2017 that panela became more than a subsistence crop, and displaced family farmers — mostly women — began to profit from it. The change? Their panela had become part of an attractively packaged, refreshing lemon-accented soda called Quamba, which is sold in upscale restaurants in Bogotá and other big Colombian cities.

For the growers, Quamba represents their ticket back to normalcy after displacement by one of the longest armed conflicts in the world — between paramilitary forces and leftist guerrillas, and the illegal drug trade.

“Women of the villages were forced to abandon their homes, and a lot of traditions were broken,” explains Leonor Espinosa, a Bogotá-based chef turned social entrepreneur. She’s made it her mission to revive traditional agriculture, ancestral foodways and culinary know-how among rural, mainly indigenous and Afro-Colombian people.

Photo courtesy of Maria Fleischmann.

Source: NPR (link opens in a new window)

social enterprise