By Angela Dolmetsch
On a three-acre property where lemon, orange, tangerine, plantain, and nonie trees are in full production, 88 low-income women and their families have been working the land during the last four years. They have built their own vegetable beds and compost heaps, and are in the process of harvesting worms for organic feeding of poultry and fish. Through a government program, they have been provided with units to rear chicken, ducks, quails, poultry, and guinea pigs, which they use as a source of protein or barter with other neighbors. Four African sheep are in charge of cutting the grass. The consolidated group is now building the first 41 housing units, distributed in groups of 8 houses. The housing project is using ecological materials including empty plastic water bottles filled with earth and put together with mud. The beneficiaries are urban residents of cities or villages in the Department of El Valle del Cauca, who have come to the city running away from the war, and who live in dismal conditions within the poverty belt of Cali and Palmira
The Nashira project goes beyond offering just a house. It seeks to provide a better quality of life, offering a secure and nutritious supply of food within the compound, an environmentally friendly atmosphere, and a source of income through the development of workshops where women can manufacture their own products. Thanks to the help of “Change the World” from Norway, a solar restaurant is being built where the women from Nashira hope to provide healthy and tasty food not only for the Nashira dwellers but also as a tourist attraction for visitors. The first Saturday of each month the Nashira Fair takes place, where the different products are sold to visitors from the neighboring towns of Cali and Palmira. Nashira is trying to develop its own currency, which is used as an exchange model in the Nashira Fair. It is important at this stage that the women from Nashira will progress and have access to international markets not only to sell their products but also to promote the organic food produced in the compound and the unique development model which this project entails.
In Colombia, 32% of households are headed by women and depend on their work as the main source of income. A startling 72.5% of homes with women as heads of households are below the poverty line. The Association of Women who are Heads of Households (association Mujer Cabeza de Familia) is the main developer of Nashira.