I love visiting new and fascinating places, especially when I am asked to come and share my expertise on delicious local foods and eating habits that can improve the health of individuals, farmers and the planet.
So, I was thrilled when Ekorural invited Ana Deaconu and me to facilitate a 2½ day workshop, bringing together community leaders from the department of Meta (amazingly, about as large as the entire country of Ecuador).
The workshops took place in and around the beautiful La Cosmopolitana, an experimental farm and ecolodge, created in what had been a dry, cattle range and seemingly miraculously is now lush and productive soil. It is located in the tropics and plains of Colombia, far down the mountain range, on the Amazon side of Bogotá.
I´ve been doing similar workshops for many years and with Ana´s skill we made a good team. But these workshops had a new element. I had been asked to include a spiritual dimension of eating. So, we ate mindfully and especially enjoyed the local green leaves, present in the plants of tubers and widely consumed in the hot, tropics near the Amazon.
I want to share with you more about the beautiful place, the beautiful people, and the unique ways we worked together.
During the workshops, we worked and played together using the concept of ABUNDANCE, an exciting way to approach social change. Rather than demanding rights, the emphasis is on creating and appreciating the wide range of intertwining natural phenomena: the biodiversity of birds, insects, plants, foods, and peoples.
Using a popular education methodology (thank you Paulo Freire), I facilitated active sessions of questioning and reflecting and learning from each other. Often we would divide the larger group so everyone´s voice was heard. Here we enjoyed acting out a skit (“sociodrama”). Such experiences are real and make a difference in how we live our lives after the workshop.
For years now, I´ve been working with a nutritional plate, based on colors (much simpler than any pyramid) and here we see foods brought to the workshop by the participants. They´ve classified them in terms of function in the body, but what we most appreciated is the vibrant colors of real food. None of those white processed products with very low nutritional density! And colorful food is so full of flavor; it´s easy to promote.
Consumption of processed food is on the rise globally, and especially white sugar (an empty food). Along with the participants, we learned to label the amount of sugar found in drinks bought in the tiniest of stores as well as in supermarkets. And then of course we compared those sugary products to real products, like water and oranges.
As we finished the workshop, what particularly thrilled me was that La Cosmopolitana had already begun to change the way they were feeding us. It was right in line with what we were all learning about, the abundance of healthy foods found right there that are grown with no synthetic fertilizers or insecticides. And they tell me that many neighboring farms have united to produce a huge variety of what will be served at La Cosmopolitana. Also, the participants had each chosen their personal commitment “compromiso” of how in their homes they were going to improve their diet. Here we all were, in our final “despedida”, sharing what we were taking away from this powerful experience.
I left, along with the participants, at this moment in the decelerating armed conflict, full of peace and hope.