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Agroecological industry calls on governor to revitalize Puerto Rico market

By on November 15, 2017

SAN JUAN – Several Puerto Rico agroecological organizations are calling on Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to support and help implement their efforts to revitalize the market as part of his plan for the island, providing assistance to farmers after Hurricane María.

The alliance, which includes dozens of local entities, proposes agroecology and local production for consumption in Puerto Rico as the fundamental basis of a resilient and highly productive food economy, since traditional agriculture was severely affected by the impact of the hurricane in September.

Visit Rico president, Camille Collazo, and Fondo Resiliencia spokeswoman Daniella Rodríguez Besosa (Efrén Rodríguez / CB)

In a press conference, the spokeswoman of Fondo Resiliencia (Resilience Fund) Daniella Rodríguez Besosa, stressed that “after Hurricane María, we have seen the recovery of the agroecological farms and we can assure none of them lost 100% of their work thanks to how effective this type of agriculture is.”

The group was addressing the Agriculture and Health secretaries, as well as the agencies that deal with environmental and ecological matters to support farming without pesticides or chemicals, respecting natural ecosystems and communities with coherent public policies in favor of the the people’s health and the environment.

Agroecology is a faster answer for the country’s agricultural recovery because it has the potential to benefit a greater number of farmers, while protecting our natural resources and the environment,” said the president of Visit Rico, Camille Collazo.

Meanwhile, the president of the Bar Association’s Committee on Agriculture, Héctor Collazo, said that part of the efforts should be directed at holding public hearings, since they have been sending memorandums and lobbying measures, but all this requires it be carried out as public policy through legislation.”

Soon after the passage of María, the alliance was forged to coordinate and execute the necessary efforts to contribute to the island’s recovery by raising funds, sending people to provide support in filling out Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) claim forms, distributing generators, tools, food and seeds to as many farmers as possible.

When Caribbean Business asked about the fundraising carried out, the president of Visit Rico and leader of the alliance explained that they had initially set a goal of reaching $450,000, which was surpassed, with $500,000 raised so far. As a result, they were able to provide direct grants  to 100 farmers and makers of artisanal products from five organic markets on the island.

The alliance is continuing to support a diversity of farmers in a list of 120 individuals, and a $4,500 allocation will be distributed for three months to be able to plant more effectively and thus depend less on imports.

They added that they have received support from entities such as the Foundation for Puerto Rico, Para La Naturaleza, FarmAid, Fundación Segarra y Boerman,, Cape Cod Organic Farm, among other public and private entities.

The alliance, which was called together by Visit Rico, holds weekly meetings at Foundation for Puerto Rico and aims to double agroecological production within a year, strengthen and open new markets, establish more direct channels between farmers and restaurants, boost the sustainable agrotourism economy and educate the public on the benefits of eating healthy.

“The future of the organic and ecological markets of Puerto Rican agriculture are at risk–their existence and subsistence, if we don’t give a hand now to farmers and artisans,” said Mayra Nieves Rosa, chairwoman of the Madre Tierra Organic Cooperative.

For the past 30 years, the Madre Tierra Cooperative, the Boricua Organic Agriculture Organization, the Departamento de la Comida and the organic markets have worked hard to establish a healthy food economy.

The alliance is made up of the Organización Boricua de Agricultura Ecológica, Departamento de la Comida con el Fondo Resiliencia, Cooperativa Orgánica Madre Tierra (Mercado Placita Roosevelt), La Cosecha CSA, Mercado Agrícola Natural de Ponce, Mercado Agrícola Natural Viejo San Juan, Mercado Agroecológico de Rincón, Aguadilla Farmers Market, Instituto del Karso de Puerto Rico y el El Caribe, Oficina del Bosque Modelo, Puerto Rico Bar Agriculture Committee, and ecological organizations in Puerto Rico and Vieques, among other ecological, conservation and philanthropic organizations.

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