A Snapshot of SUCO in Peru: Gender Equality and Urban Farming for Sustainable Development


Article de Michelle Marteleira
Conseillère en communication au Pérou

Since 1984, SUCO has cultivated successful, impactful relationships with several partner organizations and farming associations in Peru.  We currently have projects in the provinces of Lima and Ancash.

Every Saturday and Sunday the women from RED PRAUSA – a women’s urban and peri-urban farming association – make the 2 hour journey from their communities on the outskirts of Lima to the bustling organic farmer’s market in Miraflores, the largest and most successful organic market in Peru. The 16 women sell their fresh produce in the market on a rotating basis; only 2 or 3 women will go the city each day, and the women split the profits among the group. Revenues from the organic market have allowed the women to increase their household incomes by an average of 20%, and their functional gardens provide a balanced source of consumable produce for their families.


SUCO focuses on generating economic growth through sustainable agriculture projects, and its five-year history with the women’s association in Lima, Peru, has been a wonderful success. In 2009, thanks to CIDA funding, a first cooperant began working with RED PRAUSA on a two-year mandate; four consecutive IYIP interns followed over the next three years.  SUCO’s intervention helped to consolidate and strengthen the association, and the cooperants and interns implemented complementary trainings and workshops in best farming practices, organic certification, and small business/entrepreneurial skills. These contributions have helped RED PRAUSA to become a recognized and respected women-run farming association within the city of Lima.

Angela Diaz Montoya, an agricultural expert who has worked with RED PRAUSA and SUCO’s partner in Lima, RAE, explains why SUCO’s intervention was important: “In these [peri-urban] zones, the government could not provide support to the small farming communities. It is because of NGOs like SUCO that the women were able to receive technical agricultural training.” Communities situated on the outer limits of urban areas are notoriously vulnerable – they tend to be informally constructed and often lack basic services and infrastructure. SUCO has made efforts to reduce poverty in these peri-urban regions with a hands-on approach to development.


The RED PRAUSA project in Lima exemplifies SUCO’s model for sustainable agriculture and income generation – a development model that SUCO has championed in various countries around the world. Key to this model is focusing on the farmers first, ensuring that they are equipped with the knowledge and resources to grow quality produce. Once a successful agriculture project is implemented, the families involved in the farm will reach a level of food security that fulfills their most basic needs and alleviates malnutrition. Following this step, the farmer’s association is strengthened, and the members of the project are given entrepreneurial and leadership training. Finally, the group is able to sell their extra produce in local markets to generate income for their families, and the farming association begins to achieve independence.

Leonarda Quispe, a member of the association who is frequently at the Miraflores market selling her produce, has experienced this model first-hand. According to her, joining the association made an enormous change in her family’s life: “It changed my life 100%,” she says, “before, when my children were younger, there were times when I didn’t have enough food, there were always shortages, and it was difficult to manage my finances. Now, life is much better. I have more than enough food to feed my family, and I sell my extra produce in the markets in Miraflores.”


A second phase of the project model is to connect farming groups with regional associations to improve access to resources, and RED PRAUSA recently partnered with another larger farming association in Lima called Monticielo, which has a membership of 48 families. The partnership allows the women of RED PRAUSA to diversify their own food supply; Monticielo has members in the mountainous region around Lima who grow high-altitude produce like potatoes and Andean grains, as well as in the coastal areas more suited to growing fruit. The partnership further improves food security, provides the women with greater market opportunities, and has made the women’s group more resilient.

SUCO has seen other important benefits result from the project with RED PRAUSA: many of the members have become community leaders, and are frequently given recognition for their efforts in sustainable urban agriculture at events throughout the city. Last year, four women from RED PRAUSA actively participated in a national food security campaign based in Lima, where they shared their experiences as organic and urban farmers with audiences that included members of congress, Peruvian and international NGOs, and other farming associations from across the country. As role models for their communities and vocal advocates of sustainable urban farming, the women of RED PRAUSA truly demonstrate the success of local development initiatives.


SUCO’s experience with RED PRAUSA has shown that urban and peri-urban agriculture projects have the potential to be scalable and sustainable. With technical instruction and small-business training, the women acquired the skills necessary to become entrepreneurs and achieve financial independence. The members of RED PRAUSA can now take great pride in their accomplishments as an association. A comprehensive development model like SUCO’s provides wide-ranging benefits to vulnerable regions; it encourages leadership and community engagement, reduces poverty, and ultimately improves the livelihoods of individuals and families.


IVCO 2014 Closing Speech


Excerpt from the closing speech of the International Forum for Volunteering in Development (Forum)’s annual conference of International Volunteer Cooperation Organizations, in Lima, Peru, October 19-22, 2014.

–        Richard Veenstra, Executive Director SUCO – Solidarité Union Coopération

This conference opened with a wide-angle lens, with the encouraging perspective of the international volunteering sector needing, or at least wanting, but clearly feeling able, to position itself strategically in the global development agenda post 2015.  So we started out with remarkable assurance, especially given the context of my first IVCO two years ago, in Ottawa, when 10 organizations met in a corner of the Lord Elgin hotel somewhat pessimistic about their future and very pessimistic about their national government’s commitment or desire to support them in that future.  But you all heard Canada’s Ambassador to Peru publicly and even proudly call to your attention, you, an international audience, a commitment our minister made earlier this year.  Things seem to have come around.  So why not think of ourselves in the global agenda?

And then, as soon as we were done hearing about what looks like an open window to position ourselves globally, you evoked that we should position ourselves at all levels yes, nationally and globally, but also at the European Union, and other regional levels and municipally.  Well, yeah!

And then a new theme came up, still on day one, when Chris asked: As we reach out to the business sector, why should we be subordinate to their language, to their way of thinking?  How about a little give and take?

And it was similar the next day when Rebecca responded to a comment about integrating youths into the mainstream, by turning the question around, asking: How do young people bring the mainstream into their world?

So in both these examples, aren’t we simply affirming our role as civil society organizations?  I know we’re not all civil society organizations, but I’ll get to that later. As CSO’s and as IVCOs we need to be making communications easier, bringing people together, making bridges between different groups and sectors so that dialogue and exchange and inevitably common understanding can come about.  If the volunteer sector learns the business language, if youths learn how to speak a mainstream language, it has to be, inevitably, in order to make the values of our sector better known, better understood, stripped away from the prejudices.

Inevitably, this is what I think is the value of talking about cross-sector collaboration.  So we can build common understanding, which doesn’t mean adopting the logics of other sectors.  It doesn’t mean we have nothing to learn, because we do. Everyone does.  But we also have something to give.

I said I’d get back to my comment about civil society organizations.  Forum is itself a cross-sector collaboration; it’s a grouping of at least three sectors: Civil society, governments, multilateral.  And it seems to work.  There’s probably some work to do to make it a perfect. I found myself giving my head a shake once or twice in order to realize that the person speaking didn’t have the same frame of reference as I did, but it works.

So who is better positioned to do this? Even in the sector of development, we are probably the group that has traditionally invested most in cross-cultural training and reaching cross-cultural understanding.  So, if we speak of the language and logic and way of thinking of businesses and universities, aren’t we just speaking of culture?

It’s actually quite remarkable and probably very telling that the intercultural communications topics, north-south relations and biases hardly came up in my experience of this conference.  We’re looking at a different set of cultural differences now, ones that are enshrined in different sets of values, in privilege.  So if it took us a few decades to get over one intercultural complex, maybe not get over it, but at least to feel more comfortable about it, it might take us awhile this time too.

We demonstrated courage to invite speakers on mining, a potentially divisive issue. But we didn’t push on the issues that could divide us.  That’s possibly another part of how we work, and how we’ve succeeded in establishing relations across cultures and sectors, by focussing more on our similarities than on our differences, which allows us to build trust.  From the basis of trust, we may be able to have conversations that get at the nitty-gritty of our differences.  As brokers or intermediaries of relationships, that seems to be our role.  But it certainly isn’t easy. And it certainly isn’t done without hurdles.

So I’ll look to the young Guatemalan women who reminded us yesterday that as entrepreneurs, they were standing in front of us, just as you’re all facing me, all happy and branded with success.  But there were ups and downs in their process. There were hurdles.  But as she said, failure isn’t failure.  It’s not the end. You just have to begin again.

So summing up now, I’ll point to three things:

-Our remarkable assurance

-Cross-sector collaborations. We have what it takes to do this. It’s part of our DNA as cross-cultural specialists.

-Who is better positioned to spearhead the changes we’d like to see in our world?

I’ll close by thanking Uniterra again, and by thanking all of the participants who came from near and far, because inevitably it’s their participation that made the event a success.  Thank you.

– See more at: http://suco.org.org/suco2/ivco-2014-closing-speech/?lang=en#sthash.T8Km9RgR.dpuf