Guerrilla Verde was born from a series of happy coincidences. It started when Alberto Núñez's team visited a community garden in the southern bañado settlement with Ana Verón, who was developing a cooperative project in the area. There, he met Alicia Penayo and discovered a compost and organic garden workshop that was being developed for women preparing ollas populares (community meals/kitchens). This first meeting, brought together a group of independent women who would later make up Guerrilla Verde, an environmental organization with an emphasis on social and gender equality. Guerilla Verde is now a network of women who collaborate to achieve economic independence, while supporting their families and neighborhoods.
Guerilla Verde’s mission is to contribute toward a more ecological and self-reliant country with reduced inequality. In the midst of the crisis generated by the COVID-19 pandemic, there was increased community need for ollas populares. This, in turn, created a demand for fresh vegetables, which could not be easily met early on in the pandemic. With a focus on the environmental and social problems posed by this crisis, Guerilla Verde sought a novel, sustainable solution through the expansion of ollas populares and to supporting food sovereignty through community gardens and agroecological training for women. Currently the initiative has two fronts: 1) the development of organic home gardens for the sale and commercialization of products in town. The sale of these products are mainly done through WhatsApp and were essential in meeting the needs of several ollas populares during the pandemic and 2) expanding the production of pots and wooden compost bins to be sold in other parts of the country.
To purchase supplies, this project is currently financed through its own funds and donations secured through the ingenuity of the women of Guerilla Verde. For example, near the end of 2020, the organization received a shipment of hair dye to sell in order to buy several meters of gardening shade cloth, minerals, and drums for preparing fertilizers. Following the organizations’ first series of trainings, there are now more than 50 gardens.
Guerrilla Verde is composed of a part-time staff and local volunteers that join on an as-needed basis.
Seeing Obstacles as Opportunity
Daisy, a member of Guerilla Verde, tells us: “The pandemic brought us together. We started with vegetables because we didn’t have enough for the ollas populares. They didn’t come in the kits that the government provided, so when I heard that there was going to be a workshop on how to make [our own] gardens, I didn’t miss the opportunity.” After receiving the training, Daisy instructed four more neighbors from her area who were also interested in urban gardens but who had not been able to attend the original course.
Zulma Medina is another female member of Guerilla Verde with extensive experience in civil organizations in the bañados. She tells us that inequality in household chores and raising children is one of the main barriers to female empowerment. She explains how the work that is expected of women often impedes their professional development. Zulma also explains how important it is to overcome machismo and the related issue of domestic violence. Despite these barriers, she remains optimistic for a better future, “I have a lot of moral support from my family, my sisters, and my partner."
Alberto, is a physician by profession and has been working with groups in the area through various organizations for a number of years. One of his main concerns is helping bañadenses overcome the descrimination they face every day in order to achieve greater security for women in the organization and beyond.
Among the direct beneficiaries of Guerrilla Verde are 65 women from both the southern and northern bañados of Asunción. Through the ollas populares, these women reach 120 Paraguayan families (around 267 people) with meals, three times a week.
With the help of Moirū, the initiative will train beneficiaries on techniques for the care and maintenance of their gardens, and install and equip a greenhouse so that their seedlings can withstand bad weather in order to diversify their vegetables offering. With the support of the UNDP Acceleration Laboratory and the National Innovation Strategy (ENI), they will also expand the number of community gardens within the Bañados Norte and Sur.
Follow the next stages of the initiative on instagram, wendá or on the official youtube contest channel.