The pandemic has stopped a lot. But it hasn’t stopped fruit from growing in the luscious Amazon jungle. Even so, many Colombian farmers and indigenous communities don’t have a way to sell their harvest. That means they don’t have their regular income to buy everyday staples. A brother and sister witnessed the problem and launched a program to resolve it. They started The Harvest: Amazonian Barter project.
Now each Friday, dozens of people line up in front of a truck outside the tiny town of Leticia. The truck arrives packed with soap, rice, oil, and other staples. Locals exchange fruits for a currency called La Semillas, or “the seeds.” They can then use that currency to buy the other products they need.
More than 600 miles away, people in the Colombian capital of Bogotá wait for the fruit. They have subscribed to a fruit-delivery service through The Harvest. After the roadside trade, The Harvest flies the fruit to Bogota, where it is distributed in boxes to hungry residents. Tucked into each box is a guide to understanding the exotic fruits, the best ways to eat them, and their nutritional values.
Adriana Bueno heads Habitat Sur, an organization that works with communities in the Amazon. Her brother Ivan Bueno runs a hardware store in Leticia. The two worked creatively with compassion when they started the fruit subscription service. They had a broad goal to help nourish and unify people across their country.
“Our goal is food sovereignty, understood as the rights of all peoples to choose their food and to produce it in a conscious way that respects the environment,” says Ivan. Each Friday, farmers from outside Leticia walk or take river boats to bring their fruit to the swap spot. They’re given face masks for mutual protection before they begin bartering for La Semillas.
More than 3,500 people participate in the exchange. Each box that The Harvest delivers costs about $30. The contents inside vary depending on which fruits are in season.
“We try to always go with wild fruits, and even when they’re very delicate we manage to deliver them safe and sound,” explains Ivan. “It’s spectacular because you open your box and you say: ‘What’s this?’”
The jungle supplies an enormous bounty of wild fruit––so much that some rots in the humidity before it can be harvested. Deliveries are limited for now. And so far, the project isn’t making a profit. But that’s ok, the siblings say. There has been positive feedback in the community. The fruit swap is keeping people afloat in a time of crisis. That, says Ivan, has “an immeasurable value.”
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. –– 1 Peter 3:8