David and Daniel Villegas (‘08 & ‘04, Colombia) are brothers, and both are EARTH graduates. In 2011 they launched the Salvaterra Foundation, an organization that develops projects to promote food security in Colombia. Since COVID-19 began impacting their community, they have focused their energy on quickly implementing urban garden projects that can provide access to high quality food and a source of income for thousands of people.
The markets in Colombia where people purchase their fruits and vegetables don’t comply with the sanitary measures suggested for COVID-19. “The current situation in Colombia has increased awareness about the need for a continuous quality food supply and a process to guarantee the groceries we bring to our tables are safe,” explains David. The Villegas are creating new urban gardens and offering training and technical support to the community so individuals can produce their own food they know will be safe to eat. The gardens help people manage stress and anxiety, while promoting community development and empowerment. People who never farmed before are now growing their own food. The brothers believe these gardens will become the “new normal” so they are collaborating with private companies and local governments to ensure the project can scale up and be sustainable beyond COVID-19.
In addition, the brothers have reached out to their network of EARTH University graduates around the world, sharing the work they are doing and encouraging others to duplicate their efforts. EARTH graduates in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Ecuador are already taking steps to create similar projects.