Getting young people back into farming and ensuring the production of healthy food in Chile are two key issues for Maryanne Muller and her team. With the Origen Foundation, she has created an agroecological school in the Pirque region.
« Most famers in our region are 60 years old and more. Young generations are starting to come back to farm life but they need the skills and knowledge to make a productive and sustainable life”, according to Maryanne Muller. For the founder of Origen, we must help agriculture to become part of the solution instead of the problem.
The poor living conditions of farmers do not attract young people. Soils and biodiversity have been impoverished by decades of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Finally, rural areas are losing their cultural and social structures.
To change this, the foundation created the Escuela Agroecologica de Pirque (Pirque Agroecological School). This 4-year training programme provides young people with the skills to restore soil, promote biodiversity, sustainable water use, produce fruit, vegetables and livestock. It also develops sales skills.
This school produces cheese, jams, preserves, pastries and bread. It has its own market to sell its products. All profits go to educational and social projects. The school works with rural communities by selling their products in accordance with fair trade values. Part of the program consists of reproducing endangered tree species in the region, planting and caring for them. By 2021, 4,000 native trees will be planted.
The school has a holistic approach to education supporting all dimensions of childhood and youth. More than 90 % of its students live in vulnerable conditions. With this agroecology technician diploma, they can make a sustainable living, restoring the land and the social fabric.
Alumni pass on their knowledge to their communities, create rural and urban vegetable gardens, teach others to make more sustainable decisions. Since 1991, 26 generations, about 3,000 young women and men have graduated. Many have been able to pursue higher education in agriculture and veterinary sciences. They also become social transformers.
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