Alto Jama Neighborhood Council celebrated new harvest by delivering produce to local neighbors
The Garden Club of the Alto Jama Neighborhood Council in San Pedro de Atacama led a series of initiatives with technical advising from SQM’s Atacama Tierra Fértil Program. This joint project dating back to the beginning of the pandemic gave them knowledge to grow and harvest diverse vegetables, which were then distributed to the community.
Chard, lettuce, cilantro, among other produce, were distributed to neighbors from the Alto Jama Neighborhood Council. These products were grown and harvested by the members of the “Garden Club,” a social project with a community greenhouse led by 10 people who produced a variety of vegetables. It hopes to grow to 200 members.
This initiative arose out of SQM’s Atacama Tierra Fértil Program. In addition to providing the facilities, it created a project during the pandemic to train the members of the neighborhood council in farming topics. Project participants are still receiving support from the program, which has had positive results, including this new harvest of produce grown in an adverse climate that they have managed to overcome.
For Luz Riquelme, the president of the Alto Jama Neighborhood Council, the work done by the group and SQM dates back several years. “We have been working with SQM for five years. Instead of asking them for a box of vegetables, we proposed the need for a greenhouse in order to create a family vegetable garden. Our first efforts were very basic but today we have a place like this. Ten neighbors are currently members of the Garden Club, which has been learning more and more and now is harvesting produce to distribute to our neighbors.”
According to Marcelo Cortés, the agronomist in charge of agricultural projects at SQM: “The project arose as part of the Atacama Tierra Fertil Program in response to problems that emerged during the pandemic: reduced employment in the area and a lack of supplies and products. As a result, we thought about creating a greenhouse to grow healthy produce as well as other projects to support local residents during the pandemic.”
“For us as a company this initiative is very important since it was co-created with the neighborhood council. Through it, we contribute to the sustainable development of communities near our operations, teaching them to grow vegetables and enabling them to harvest and deliver a variety of healthy produce,” added the SQM agronomist.
For Jannete Lozano, a member of the Alto Jama Garden Club, the experience has been wonderful. “I joined at the beginning of the pandemic when we had plots of dirt and planted just leaves and with only the knowledge that everyone brought to the table originally. Thanks to all the courses they have given us, we have achieved a new harvest.”
According to Natalia González, one of the club’s youngest members, the learning process has been very important. “I got interested because nothing I planted at home ever turned out well. Here I learned new things to make it work.”
Finally, Quiendy Sánchez, another participant, rated the initiative favorably. “My experience has been relaxing and fun. Here it is hard to plant because the ground is very hard and needs special treatment, so it is great to have this training here.”
Several other social initiatives emerged during the pandemic, including the SQM-supported Neighborhood Bakery program, which built a brick oven for residents to bake their own bread, thus contributing to household finances for neighbors unable to generate income with the decline in tourism in San Pedro de Atacama.