The Emergency Campaign Mano Vuelta in the South Caribbean is an initiative to complement the efforts by local food banks during the COVID Emergency on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica. Participants include residents in Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, Manzanillo and surrounding areas, as well as the Bribrei and Kekoldi indigenous territories.
Coordinated by me as a member of Ambassadors of the Sea, and with participation if other elder women in each community, it was launched with the goal of receiving and distributing food to the parts of the population who have lost their livelihood during this emergency. Local development associations in each community and other social organizations have become the first response in food distribution since the beginning of April when personal (not social) distancing became a policy that allowed most to understand that people would not be able to go about finding alternative sources of food unless organized to do so collectively.
Mano Vuelta, created by the [email protected] del Mar and their community allies such as ATEC and other supporters in the communities decided to construct a special campaign targeted at fostering a regeneration of ancestral sources of subsistence amongst elders and their families who need help in finding food, while rethinking their production alternatives.
The campaign linked them to people and families who could establish a “sistering” by donating a bag of food each week during eight weeks, while reactivating economic projects, and recreating the cultural fabric of subsistence which had long characterized this area. Until this coronavirus crisis, people have lived off a variety of activities according to seasons, including tourism.
The recipient families have been selected among the elder adults and some young women heads-of-families who also lost their jobs in tourism. They are all people who themselves or their children, have lost their livelihood, and need help to get through this crisis without putting their own health, or that of their families and the community at risk.
The donors are people whom the campaign organizers contacted to seek a commitment in sistering a family by donating the equivalent of $40 a week for two months. The food is sent to a local market that then makes the food bags according to a list of staples, and then the selected families come weekly to the market to pick up their bags.
Thus, the Mano Vuelta team does not handle money or food. Participating local supermarkets such as Super Negro in Hone Creek, Arena Blanca in Cahuita, Marga Super in Puerto Viejo and 93 locations in Volio form the network of markets.
During the first two weeks of the initiative, which started on the 2nd of April, Mano Vuelta attended to 10 families, donating weekly bags of food. They also worked to create a support system to help regenerate traditional productive activities such as a journey cake bakery in Manzanillo, a tamales enterprise in Cahuita, ancestral bamboo fishing crates in Puerto Viejo, a community kitchen in Cahuita and a community food garden in Manzanillo. Plus, five leading gardeners who lost their jobs in hotel gardens have been contracted to start family food gardens.