Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas
Photo Essay

Facing Hunger, Venezuelans Rely on Nature’s Bounty

Photographer Andrea Hernández Briceño depicts how the land provides a precarious solution to the country’s food shortages.

January 25, 2022
Reading Time: 3 minutes

This article is adapted from AQ’s special report on the battle over fake news

Ripe coconuts and mangoes fall to the ground: a boon for a hungry population. Once buoyed by a flourishing oil industry, an increasing number of Venezuelans now rely on the ecology of their backyards to keep food on the table. In a country with almost 8 million undernourished citizens, droughts influenced by a changing climate add to shortages and poverty in keeping food out of reach for many.

Andréa Hernández Briceño’s work weaves together stories of continuity and resilience on the outskirts of Caracas, Venezuela’s capital. Her photos show communities turning to nature for the basic needs their government has been unable to provide. Fruits and trees are keeping Venezuelan communities afloat – but for how long?

Roasting homegrown bell peppers on a makeshift grill in San Antonio, Venezuela.
Luis Calzadilla, formerly a construction worker, now relies on subsistence farming to provide food for his family. He plants taro, yucca, corn, bananas and beans on his vegetable patch in the San Isidro area of Caracas. “All is not lost. We should take advantage of the things we have.”
Briyit Pérez watches over her niece, Mariángela, while drying clothes in the Catia neighborhood of Caracas. Finding work is hard: Mariángela’s mother left Venezuela in search of better opportunities. Over 5.4 million Venezuelans have left since 2014, but remittances declined sharply over the past year amid the pandemic and global economic crisis.
A man scales a quenette tree in Patanemo, a town up the coast from Caracas, looking for ripe fruit.
Before the pandemic, Puerto Cabello was home to a bustling commercial area. Now Ángel (18) sells fish among shuttered shops on a largely deserted street.
People from the town of Chuspa dance along packed streets and pray for abundance during a festival honoring St. John the Baptist.
Freddy Flores pulls his horse toward Patanemo. His family doesn’t earn enough to shop in the supermarket. Instead, they live off the land, trading what they hunt and growing their own food.
Felipe Arrioja poses in front of the dry riverbed that snakes around San Isidro. An unemployed construction worker, Arrioja has dealt with waves of drought and electricity rationing by tending a vegetable garden he started in 2015. “I help myself with what I harvest from the vegetable patch. We eat from it and I give some vegetables to my neighbors.”

Tags: Food insecurity, Photo Essay, The COVID Generation, Venezuela
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