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George Washington University

Publication Date

Spring 2014

Program Name

Chile: Public Health, Traditional Medicine, and Community Empowerment


Research Question: To what extent are the people of Valle de Azapa, in Arica, Chile familiar with what is an organic agricultural product?

Objectives: The general objective of this study is to determine the level of knowledge of organic products of the people who reside in the Valle de Azapa, and to understand their preferences of cultivation and buying agricultural goods to determine the difference and the choice between organic and non-organic alimentation. The specific objectives of this study are to identify farms in the Valle de Azapa that plant and harvest organic produce; to find out the level of familiarity with organic products of the people that live in Valle de Azapa; to determine their access to organic products; and to explain the differences and the choices between organic and non-organic alimentation to suggest that they, too, have the right to these choices.

Background: The organic market in Chile is heavily export based and includes a low internal demand for organic products. However, in other, more developed countries of North America and Europe, the internal demand for organics is high and knowledge about such products is widespread. Thus, consumers are aware of their right to a choice between organic and non-organic food. The global demand for organic products is expected to increase in the next 15 years. However, this increase can only exist in Chile with increased knowledge of organics.

Methodology: In order to collect information for this descriptive study, 14 people residing in Valle de Azapa, Chile were surveyed with questionnaires that included 24 close-ended questions and 6 open-ended questions. Participants were surveyed in the waiting room of the Rural Health Post of San Miguel de Azapa. In addition, interviews with an organic olive farmer and a nutritionist were conducted. Participants were not given any prior information or definitions for terms that appeared in the questionnaire. All surveys and interviews conducted in this study adhered to a code of ethics to protect the anonymity of all participants.

Results: Participants in this study spanned all gender, socioeconomic and educational distinctions. Respondents either did not know what an organic product is or responded with an incorrect definition which indicated confusion and limited understanding of organic products. Therefore, their responses with respect to their consumption and the availability of such products generally corresponded to erroneous definitions. This suggests that the majority participants do not consume organic products. No correlation between socioeconomic or educational levels and the understanding of organic products was determined in this study.

Conclusions: The people of Valle de Azapa, Chile do not have adequate knowledge or familiarity with organic products. The lack of information and education about such products is responsible for the evident lack of knowledge. It is recommended that the government of Chile incorporate a program that teaches Chileans what comprises a healthy agricultural product and the toxic side effects of consuming food contaminated with synthetic pesticides to increase the demand for organics. It is also the responsibility of farmers and agricultural companies to exercise reciprocity by practicing organic farming techniques.


Agricultural and Resource Economics


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