Direct Aid Program supports inclusive development projects in Peru and Bolivia
During the period 2013-2014, the Australian Embassy’s Direct Aid Program – DAP has supported four development projects in Peru and Bolivia. Social inclusion of people with disabilities, diversification and economic sustainability, women empowerment and children’s nutrition were the topics selected for this round.
Choconua, transforming cacao and transforming lives
After more than 15 hours on the road, we arrived from Lima to Bagua, in the Amazonas region, north of Peru. A fertile and generous land receives us; the economy of Amazonas is based on the production of cacao, coffee and rice. In spite of this, it was only in 2013 that the region made its first export of cacao. This was achieved by the Association of Amazonian Cacao and Coffee Producers (APROCAM), DAP beneficiaries for the 2013-2013 round.
The project is aimed at strengthening women's leadership in the district of Imaza (the majority of which belong to the Awajun native community), through the implementation of a small cocoa process plant, it will increase their families' income, and help create a fund, for the provision of health services and support the education of their children.
Currently, the women are processing 100% cacao chocolate bars, and they expect starting their commercialisation as soon as they trademark their brand. The chosen name for their products is “Choconua”, NUA means woman in the Awajun language.
“Our district has a lot of (natural) richness, but we need help”, confirms Lucha, awajun leader and participant of the project.
Sense International, for a more inclusive society
“Thank you and take care, you will always be in our hearts”, reads a young boy touching with his fingertips the Braille signs he has just written on a piece of paper. Deaf-blind people and people with multisensory disability are among the most vulnerable groups of the population due to the complexity of their needs and the limited access to existing information, orientation and mobility.
Around 17% of those registered as having some sort of disability are deaf-blind and, in spite of this, there are no specific courses or training for educators working with children affected by deaf-blindness or multisensory impairment.
In this context, with DAP funding, Sense International provided specialised courses to over 100 teachers in Lima and Arequipa working with children affected by these disabilities; and, implemented multisensory stimulation rooms (with the provision of educational resources) in three (State) schools (one in Lima, two in Arequipa) that are already being used by the students.
Productive Schools in Chuquisaca
Child malnutrition affects 30% of the population in Chuquisaca, the second highest in Bolivia. One of the main causes is the lack of access to food rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals, such as meat, eggs and milk.
DAP supported local NGO, Sumaj Punchay, to implement vegetables patches and hen farms in three schools in the rural area of the Tarabuco municipality. The children, teachers and relatives contribute to the maintenance of the crops and the hens, and the children complement their breakfast and lunches with the product of their work, such as carrots, lettuces, green beans, beetroots, tomatoes, onions and mandioc. Adding to the eggs they collect from the hens purchased by the project, the vegetables add nutritional value to their current diet consisting mainly of foreign products such as lentils, flour, sugar, rice and pasta.
Protecting the marine turtles through responsible tourism
El Ñuro is a poor community lying about 20 km to the south of Mancora, the second most visited tourist destination for Peruvians. The community relies on its rich fishing grounds as a primary source of income but remains relatively poor.
The DAP project, implemented by Yachachiq SOLCODE, seeks to leverage the tourism potential by better organising the tourists who visit to see the green back turtles, providing a glass-bottomed boat for tours, constructing a small sales kiosk, developing alternative tourism circuits and funding a professional promotional video.
In the last years, a population of 145 sea turtles (Chlonia mydas) has gathered in El Ñuro. This is the only place in Peru where sea turtles can be spotted in plain sight.
SOLCODE, in association with a tourism agency, is capitalising in El Ñuro’s privileged location and natural beauty in order to develop the community and provide better opportunities for the population.
DAP Projects in Peru and Bolivia
The Direct Aid Program (DAP) managed by the Embassy of Australia helps rural communities of Peru and Bolivia overcome poverty
Understanding the multidimensional nature of poverty and the importance of empowerment and participation, the Embassy of Australia for Peru and Bolivia, through the Direct Aid Program (DAP), has funded 5 development projects for the 2012-2013 period, focused on the promotion of health from a gender perspective, increasing the productivity of farmers, children’s education in environmental sustainability and recovery and protection of traditional knowledge among Aymara women.
Juliaca, Puno, Peru
Further to the milk processing project located in the northern coast of Peru [see below], the DAP Program is supporting a small Quechua community in Puno improve their income and face the difficult environment with the help of NGO AFAS. Located at an altitude of 3856 metres, 20 families from the La Perla village have purchased 10 Brown Swiss cows (this breed is well adapted to the altitude and is appreciated both for their milk as well as for their meat), are building two wells and receiving constant training in husbandry, the production of cheese and yogurt and forage crops management.
Due to the difficult climate conditions in the area, where temperatures can drop to -10 degrees Celsius, agriculture is minimal and mainly for survival. The 20 families that are part of this initiative are now looking forward to learning more and starting introducing their products into the commercial chain, at the local as well as the national level.
Chincha, Ica, Peru
In 2007, the Ica region was seriously affected by an earthquake measured at 7.9 degrees on the Richter scale. According to local residents, the reconstruction process has been extremely slow: the Chincha province lost 91% of its houses – currently 34% remain uninhabitable-, malnutrition rates for children under 5 years old is 30%, and these factors combined with other deficiencies increase the proliferation of diseases. On top of this, women in rural areas are most affected by these conditions and by the lack of access to health services due to the persistence of domestic violence and little knowledge and promotion regarding their reproductive rights.
In this context, Médicos del Mundo are providing training and organising the women of three districts in Chincha province (Ica region). Through this empowering process, they have managed to achieve changes that may appear small but that actually have a direct effect on the well-being of the people. Improvements such as the weekly collection of litter in the districts (before this used to be burnt, with the negative impacts on the environment and people’s health that this process entails); extermination of rodents campaigns and the restructuring of the pipes and drainage systems that used to discharge next to one of the communities, have been positive outcomes achieved by the women themselves. These results, as well as the training provided, have created a new sense of empowerment and self-confidence among the women who are now more conscious of their rights, how to exercise them and transmit them to other members of their communities.
Rimac, Lima, Peru
In the left bank of the Rimac River, where the average of green areas per capita is 1.22 sq. meters (the WHO recommendation is 9 sq. meters per inhabitant) and where 95% of the population is considered poor, stands the Juan Pablo Vizcardo y Guzmán primary and secondary school. This public institution, with a student body of approximately 1500 students, was built next to a textile factory. Even now, as you walk into the school, the fumes from the factory are apparent. In this context, Vida Abundante has gathered an excellent team of professionals in communication and agricultural sciences as well as the support and collaboration of students, parents, principals and teachers to implement bio-farms and bio-digesters to contribute to the environmental health and education of the children and the community in general.
Teachers and students take part in the care of bio-farms, they grow coriander, lettuce, basil, and beetroot among other crops that are slowly starting to be used by the parents to prepare delicious dishes and to be sold to the public in food fairs, increasing their families’ income.
Furthermore, some parts of the plants are being used to feed the guinea pigs that are being raised by the secondary school students. The waste from these animals is used as the main input to produce liquid organic fertiliser (in the bio-digestor) that is then used for the crops in the bio-farms. Vida Abundante’s project illustrates a virtuous cycle where everything is re-used, recycled or transformed. This project is being implemented in Simon Bolivar School and will be replicated in three others.
“[This project] gives us hope to recover the environment of our school, thank you for giving us healthy surroundings”, stated a poem written by a primary school student.
Vida Abundante received the National Award for Environmental citizenship in 2012.
Achacachi, La Paz, Bolivia
On a cold morning at an altitude of 3823 metres, more than two hours drive from La Paz, almost 90 awichas (grandmothers) from several Aymara communities gathered to present their oral traditions regarding myths and legends, textile production, reproduction of life and traditional health. For almost six hours, stories and songs were told, recorded and shared.
This is only part of the interdisciplinary strategy that Fundación Colectivo Cabildeo is implementing in Achacachi with funding provided by the Australian Embassy to recover, revalue and protect traditional knowledge, especially those held by indigenous women regarding their important role in the reproduction of life. Through a series of workshops with the women, el Colectivo Cabildeo is recording the knowledge that the women of Achacachi have regarding cultural and agricultural production, always in harmony with “Mother Earth”, their traditions and customs. Through a radio program (run by the women themselves) and the production of plays based on the workshops, this knowledge is being shared and re-valued by the younger generations, decision makers and society in general. It is expected that this process will end up with the recognition and certification of this knowledge in local public policies and its inclusion in the educational contents of Bolivian schools.
25 mothers and their children benefit from a milk processing plant in the Morrope district, Northern Peru
The 25 mothers of the “Señor de los Milagros” Committee from the village of Cucufana, district of Morrope, in Lambayeque have a new reason to smile. A few days ago, the first calf from a group of 10 milking cows bought with the funding received through the Direct Aid Program –DAP was delivered. “Pedrito”, the chosen name for the young calf, symbolises the beginning of a new sense of hope for this village, where until recently, an undertaking such as this was no more than a dream.
According to Peruvian official statistics, Morrope is one of the four districts in extreme poverty in the Lambayeque region. The village of Cucufana does not have basic services (running water, sewage systems, nor electricity) and presents high illiteracy rates. In fact, only one of the 25 women in the Committee has learnt how to read and write. In spite of the adverse circumstances, these 25 mothers, with the help of NGO Ayuda Peru and the Embassy of Australia, have organised themselves and are looking forward to being able to contribute to their families’ income and to improve the nutrition and quality of life of their children through the production and commercialisation of dairy products.
With DAP funds, the Committee has bought 25 Holstein milking cows, some of which are already producing around 20 litres of milk per day, although the expectation is to reach 35 litres per day. They have set up a small milk processing plant and have built a cowshed for their recently acquired livestock. Part of the milk production will be destined to complementing the meals of their young children under 5 years old and the rest will be sold to increase the family income. The mothers are being trained and are learning about the technical management of cattle, organisational strengthening and business management.
The mothers have secured a destination for their milk and milk products. A company specialising on the elaboration of the traditional northern Peruvian sweet called “kinkon”, will be the main consignee of the produced milk. The company “El Lambayecano” has recently been awarded the national prize for small businesses and the Quality Award in Chiclayo.
Bamboo plantations to face water scarcity in Piura
Predio Rio Seco is a small rural area in the district of Castilla, 15 minutes west of the city of Piura. Its landscape covered by deserts is coloured by occasional algarrobos along the way. In this setting, about 20 farming families, with the help of NGO CEDEPAS Norte and funding from the Australian Embassy for Peru and Bolivia through the Direct Aid Program - DAP, have started a project aimed at improving their quality of life through the use of wastewater in bamboo plantations, and the subsequent use of the bamboo canes for handcrafts and construction purposes.
The first stop in our visit was the nursery, provisionally built with local materials to provide a shelter in which the bamboo plants can reproduce; the goal is to get three seedlings from each young plant bought from the Cajamarca region, in order to afforest the area at a lower cost.
Due to its relatively recent introduction to the market and projection in the construction sector, bamboo is the main crop in this project; nevertheless, a component of pastures (to feed and shelter the livestock such a guinea pigs, rabbits and donkeys) and tara (caesalpinea spinosa - a Peruvian tree rich in tannins) has been introduced.
Although, the bamboo canes will be ready to harvest in two years, the farmers have already seen the business possibilities that this type of crop can have. In March 2011, 10 members of the project visited La Florida district in the Cajamarca region, to learn about the production and commercial potential of bamboo. There, they learnt about bamboo's environmental and economic benefits, the best management practices and several handcraft techniques; best of all, they gathered a vision of what Predio Rio Seco can become in the future.
Water is scarce in Predio Rio Seco. Prior to the project, an oxidation pond located near the area was used irregularly by the farmers to provide water for the nearby agricultural lands. The population's health was at risk given that most farming families grow crops mainly for their own consumption. Sometimes, they sell their products in the markets for a small price, endangering a larger percentage of the population.
This project uses the water from the oxidation pond to water the bamboo trees. Bamboo has the property of treating polluted waters through a complex root system that filters the excess of organic material, increasing the quality of underground waters.
Bamboo also fixates nitrogen, thus improving the quality of the soil and that of the crops the farmers consume in their households.
There have been some obstacles along the way, for example, the cultivation of pumpkins originally included in the project, was not successful and instead the hectares destined to this crop will now be converted to pastures. The water from the oxidation pond does not reach all the lands covered by the project and farmers have been watering their bamboo trees by carrying water in buckets on their donkeys. This will soon change as the project has been awarded a grant to be spent over the next two years to continue and build on the results achieved with the DAP funding. This second phase will include a pump to help conduct the water to the further areas, more hectares of bamboo and the purchase of equipment for the production of bamboo handcrafts.
"We wouldn't have been able to raise the funds necessary for the second phase hadn't it been for the aid we received from the Australian Embassy", said Mr Segundo Espinoza, from NGO CEDEPAS Norte.
Sesame plantations help increase the income of farmers in rural Chiclayo
The older farmers of Reque can still remember how some twenty years ago, the fields of this northern district, in the Lambayeque region, were covered with sesame plants. Eventually, crops such as corn, tomatoes and carrots quickly spread in the region due to their value in the local market. The production and commercialization of these products did not have the desired impact on the local economy. Quite the contrary, they pose a series of difficulties, not only on the income of the farmers but also on their own and their families' health. The need for pesticides and the short shelf life of those crops sometimes lead to farmers selling their products for less than their production costs.
In these conditions, about a year ago, the NGO Ayuda Peru united with a local organization of farmers and decided to return to sesame cultivation. A key factor in this decision was the relatively low production costs (no major agricultural inputs are needed) and the short time required: sesame can be ready to harvest in 120 days; in fact, the farmers have already collected the sesame seeds twice since the project started. The beginning was not easy; despite the fact that the products they were cultivating were not providing the income they needed, the younger farmers were not willing to switch to sesame as they were not aware of the history of sesame in Reque and did not know how the crop would perform in such a dry climate or in the market.
However, persistence paid off. Due to an agreement made by the association of farmers with the company Burcas, farmers were able to sell their production directly. It is a win-win situation, the producers sell their products and increase their income and the company, located in the Lambayeque region, can reduce its costs, by getting locally the sesame they used to buy from the Apurimac and Ene valleys (VRAE). The same variety of sesame that is grown in the VRAE region has been bought and is adapting well to the lands of Reque.
With the training and capacity building workshops that the farmers have received, they are now thinking about expanding the sesame business. Eventually they would like to process their own sesame products, creating their own brand and commercialise them directly.
The farmers are very grateful for the support they have received through the Direct Aid Program. Mirian Sausa, from NGO Ayuda Peru says "because of this new beginning, now we are allowed to dream big and plan for the future".