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A burning hunger June 24th, 2018 by

Towards the end of the dry season many families across the African savannas have exhausted their reserves of stored cereal crops. Vegetables are hard to come by in local markets. Bush meat is one way for rural people to supplement their meagre diet with protein during the well-named lean or hunger season. This is why development organisations have struggled for decades to curb the destructive practice of setting the bush on fire to hunt small wildlife.

One option to ensure some food and income during the lean season is to grow cashew and mango trees. But with increased labour costs and insecure markets, it is difficult for farmers to properly maintain their planted trees. Slashing the weedy and bushy undergrowth is often only done late during the flowering and fruiting season, by which time bush fires set by others may have spread into and destroyed entire plantations in no time.

Increasingly, development organisations are starting to realise that integrated farming systems and local value addition to food are the way forward. In a recently published video on the Access Agriculture video platform, the Beninese NGO DEDRAS neatly shows how growing groundnuts and soya beans in cashew plantations helps farmers produce a nutritious crop during the lean season, and thus discourage damaging bush fires. DEDRAS also made a training video with rural women on how to make cheese from soya, a good example of adding value.

In addition to tree crops, such as mango and cashew, farmer also manage other local species, such as nére (Parkia biglobosa) and the karité or shea nut tree (Vitellaria paradoxa). These wild indigenous trees, distincive features of the savanna, also provide fruits and nuts during the lean season. Neré and the shea nut tree have grown here for thousands of years and are relatively fire-resistant. Traditionally, néré seeds are dried, cooked and fermented to make “soumbala”, a local equivalent to bouillon cubes that brings taste to many dishes. But with an increased need for fuel wood, more néré are being cut down. While the fuel wood crisis has not received the attention it deserves, nutritionists have taken notice and have come up with a way to use fermented soya beans as a replacement for the local soumbala. This practice has been captured by the NGO AMEDD in Mali in a nice farmer training video, also hosted on the Access Agriculture video platform.

In an earlier blog, Jeff wrote about his experience with grasscutters in West Africa. Declining populations in the wild, along with the strong and continuing demand for meat, have inspired rural entrepreneurs to develop alternative sources. Across Africa one can witness how mainly women and youth have set up grasscutter, poultry, rabbit and other small livestock businesses.

The many training videos on small livestock, intercropping with legumes, and rural food processing offer viable alternatives to the hunting for bush meat. These enterprises may eventually prove more effective in reducing bush fires than lecturing rural people about their adverse environmental impacts. Positive solutions are always better at promoting behaviour change.

Related blog

Coming in from the wild

Waiting for rats

Related farmer training videos

Growing annual crops in cashew orchards

Preparing cashew apple juice

Making a condiment from soya beans

Making soya cheese

Parkland agroforestry

Harvesting and storing shea nuts

Making better shea butter

Promoting weaver ants in your orchard

Feeding grasscutters

Feeding the ancient Andean state June 17th, 2018 by

Early states from Mesopotamia to Mesoamerica still inspire awe with their fine art and architecture. Yet the artists and soldiers who built the states needed to be fed; whatever their other accomplishments, early states were always based on agriculture. In a recent book, James Scott reminds us that early states usually collected their taxes as grain, staple crops grown on a large scale, such as maize, rice, and wheat, which are easy to store. Scott observes that there were no ancient states based on potatoes or other tuber crops. Yet he admits that the Inka were a partial exception. The Inka did have maize, but they depended largely on the potato which is bulky and perishable, making it difficult to collect and store.

This set me thinking. Inspired by Professor Scott’s excellent book, I’d like to explain how tuber crops, and the potato in particular, sustained the Inka state and provided taxes.

First, the Inka state (called Tawantinsuyu) was not an early state, but had co-opted the myths and king lists of a much earlier one, Tiwanaku, which managed an empire that straddled the Andes from the Pacific Coast to the warm valleys of the Amazon Basin. Tiwanaku began as a village (about 1580 BC), but was a state by 133 AD and an empire by 724, lasting until 1187 when it collapsed in a civil war and broke up into smaller chieftainships (señoríos) that were independent until they were later conquered by the Inka.

The capital city of Tiwanaku was built near Lake Titicaca, on the high plains of Bolivia, not far from the border of modern-day Peru. It once housed 100,000 residents and was centered on large stone buildings made of sandstone and andesite, a hard rock quarried in Peru and ferried across Lake Titicaca on ships woven from the reeds that grew in the shallow waters. Tiwanaku was created long before the first Inka, Pachacuti, organized Tawantinsuyu in Cusco starting in 1438. So the Inka’s Tawantinsuyu was a late state, patterned on the much earlier and long-lasting Empire of Tiwanaku.

But in the pre-Colombian Andes, states could collect taxes in potatoes because of an ingenious method of making them light-weight and non-perishable. The Inka and the people of Tiwanaku both knew how to freeze dry potatoes during the winter nights of the high Andes. This preserved potato is called chuño: there are two types, a grey one and a white one, called tunta, which is soaked in water during processing. Both types are as hard and dry as wood. With the water removed, the potato loses weight and can be stored for years. Potatoes were portable once they were transformed into chuño. The Inka taxed their subjects in chuño, as well as maize. Both of these foods were kept in royal storehouses. Chuño was simply soaked in water and boiled to make them edible.

The Inka Empire was large and complex, eventually spanning most of the Andes, from Ecuador to northern Argentina. Like Old World states, the Inka collected taxies in grain: maize in this case. But unlike other classic civilizations, the Inka and an earlier state, Tiwanaku were also largely sustained by a perishable tuber crop, thanks to ingenious recipes for preserving the potato as chuño.

The modern cities of Peru and Bolivia have kept few vestiges of the ancient states that preceded them. But you can still buy chuño in Andean markets and even at upscale supermarkets. The ancient states are gone. Their art works are now curiosities in museums, yet the crops the Inka grew and their imaginative methods of preserving and serving food are still very much alive.

Earlier blog stories

The bad old days

The tyrant of the Andes

Further reading

Finucane, Brian Clifton 2009 “Maize and Sociopolitical Complexity in the Ayacucho Valley, Peru.” Current Anthropology 50(4):533-545.

Haas, Jonathan & Winifred Creamer 2006 “Crucible of Andean Civilization: The Peruvian Coast from 3000 to 1800 BC.” Current Anthropology 47(5):745-775.

Horkheimer, Hans [1973] 2004 Alimentación y Obtención de Alimentos en el Perú Prehispánico. Lima: Instituto Nacional de Cultura. Segunda edición.

Montaño Durán, Patricia 2016 El Imperio de Tiwanaku. Tercera Edición. Cochabamba: Grupo Editorial Kipus. 249 pp.

Scott, James C. 2017 Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Potato marmalade April 29th, 2018 by

Vea la versión en español a continuación

The American anthropologist Mary Weismantel notes that for peasant farmers in the Ecuadorian Andes, cooking is the very last step (before eating) in the long process of growing crops.

During my career I’ve met many agricultural scientists working on better ways to grow more food on small farms, to harvest it more efficiently and lose less in storage. Until recently, I had met few who studied better ways of cooking.

At UMSS, a public university in Bolivia, food technologist, Prof. Jenny Espinoza, and her students are designing new products from potato. They hope that these products will increase the demand for potatoes and raise prices that Bolivian smallholders receive. One student has discovered that unique colors of natural dye can be derived from the various native varieties of Andean potatoes. Another has made pasta from potato flour.

Last week I had a chance to see thesis students Marizel Rojas and Dubeiza Flores making potato marmalade in the food laboratory. Strictly speaking, marmalade is made from oranges, but in South America most jams are called “mermelada.” As with all inventions, such as the lightbulb or metal plow, creating a new food product involves trial and error, with the inventor slowly working towards the target concept.

Marizel and Dubeiza got some suggestions for marmalade from the internet. These weren’t much help, but they were a start. The potato is a good source of pectin, the glue that holds the jam together, but the original recipes produced a lumpy, tasteless paste. Eventually the researchers figured out how much sugar to add, and they learned that fruit had to be added to add more flavor than a plain potato could offer. They also realized that the potato had to be puréed in an electronic blender.

The student researchers learned that the total amount of sugar had to equal 80% of the combined volume of potatoes and fruit, after boiling off most of the water. Then these amounts had to be converted into simple measures that cooks could use without doing any arithmetic.

After watching the thesis students make the jam, we sat down with some of the other faculty and students and ate a whole jar of it on crackers (biscuits). It was delicious, especially when warm, with no taste of potato.

Agricultural inventions often go through several stages. The researcher develops a prototype which farmers validate, and modify, which can then be shared with other communities. They then continue to creatively adapt the idea.

The potato marmalade is still at the prototype stage, but it has come a long way. The students have started to make their products with a farm community in Piusilla, Morochata, near Cochabamba. Only time will tell if potato marmalade becomes popular with consumers, but the research has shown a bit more of the potential hidden in the versatile potato. The trials have been a training ground for two young food engineers. If you can make marmalade from potatoes no doubt many more things can be made from the humble tuber.

Related blog stories

We recently wrote about Bolivian farmers who are marketing value added products.
Marketing something nice

Related videos

Tomato concentrate and juice

Try it at home

If you want to experiment with potato marmalade at home you will need the following:

Ingredients

3 small to medium-sized potatoes (100 grams raw, after peeling and cutting)

1 cup of water

1 small pineapple. Or about 2 cups (or 100 grams)

3 cups of sugar (160 grams)

The juice of 2 small lemons or 2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Makes enough marmalade to fill about 3 jars.

Steps

Peel the potatoes, wash them and cut them into cubes. They should make about 2 cups when cubed, or 100 grams.

Boil the potatoes until they are cooked.

Purée the mashed potatoes in an electric blender with a cup of water, which makes the potatoes easier to blend.

Peel the pineapple, cut it into cubes. Purée it in the blender. It should be about 2 cups or 100 grams of fruit.

Add the pineapple purée to the potato.

Add just 1 cup of sugar. (Don’t add all 3 cups now, or the marmalade will turn brown).

Return the mix to the stovetop and boil for about 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Boil until the mixture is thick. As you boil off the water, the mix should lose about half of its volume.

Add the other 2 cups of sugar and cook for about 5 minutes until the mixture is thick.

Stir in the lemon juice.

Remove from the fire and pour the hot marmalade into sterile glass jars.

Put the lid on the jars and turn the jars upside down to cool. Turning the jars upside down sterilizes the inner side of the lid with the boiling hot marmalade.

MERMELADA DE PAPA

Por Jeff Bentley, 29 de abril del 2018

La antropóloga estadounidense Mary Weismantel señala que para los campesinos de los Andes ecuatorianos, cocinar es el último paso (antes de comer) en un largo proceso que empieza con la siembra.

A través de los años, he conocido a muchos científicos agrícolas que tratan de mejorar el cultivo de alimentos en fincas campesinas, cosechar de manera más eficiente y perder menos en pos-cosecha. Pero hasta hace poco, conocía a pocos que estudiaban mejores formas de cocinar.

En la UMSS, una universidad pública en Bolivia, la tecnóloga de alimentos, la Prof. Jenny Espinoza, y sus estudiantes están diseñando nuevos productos de papa. Esperan que estos productos aumenten la demanda de la papa y que suban los precios que reciben los campesinos bolivianos. Una tesista ha descubierto que se pueden derivar colores únicos de las diversas variedades nativas de papas andinas. Otra ha hecho pasta de harina de papa.

La semana pasada tuve la oportunidad de ver a las tesistas Marizel Rojas y Dubeiza Flores mientras hacían mermelada de papa en el laboratorio de alimentos. Como con todos los inventos, como el foco de luz o el arado de metal, la inventora de un nuevo producto alimenticio usa el método de la prueba y error, trabajando lenta pero sistemáticamente hacia el concepto objetivo

Marizel y Dubeiza recibieron algunas sugerencias de mermelada de Internet. Estos no fueron de mucha ayuda, pero fueron un comienzo. La papa es una buena fuente de pectina, el pegamento que aglutina la mermelada, pero las recetas originales produjeron una pasta grumosa e insípida. Finalmente, las investigadoras calcularon que cantidad de azúcar agregar, y aprendieron que había que agregar fruta para dar más sabor del que podría ofrecer una papa común. También se dieron cuenta de que la papa tenía que ser hacerse puré en una licuadora.

Las tesistas aprendieron que la cantidad total de azúcar tenía que ser igual al 80% del volumen combinado de la papa y la fruta, después de perder la mayor parte del agua durante la cocción. Luego estas cantidades tuvieron que convertirse en medidas simples que las cocineras podrían usar sin hacer cálculos matemáticos.

Después de hacer la mermelada, nos sentamos con algunos de los otros profesores y estudiantes y comimos un frasco completo con galletas. Fue deliciosa, especialmente por ser caliente. No tenía ningún sabor a papa.

Los inventos agrícolas a menudo pasan por varias etapas. La investigadora desarrolla un prototipo que las agricultoras validan y modifican, que luego se puede compartir con otras comunidades. Luego continúan adaptando creativamente la idea.

La mermelada de papa todavía está en la etapa de prototipo, pero ha recorrido un largo camino. Las tesistas han comenzado a hacer sus productos con la comunidad agrícola de Piusilla, Morochata, cerca de Cochabamba. Solo el tiempo dirá si la mermelada de papa se vuelve popular entre los consumidores, pero la investigación ha mostrado un poco más del potencial escondido en la versátil papa. Las pruebas han sido un campo de entrenamiento para dos jóvenes ingenieras de alimentos. Si se puede hacer mermelada de la papa, sin duda, se pueden hacer muchas más cosas a partir del humilde tubérculo.

Artículos relacionados en nuestro blog

Hace poco escribimos sobre agricultores bolivianos que venden productos de valor agregado.

Algo bonito para vender

Videos relacionados

Tomato concentrate and juice

Pruébalo en casa

Si desea experimentar con mermelada de papa en su hogar, necesitará lo siguiente:

Ingredientes

3 papas pequeñas a medianas (100 gramos crudos, después de pelar y cortar)

1 taza de agua

1 piña pequeña o unas 2 tazas (o 100 gramos)

3 tazas de azúcar (160 gramos)

El jugo de 2 limones pequeños o 2 cucharadas de jugo de limón

Hace suficiente mermelada para llenar alrededor de 3 frascos.

Pasos

Pele las papas, lávelas y córtelas en cubos. Debe ser unas 2 tazas cuando están en cubos, o 100 gramos.

Hervir las papas hasta que estén cocidas.

Haga el puré de papas en una licuadora eléctrica con una taza de agua, para que las papas sean más fáciles de mezclar.

Pele la piña, córtela en cubos, haciendo un puré en la licuadora. Es aproximadamente 2 tazas o 100 gramos de fruta.

Agregue el puré de piña a la papa.

Agregue solo 1 taza de azúcar. (No agregue las 3 tazas ahora, o la mermelada se pondrá marrón).

Regrese la mezcla a la estufa y hierva durante más o menos 15 minutos, revolviendo constantemente. Hierva hasta que la mezcla esté espesa. Al hervirse, la mezcla debería perder aproximadamente la mitad de su volumen.

Agregue las otras 2 tazas de azúcar y cocine por unos 5 minutos hasta que la mezcla esté espesa.

Agregue el jugo de limón.

Retire del fuego y vierta la mermelada caliente en frascos de vidrio estériles.

Pon la tapa sobre los frascos y ponga los frascos boca abajo mientras se enfríen. Así se esteriliza la parte interior de la tapa con la mermelada hirviendo.

Big chicken, little chicken April 22nd, 2018 by

vea la versión en español a continuación

In her 2017 book Big Chicken, Maryn McKenna tells the story of antibiotic abuse in agriculture. In the 1940s the US military used antibiotics to treat soldiers suffering from infectious disease, one of the first large-scale uses of these drugs. Penicillin had been placed in the public domain, and the world was in an optimistic mood at having a widely available treatment for common infections. Soon after the war, in 1948, British-American scientist Thomas Jukes, working at Lederle Laboratories in New Jersey, showed that chickens gained more weight when their food included antibiotics, even on a poor diet. This was a crucial discovery for industrializing chicken rearing. Until then, poultry in the USA were mostly reared in small batches, allowed to range freely in fields, where they scratched a natural diet of plants and bugs, sometimes supplemented with fish meal. Chickens are by nature highly omnivorous. Discovering that antibiotics helped to fatten chickens meant that the birds could be fed cheap, low-grade maize and soybean.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved antibiotics as a growth regulator in the USA in 1951. By the 1950s, a successful chicken farmer in Georgia, Jesse Dixon Jewell, began to expand his operation by selling chicks and feed to other farmers, and buying their finished birds. The feed was laced with antibiotics, partly to boost growth but also to control bacterial diseases. Industry would soon follow this twin example of farming out the birds to contract growers, and including the antibiotics in their prepared rations.

By 2001, Americans were taking 3 million pounds (1.4 million kilos) of antibiotics, while US livestock was being dosed with 24.6 million pounds (11.2 million kilos).

For many years there were few if any concerns about this unprecedented use of a human drug to boost food production, and cheap meat was certainly popular. But this relaxed attitude began to change when research showed that much of the antibiotics ended up in the meat and eggs that consumers ate. This widespread use meant that once valuable drugs began to be compromised as bacteria that caused disease in humans became resistant to the antibiotics.

Under pressure from pharmaceutical companies, the US government was slow to restrict antibiotics as animal growth promotors. Finally, the large poultry companies began to self-regulate. By about 2009 they realized that they could produce birds without antibiotics, simply by using vaccines and improving farm hygiene. By 2014 some of the largest producers in the US, like Foster Farms and Perdue Farms, had stopped feeding antibiotics to chickens. Various grocery stores and fast food chains soon banned chicken raised on antibiotics.

In September 2016 the UN moved to curb non-prophylactic antibiotic use in animals, which was linked to an estimated 700,000 human deaths worldwide, per year. In North America and Western Europe antibiotic abuse was by then largely solved, thanks to improved industry standards, government regulations and public awareness. But McKenna cautions that livestock antibiotic abuse remains a worrying problem in much of South America, South Asia and China.

As soon as I finished reading Big Chicken, Ana and I visited La Cancha, the vast, open air market that still functions in Cochabamba, where we bought a little grey hen and a big red one.

Feeding the hens was a chance to learn what smallholder farmers have always known: that chickens are as omnivorous as people. Chickens prefer meat to vegetables. Ours preferred the smaller, denser grains like sorghum to corn.

Chickens especially like sow bugs, the little roly-poly crustaceans that live in leaf litter worldwide. Our hens learned to knock the seeds off of amaranth plants and then eat the seeds from the ground. Chickens also like table scraps, including meat, but especially eggs.

The longer we keep these birds, now named Oxford and Cambridge, the bigger their eggs get. They both lay an egg every day; clearly the hunter-gatherer diet agrees with them.

The problem, as McKenna explains, is that factory farming made chicken as cheap as bread in the USA and Europe. People living in low income countries now want their chance at cheap meat. Chicken is cheap in Bolivia and easily affordable. In the open air market it sells for just 10 Bs. ($1.40) per kilo and fried chicken restaurants have sprung up all over the city.

Rearing chickens has become a new industry in Bolivia. Farmers can make a barn with cheap lumber and plastic sheeting, buy the day-old chicks and purchase the feed by the bag or the ton. No doubt many of the poultry producers in Bolivia are careful and conscientious. But many growers raise their birds on feed blended with antibiotics, labelled as a growth promotor, and there is little public awareness of the risk of antibiotics in animal feed. While there are compelling reasons to reduce the cost of food in low income countries, the global South also needs to consider the risks of animal antibiotics.

Further reading

Maryn 2017 Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of how Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats. Washington DC: National Geographic. 400 pp.

Related videos

Taking care of local chickens

Feeding improved chickens

Working together for healthy chicks

Keeping milk free from antibiotics

Herbal treatment for diarrhoea

BIG CHICKEN, POLLO GRANDE

por Jeff Bentley, 22 de abril del 2018

En su libro Big Chicken de 2017, Maryn McKenna cuenta la historia del abuso de antibióticos en la agricultura. En la década de 1940, el ejército de los Estados Unidos usó los antibióticos para tratar a los soldados que se padecían de enfermedades infecciosas, uno de los primeros usos a gran escala de estas drogas. La penicilina se había colocado en el dominio público, y el mundo estaba optimista de tener un tratamiento ampliamente disponible para infecciones comunes. Poco después de la guerra, en 1948, el científico británico-americano Thomas Jukes, que trabajaba en Lederle Laboratories en Nueva Jersey, demostró que los pollos ganaban más peso cuando sus alimentos incluían antibióticos, incluso con una dieta pobre. Este fue un descubrimiento crucial para la industrialización de la crianza de pollos. Hasta entonces, las aves de corral en los Estados Unidos se criaban principalmente en pequeños lotes; se les permitía ir libremente a los campos, donde arañaban una dieta natural de plantas e insectos, a veces complementada con harina de pescado. Los pollos son por naturaleza altamente omnívoros. Descubrir que los antibióticos ayudaban a engordar pollos significaba que las aves podrían ser alimentadas con maíz y soya baratos.

La FDA (Administración de Alimentos y Medicamentos) aprobó los antibióticos como un regulador de crecimiento en los Estados Unidos en 1951. En la década de 1950, un exitoso granjero de pollos en Georgia, Jesse Dixon Jewell, comenzó a expandir su operación vendiendo pollos y alimento concentrado a otros granjeros, y comprando sus aves terminadas. El concentrado se mezclaba con antibióticos, en parte para estimular el crecimiento, pero también para controlar las enfermedades bacterianas. La industria pronto seguiría este doble ejemplo de criar las aves por contrato e incluir los antibióticos en sus raciones preparadas.

En 2001, los estadounidenses tomaron 1,4 millones de kilos de antibióticos, mientras que el ganado estadounidense se dosificó con 11,2 millones de kilos.

Durante muchos años hubo poca o ninguna preocupación sobre este uso sin precedentes de una droga humana para impulsar la producción de alimentos, y sin duda la carne barata fue popular. Pero esta actitud relajada comenzó a cambiar cuando la investigación mostró que gran parte de los antibióticos quedaban en la carne y los huevos que consumían los consumidores. Este uso generalizado significó que las bacterias que causan enfermedades humanas se volvieron resistentes a los antibióticos por su uso excesivo en los animales.

Bajo la presión de las compañías farmacéuticas, el gobierno estadounidense hizo poco para restringir los antibióticos como promotores del crecimiento animal. Finalmente, las grandes compañías avícolas comenzaron a autorregularse. Alrededor de 2009 se dieron cuenta de que podían producir aves sin antibióticos, simplemente usando vacunas y mejorando la higiene de la granja. Para 2014, algunos de los productores más grandes de Norteamérica, como Foster Farms y Perdue Farms, habían dejado de alimentar con antibióticos a los pollos. Varios supermercados y cadenas de comida rápida pronto prohibieron el pollo criado con antibióticos.

En septiembre de 2016, la ONU actuó para frenar el uso de antibióticos no profilácticos en animales, lo que se relacionó con unas estimadas 700,000 muertes humanas en todo el mundo, por año. En América del Norte y Europa occidental, el abuso de antibióticos se resolvió en gran medida, gracias a la mejora de los estándares de la industria, las regulaciones gubernamentales y la conciencia pública. Pero McKenna advierte que el abuso de antibióticos en los animales sigue siendo un problema preocupante en gran parte de Sudamérica, el sur de Asia y China.

Tan pronto como terminé de leer Big Chicken, Ana y yo visitamos La Cancha, el vasto mercado al aire libre que todavía funciona en Cochabamba, donde compramos una gallinita gris y una roja grande.

Alimentar a las gallinas fue una oportunidad de aprender lo que los pequeños agricultores siempre han sabido: que los pollos son tan omnívoros como las personas. Los pollos prefieren la carne a las verduras. Prefieren los granos más pequeños y densos como el sorgo al maíz.

A las gallinas les encantan los llamados chanchitos, los pequeños crustáceos redondos que viven en la hojarasca en todo el mundo. Nuestras gallinas aprendieron a sacudir las semillas de las plantas de amaranto y luego a comer las semillas del suelo. A los pollos también les gustan los restos de comida, incluida la carne, pero especialmente los huevos.

Mientras más tiempo tengamos estas aves, ahora llamadas Oxford y Cambridge, más grandes son sus huevos. Cada una pone un huevo todos los días; claramente la dieta de los cazadores-recolectores les hace bien.

El problema, como explica McKenna, es que las granjas industriales hacían que el pollo fuera tan barato como el pan en los Estados Unidos y Europa. La gente en los países de bajos ingresos ahora quiere la carne barata; les toca. El pollo es barato en Bolivia y es fácilmente asequible. En la Cancha se vende por solo 10 Bs. ($ 1.40) por kilo y restaurantes de pollo frito han surgido por toda la ciudad.

La cría de pollos se ha convertido en una nueva industria en Bolivia. Los agricultores pueden hacer un granero con madera barata y hojas de plástico, comprar los pollitos de un día y comprar el alimento por bolsa o por tonelada. Sin duda, muchos de los productores avícolas en Bolivia son cuidadosos y concienzudos. Sin embargo, muchos crían a sus aves con alimentos mezclados con antibióticos, vendidos como promotores del crecimiento, y hay poca conciencia pública sobre el riesgo de los antibióticos en la alimentación animal. Si bien existen razones convincentes para reducir el costo de los alimentos en los países de bajos ingresos, el Sur Global también debe considerar los riesgos de los antibióticos en los animales.

Lectura adicional

Maryn 2017 Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of how Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats. Washington DC: National Geographic. 400 pp.

Videos relevantes

El cuidado de las gallinas criollas

Feeding improved chickens

Working together for healthy chicks

Keeping milk free from antibiotics

Herbal treatment for diarrhoea

Marketing something nice April 15th, 2018 by

vea la versión en español a continuación

I’ve always been impressed by the way Bolivians adapt creatively to new situations. The other day Ana and I went to a farmers’ fair in the small town of Colcapirhua, near Cochabamba. The fair was due to be held in the charming main square of the town. Paved in flagstones, closed to through traffic and with steps leading up to a small church it would have been a delightful venue. But local townspeople were already there, angrily but peacefully protesting about alleged corruption in their town council.

The protesters were there to stay, so the farmers moved their fair two blocks south, where they strung out their stands on an empty side lane along the main highway between Cochabamba and La Paz. It was less picturesque, but there were more potential customers passing by.

The farmers selling goods represented organized groups from all regions of Bolivia. The fair was actually part of the annual meeting of the National Soils Platform, which had chosen “fair trade” as its annual theme. As we moved up the line of stalls, the farmers were keen to sell us a wide range of goods that were not only high quality, but also unique, such as strawberries from the valleys of Santa Cruz, oven dried to sweet perfection.

Coffee growers from the Amazon (parts of which are cool enough for coffee) had brought little plastic bags of coffee seed. “Ready to plant!” they exclaimed, eager to encourage other farmers to start growing their own coffee. Cacao farmers from the Beni had bitter, white and milk chocolate. There was real pleasure in buying chocolate from the people who had made it from the cacao beans that they grew themselves.

There were tiny puffed grains of amaranth (ready to eat like cold cereal), fresh cherimoyas (a native fruit—but of a small, sweet variety that is now hard to find). Some farmers from Chuquisaca had a local variety of chilli that was so hot, it is called “la gran putita (the great little whore)”. We had to buy some.

There was traditional food, like an aged cow’s cheese from the warm valley of Comarapa. It tasted marvelous, but the smell of cow was not for beginners.

What struck me the most was how many of the products were new, and inventive. Things you wouldn’t find in the supermarket in Cochabamba, such as dried apples, preserved peaches still on the stone (moist and sweet but with no sugar added). Quinoa and wheat were packed in neat plastic bags, with labels, ready to make into soup.

We have said in a previous blog that smallholders with attractive products struggle to produce equally attractive labels, which by law often have to list ingredients. Here, the chocolate was wrapped in handsome paper with a printed label.

My favorite was the apple vinegar, in recycled Mexican beer bottles. The farmers had covered the beer label with a new paper one, proudly explaining that this vintage was made from just three ingredients: organic apples, raw cane sugar with no additives, and water. The bottles were neatly sealed with bright yellow bottle caps.

Most of these farmers’ associations have received support, often from their parish priest or from Church-sponsored NGOs, some with volunteers from Europe and elsewhere. Outside help in manufacturing and packaging had clearly contributed to the quality of the goods, but the farmers were self-motivated to sell their goods. Agriculture is in large measure about producing something to sell.

Although this was an event on fair trade, there was no mention of being certified as fair trade. One speaker the first day had mentioned some of the hurdles that keep smallholders from being able to qualify for fair trade certification, and this group had readily agreed with her.

This group of smallholders certainly understood one basic idea, marketing means you must have something nice to sell: attractive, high quality and well presented. Farmers across the globe deserve a fair price for their products, and smart marketing helps to achieve this.

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ALGO BONITO PARA VENDER

por Jeff Bentley, 15 de abril del 2018

Los bolivianos siempre me han impresionado con su habilidad de adaptarse creativamente a las nuevas situaciones. El otro día fui con Ana a una feria agrícola en el pueblito de Colcapirhua, cerca de Cochabamba. La feria tenía que realizarse en la linda plaza del pueblo. Enlozada, cerrada al tráfico de autos y con una capilla sobre una colina, hubiera sido un lugar encantador. Pero algunos vecinos del pueblo ya estaban allí, protestando pacíficamente pero molestos contra la supuesta corrupción de sus concejales.

La protesta no se movía, así que los agricultores trasladaron su feria dos cuadras al sur, donde colocaron sus carpas en una fila en un camino vacío al lado de la carretera principal entre Cochabamba y La Paz. El lugar no era tan pintoresco, pero sí había más compradores que pasaban a pie.

Los agricultores representaban a grupos organizados de todas las regiones de Bolivia. En realidad, la feria era parte de la reunión anual de la Plataforma Nacional de Suelos, que había escogido a “comercio justo” como su tema anual. Al caminar por los puestos, los agricultores estaban con ganas de vender una amplia gama de productos que no solamente eran de buena calidad, pero también únicos, como las frutillas (fresas) de los valles de Santa Cruz, secadas a la perfección en horno.

Caficultores de la Amazonía (partes de la cual son tan frescas que se puede cultivar café) habían traído bolsitas de semilla de café. “¡Listo para el almácigo!” exclamaron, felices de animar a otros a producir su propio café. Productores del Beni tenían chocolate amargo, blanco y con leche. Dio gusto comprar chocolate de la gente que lo hizo, a partir de granos de los cacao que ellos mismos cosecharon.

Habían pipocas de amaranto. Habían chirimoyas (un fruto nativo—pero de una dulce variedad pequeña que cuesta encontrar). Algunos de Chuquisaca tenían una variedad local de ají tan picante que le llamaban “la gran putita”. Había que comprar un poco.

También había comida tradicional, como un queso añejo de leche de vaca del valle bajo de Comarapa. El sabor era maravilloso, pero el olor a vaca no era para principiantes.

Lo que más me impresionó era que muchos de los productos eran nuevos e innovadores. Cosas que no se encuentran en el supermercado de Cochabamba, como manzanas secas, duraznos preservados con la pepa (húmedos y dulces sin azúcar agregado). Quinua y trigo en bolsas impresas con etiquetas ya estaban listos para hacer sopa.

En un blog previo hemos dicho que los campesinos luchan para hacer etiquetas dignas de sus lindos productos. Por ley las etiquetas tienen que describir los ingredientes. Por ejemplo el chocolate estaba envuelto en un papel hermoso con una etiqueta impresa.

Mi favorito era el vinagre de manzana, en botellas recicladas de cerveza mexicana. Los agricultores habían tapado la etiqueta original con una de papel, orgullosamente explicando que esta vendimia se hacía únicamente a partir de tres ingredientes: manzanas orgánicas, chancaca pura, y agua. Las botellas llevaban una tapa metálica de amarillo brillante.

La mayoría de esas asociaciones rurales han recibido apoyo, a menudo de su parroquia o de ONGs vinculados a la Iglesia, algunos con voluntarios de Europa y otros lados. La ayuda de forasteros en la manufactura y el envase sí había contribuido a la calidad de los bienes, pero los agricultores estaban auto-motivados a vender sus productos. La agricultora en gran medida se trata de producir algo para vender.

A pesar de que el evento se trataba del comercio justo, no había mención de hacerse certificar como comercio justo. Una expositora el primer día mencionó varios de los obstáculos que previenen que los campesinos puedan certificarse, y este grupo había estado plenamente de acuerdo con ella.

Estos campesinos organizados tenían bien claro que el comercio consiste en tener algo bonito para vender: atractivo, de alta calidad y bien presentada. Las familias campesinas en todo el mundo merecen un precio justo por sus productos, y el mercadeo inteligente les ayuda a lograrlo.

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Y algunos relatos sobre el chocolate:

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