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Tourist development September 10th, 2023 by

Vea la versi√≥n en espa√Īol a continuaci√≥n

Rural communities are starting to welcome local tourism as a way to make money. And more people in the expanding cities of Latin America are now looking for outings they can take close to home.

This year, local officials in Anzaldo, in the provinces of Cochabamba, Bolivia, asked for help bringing tourists to their municipality. Aguiatur, an association of tour guides, offered to help.

In late June, Alberto Buitrón, who heads Aguiatur, and a carload of tour guides, visited Claudio Pérez, the young tourism-culture official for the municipal government of Anzaldo. They went to see local attractions, and people who could benefit from a tour. They also printed an attractive handout explaining what the visitors would see.

In late July, ads ran in the newspaper, promoting the tour, and inviting interested people to deposit 250 Bolivianos ($35) for every two passengers, into a certain bank account. Ana and I live in Cochabamba, 65 kilometers from Anzaldo, and we decided to make the trip, but the banks had already closed on Friday . So, I just went to the Aguiatur office. Alberto was busy preparing for the trip, but he graciously accepted my payment. ‚ÄúAnd with the two of you, the bus is closed,‚ÄĚ Alberto said, with an air of finality.

But by Saturday, more people had asked to go, and so Alberto charted a second bus and phoned the cook who would make our lunch on Sunday. At 8 PM, Saturday night, she agreed to make lunch the next day for 60 people instead of 30. In Bolivia, flexible planning often works just fine.

Early Sunday morning, we tourists met at Barba de Padilla, a small plaza in the old city of Cochabamba, and the tour agents assigned each person a seat on the bus. That would make it easy to see if anyone had strayed. Many of the tourists were retired people, more women than men, and a few grandkids. They were all from Bolivia, but many had never been to Anzaldo.

At each stop, Aguiatur had organized the local people to provide a service or sell food. In the hamlet of Flor de Pukara, we met Claudio, the municipal tourist official, but also Camila, just out of high school, and Zacarías Reyes, a retired school teacher. Camila and don Zacarías were from Flor de Pukara, and they were our local guides to show us the pre-Inka pukara (fortified site). This pukara was a cluster of stone walls on top of a rock crag. Tour guide Marizol Choquetopa, from Aguiatur, cautioned the group not to leave trash and not to remove any of the ancient pot sheds. And no one did, as near as I could tell. Our local guides told us stories about the place: spirits in the form of young ladies are said to appear on one rock outcropping, Torre Qaqa (Cliff Tower), to play music and dance at night.

We walked along the stone banks of the river, the Jatun Mayu. Then Camila’s mother served us phiri, a little dish of steamed cracked wheat, topped with cheese. It was faintly fermented, and fabulous.

In the small town of Anzaldo, we met Marco Delgadillo, a local agronomist and businessman, who has moved back to Anzaldo after his successful career in the city of Cochabamba. His hotel, El Molino del B√ļho (Owl Mill), includes a room for making and tasting chicha, a local alcoholic beverage brewed from maize. There was plenty of room for our large group in the salon, where we had a delicious lunch of lawa, a maize soup with potatoes, roast beef and chicken.

After lunch, our two buses gingerly navigated the narrow streets of the small town of Anzaldo. The town plaza had recently been fitted out with large models of dinosaurs to encourage visitors to come see fossils and dinosaur tracks. Two taxis were parked at the plaza, and the drivers evidently thought that they owned the town square. As the buses inched by, one taxi driver got out and angrily offered to come over and give our bus driver a beating. The passengers yelled back, urging the taxi driver to be reasonable, and he quieted down.

Our sense of adventure heightened by that buffoonish threat of violence, we drove out to the village of Tijraska. Local leaders clearly wanted to receive visitors. The community had prepared for our visit by putting up little signs indicating how to get to there. One of the leaders, don Mario, welcomed us in Quechua, the local language. Then he paused and asked if the tourists could understand Quechua.

Several people said yes, which delighted don Mario.

We strolled down to the banks of the muddy reservoir, in a narrow canyon. One young man, Ramiro, had bought a new wooden boat, with which he paddled small groups around an island in the reservoir.

For the grand finale, we stopped at the home of Ariel Angulo, a respected Bolivian musician, song writer and maker of musical instruments. Don Ariel played for us, and showed us the shop where he carves his wooden charangos, small stringed instruments. He explained that the charango was copied from a colonial Spanish instrument, the timple. After living in the city of Cochabamba for years, don Ariel has moved back home, to Anzaldo. The best charangos used to be made in Anzaldo, before the instrument makers moved to Cochabamba. Don Ariel hopes to teach young people to make charangos, and bring the craft back to Anzaldo.

This was the first ever package tour to come to Anzaldo. Local tourism from the emerging big cities of tropical countries can be a source of income for rural people, while teaching city people something about the countryside. Some people who left the small towns are retiring back in the countryside, and can help provide services to visitors and even bring traditional crafts back. It is easier for Bolivian tour guides to work with local tourists than foreign ones. For example, the local people speak the national languages. The local tour guides know how to deal with customers who sign up late. There may be risks of over-visitation, but for now, municipal governments are willing to explore tourism as development. And it can be done locally, with no foreign investment or international visitors.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to David Garviz√ļ, Irassema Guzm√°n, Marizol Choquetopa and Alberto Buitr√≥n of Aguiatur, for a safe and educational trip to Anzaldo. Alberto Buitr√≥n, Ana Gonz√°les and Paul Van Mele read and commented on an earlier version of this story.

A video from Anzaldo

Here is a video about producing healthy lupins, a nutritious. local food crop, filmed in Anzaldo in 2017. Growing lupin without disease

TURISMO PARA EL DESARROLLO

Jeff Bentley, 10 de septiembre del 2023

Las comunidades rurales empiezan a fomentar el turismo local para generar ingresos. Y más gente en las crecientes ciudades de Latinoamérica empieza a buscar destinos cerca de la casa.

Este a√Īo, algunos oficiales en Anzaldo, en las provincias de Cochabamba, Bolivia, pidieron ayuda para traer turistas a su municipio. Aguiatur, una asociaci√≥n de gu√≠as tur√≠sticos, ofreci√≥ su ayuda.

Fines de junio, Alberto Buitrón, el director de Aguiatur, y varios guías, visitaron a Claudio Pérez, el joven Responsable de Turismo-Cultura del municipio de Anzaldo. Visitaron a varios atractivos, y a vecinos que podrían aprovechar del tour. Además, imprimieron un lindo folleto explicando qué es que los visitantes verían.

Fines de julio, salieron anuncios en el peri√≥dico, promoviendo el tour, e invitando a los interesados a depositar 250 Bs. ($35) para cada par de pasajeros, en una cuenta bancaria. Ana y yo vivimos Cochabamba, a 65 kil√≥metros de Anzaldo, y reci√©n decidimos viajar despu√©s del cierre de los bancos el viernes. Por eso, fui no m√°s a las oficinas de Aguiatur. Alberto estaba en plenos preparativos para el tour, pero amablemente me atendi√≥. ‚ÄúY con ustedes dos, el bus est√° cerrado,‚ÄĚ dijo Alberto, con el aire de la finalidad.

Sin embargo, para el sábado más personas pidieron cupos, así que Alberto contrató un segundo bus, y llamó a la cocinera que haría nuestro almuerzo el domingo. A las 8 PM, el sábado, ella quedó en hacer almuerzo para el día siguiente para 60 personas en vez de 30. En Bolivia, la planificación flexible suele funcionar bastante bien.

A primera hora el domingo, los turistas nos reunimos en la peque√Īa plaza de Barba de Padilla, en el casco viejo de Cochabamba, y los gu√≠as tur√≠sticos asignaron a cada persona un asiento en el bus. As√≠ podr√≠an llevar un buen control y no perder a nadie. Muchos de los turistas eran jubilados, m√°s mujeres que hombres, con algunos nietitos. Todos eran de Bolivia, pero muchos no conoc√≠an a Anzaldo.

En cada escala, Aguiatur hab√≠a organizado a la gente local para dar un servicio o vender comida. En el caser√≠o de Flor de Pukara, conocimos a Claudio, el oficial de turismo municipal, pero tambi√©n a Camila, reci√©n egresada del colegio, y Zacar√≠as Reyes, un profesor jubilado. Camila y don Zacar√≠as eran de Flor de Pukara, y como gu√≠as locales nos mostraron la Pukara preincaica. La pukara era una colecci√≥n de muros de piedra encima de un pe√Īasco. Nuestra gu√≠a Marizol Choquetopa, de Aguiatur, advirti√≥ al grupo no botar basura y no llevar los tiestos antiguos. Y que yo sepa, nadie lo hizo. Nuestros gu√≠as locales nos contaron cuentos del lugar: esp√≠ritus en forma de se√Īoritas que aparecen sobre una un pe√Īasco, Torre Qaqa, para tocar m√ļsica y bailar de noche.

Caminamos sobre las orillas pedregosas del río Jatun Mayu. Luego la mamá de Camila nos sirvió un platillo de phiri, trigo quebrado al vapor con un poco de queso encima. Ligeramente fermentada, era fabulosa.

En el pueblo de Anzaldo, conocimos a Marco Delgadillo, agr√≥nomo local y empresario, que hab√≠a retornado a Anzaldo despu√©s de su exitosa carrera en la ciudad de Cochabamba. Su hotel, El Molino del B√ļho, incluye un cuarto para hacer y catear chicha de ma√≠z. Hab√≠a amplio campo para nuestro grupo en el sal√≥n principal, donde disfrutamos de un almuerzo delicioso de lawa, una sopa de ma√≠z con papas, carne asada y pollo.

Despu√©s del almuerzo, nuestros dos buses lentamente navegaron las estrechas calles del pueblo de Anzaldo. En la plaza se hab√≠an instalado modelos grandes de dinosaurios para animar a los turistas a visitar para ver a los f√≥siles y huellas de dinosaurios. Dos taxis estacionados se hab√≠an adue√Īado de la plaza. Los buses pasaban cent√≠metro por cent√≠metro, cuando un taxista sali√≥ y, perdiendo los cables, ofreci√≥ dar una paliza a nuestro conductor. Los pasajeros gritamos en su defensa, sugiriendo calma, y el taxista se call√≥.

Después del show del taxista payaso, tuvimos más ganas todavía para la aventura, mientras nos dirigimos a la comunidad de Tijraska. Los dirigentes claramente querían recibir visitas. La comunidad había preparado para nuestra visita, colocando letreros indicando el camino. Uno de los dirigentes, don Mario, nos dio la bienvenida en quechua, el idioma local. Luego pausó y dijo que tal vez no todos hablábamos el quechua.

De una vez, varios dijeron que sí, lo cual encantó a don Mario.

Caminamos a las orillas de un reservorio con agua color de tierra, en un ca√Ī√≥n angosto. Un joven, Ramiro, hab√≠a comprado una nueva lancha. Subimos en peque√Īos grupos y a remo nos mostr√≥ una isla en el reservorio.

Para cerrar con broche de oro, visitamos la casa de Ariel Angulo, un respetado m√ļsico boliviano. Tambi√©n es cantautor y hace finos instrumentos musicales. Don Ariel toc√≥ un par de canciones para nosotros, y nos mostr√≥ su taller de charangos de madera. Explic√≥ que el charango se copi√≥ durante la colonia de un instrumento espa√Īol, el timple. Despu√©s de vivir durante a√Īos en la ciudad de Cochabamba, don Ariel ha vuelto a su tierra natal, a Anzaldo. En anta√Īo los mejores charangos se hac√≠an en Anzaldo, antes de que los fabricantes se fueron a Cochabamba. Don Ariel espera ense√Īar a los j√≥venes a hacer charangos, y devolver esta arte a Anzaldo.

Nuestra gira a Anzaldo era el primero en la historia. El turismo local, partiendo de las pujantes ciudades de los pa√≠ses tropicales, puede ser una fuente de ingreso para la gente rural, mientras los citadinos aprendemos algo del campo. Algunas personas que abandonaron las provincias est√°n volviendo, y pueden ayudar a dar servicios a los visitantes, y hasta dar vida a las artes tradicionales. Es m√°s f√°cil para gu√≠as bolivianos trabajar con turistas locales que con extranjeros. Por ejemplo, los turistas locales hablan los idiomas nacionales. Los gu√≠as locales saben lidiar con clientes que se apuntan a √ļltima hora. S√≠ se corre el riesgo de una sobre visitaci√≥n, pero para ahora, los gobiernos municipales est√°n explorando al turismo local como una contribuci√≥n del desarrollo. Y se puede hacer con recursos locales, sin inversi√≥n extranjera y sin turistas internacionales.

Agradecimientos

Gracias a David Garviz√ļ, Irassema Guzm√°n, Marizol Choquetopa y Alberto Buitr√≥n de Aguiatur, por un viaje seguro y educativo a Anzaldo. Alberto Buitr√≥n, Ana Gonz√°les y Paul Van Mele leyeron e hicieron comentarios sobre una versi√≥n previa de este relato.

Un video de Anzaldo

Aquí está un video que muestra cómo producir tarwi (lupino) sano, un nutritivo alimento local, filmado en Anzaldo en el 2017. Producir tarwi sin enfermedad.

 

Proinpa: Agricultural research worth waiting for May 21st, 2023 by

Vea la versi√≥n en espa√Īol a continuaci√≥n

Agricultural research is notoriously slow. It takes years to bear fruit, and donor-funded agencies don’t always last very long. But Bolivia got lucky with one organization that survived.

It started in 1989, when the Swiss funded a project to do potato research, the Potato Research Program (Proinpa), working closely with a core staff of four scientists from the International Potato Center (CIP). Most of the other staff were young Bolivians, including many thesis students.

Ten years later, in 1998, it was time to fold up the project, but some visionary people from Proinpa, with enthusiastic support of Swiss and CIP colleagues, decided to give Proinpa a new life as a permanent agency or foundation.

By then ‚ÄúProinpa‚ÄĚ had some name-brand recognition, so they wisely kept the acronym, but changed the full name to ‚ÄúPromotion and Research of Andean Products.‚ÄĚ Proinpa‚Äôs leaders were not going to limit themselves to potatoes any more. The Swiss provided an endowment to pay for core costs, but it was not enough to run the whole organization.

Proinpa went through some rough times. When they stopped being a project, they had to give up their spacious offices in the city of Cochabamba. For a while they rented an aging building far from the city that had been used as a government rabies control center. Later, they could only afford one floor of that building. I remember being there on moving day, years ago, when they were all cramming into the smaller space, happily carrying boxes of files to squeeze together into shared offices. They were surviving.

Survival was important. Public-sector agricultural research in Bolivia was going through some rough times. The Bolivian Institute of Agricultural and Livestock Research (IBTA) closed in 1997 and its replacement died a few years later. Government agricultural research only started again In 2008, when the National Institute of Agricultural and Livestock and Forestry Innovation (INIAF) was created. During those years, Proinpa was an outstanding center for agricultural research in Bolivia, and curated priceless collections of potatoes and quinoas.

That potato seedbank was kept at Toralapa, in the countryside some 70 km from the city of Cochabamba. Over the years, Proinpa had expanded the collection from 1000 accessions to 4000. This biodiversity is the source of genetic material that plant breeders need to create new varieties. In 2010, the government, which owned the station at Toralapa, turned it over to INIAF. Proinpa worked with INIAF for a year, to ensure a stable transition, and the government of Bolivia still maintains that collection of potatoes and other Andean crops.

Proinpa recently asked me to join them for their 25th anniversary event, held at their small campus, built after 2005. The celebration started with tours of stands, where Proinpa highlighted their most important research.

Dr. Ximena Cadima, member of the Bolivian Academy of Science, explained how Proinpa has used its knowledge of local crops to breed 69 officially released new varieties, of the potato, quinoa and seven other crops. They also encouraging farmers to grow native potatoes on their farms, which is also crucial for keeping these unique crops alive.

Luis Crespo, entomologist, and Giovanna Plata, plant pathologist, explained their research to develop ecological alternatives to pest control. Luis talked about his work with insect sex pheromones. One of the many things he does is to dissect female moths and remove their scent glands, which he sends to a company in the Netherlands that isolates the sex pheromone from the glands. The company synthesizes the pheromone, makes more of it, and Proinpa uses it to bait traps. Male moths smell the pheromone, think it is a receptive female and fly to it. The frustrated males die in the trap. The females can’t lay eggs without mating, eliminating the next generation of pests before they are born.

Giovana showed us how they study the microbes that kill pathogens. She places different fungi and bacteria in petri dishes to see which microorganisms can physically displace the germs that cause crop diseases. She also isolates plant growth hormones, produced by the good microbes.

This background work on the ecology of microbes has informed Proinpa’s efforts to create a new industry of benign pest control. Jimmy Ciancas, an engineer, led us around Proinpa’s new plant, where they produce tons of beneficial bacteria and fungi to replace the chemicals that farmers use to control pests and diseases.

Proinpa also shows off the research by Dr. Alejandro Bonifacio and colleagues who are developing windbreaks of native plants and sowing wild lupines as a cover crop. This research aims to save the high Andes from the devastating erosion unleashed when the Quinoa Boom of 2010-2014 stripped away native vegetation. The soil simply blew away.

Later, we moved to Proinpa’s comfortable lunch room, which is shaded, but open to the air on three sides, perfect for Cochabamba’s climate. The place had been set up as a formal auditorium, where, for over an hour, Proinpa gave plaques to honor some of the many organizations that had helped them over the years: universities, INIAF, small-town mayors in the municipalities where Proinpa does field work. Many organizations reciprocated, giving Proinpa an award right back. Proinpa has survived because of good leadership, and because of its many friends.

In between the speeches, I got a chance to meet the man sitting next to me, Lionel Ichazo, who supervises three large, commercial farms for a food processing company in the lowlands of Eastern Bolivia. They grow soya in the summer and wheat and sorghum in the winter. Lionel confirmed what Proinpa says, that the use of natural pesticides is exploding on the low plains. Lionel uses Proinpa’s natural pesticides as a seed dressing to control disease. Lionel, who is also an agronomist and a graduate of El Zamorano, one of Latin America’s top agricultural universities (in Honduras), said that he noticed how the soil has been improving over the four years that he has used the microbes. The microorganisms were break down the crop stubble into carbon that the plants can use. Lionel added that most of the large-scale farmers are still treating their seeds with agrochemicals. But they are starting to see that the biological products work, at affordable prices, and are often even cheaper than the chemicals. Of course, the biologicals are safer to handle, and environmentally friendly. And that is key to their success. Demand is skyrocketing.

It has taken many years of research to produce environmentally-sound, biological pesticides that can convince large-scale commercial farmers to start to transition away from agrochemicals. I thought back to a time about 15 years earlier, when I saw Proinpa doing trials with farmers near Cochabamba. That was an early stage of these scientifically-sound natural products. Agricultural research is slow by nature, but like a fruit tree that takes years to mature, the wait is worth the while.

Related Agro-Insight blogs

Don’t eat the peels

Commercializing organic inputs

The best knowledge is local and scientific

Recovering from the quinoa boom

Related videos

Making enriched biofertilizer

Living windbreaks to protect the soil

The wasp that protects our crops

Managing the potato tuber moth

Acknowledgements

Paul Van Mele, Graham Thiele, Rolando Oros, Jorge Blajos and Lionel Ichazo read and commented on an earlier version of this blog.

PROINPA: INVESTIGACI√ďN AGR√ćCOLA QUE VALE LA PENA ESPERAR

Jeff Bentley, 21 de mayo del 2023

La investigaci√≥n agr√≠cola es notoriamente lenta. Tarda a√Īos en dar frutos, y los programas financiados por donantes suelen durar poco tiempo. Pero Bolivia tuvo suerte con una organizaci√≥n que sobrevivi√≥.

Empezó en 1989, cuando los suizos financiaron un proyecto nuevo, el Proyecto de Investigación de la Papa (Proinpa), en colaboración con cuatro científicos del Centro Internacional de la Papa (CIP). Casi todo el resto del personal eran jóvenes bolivianos, entre ellos muchos tesistas.

Diez a√Īos despu√©s, en 1998, lleg√≥ el momento de cerrar el proyecto, pero algunas personas visionarias de Proinpa, con el apoyo entusiasta de colegas suizos y del CIP, decidieron dar a Proinpa una nueva vida como agencia o fundaci√≥n permanente.

Para entonces “Proinpa” ya ten√≠a cierto reconocimiento como marca, as√≠ que sabiamente mantuvieron el acr√≥nimo, pero cambiaron el nombre completo a “Promoci√≥n e Investigaci√≥n de Productos Andinos”. Los dirigentes de Proinpa ya no iban a limitarse a las papas. Los suizos aportaron una dotaci√≥n para cubrir los gastos b√°sicos, pero no era suficiente para hacer funcionar toda la organizaci√≥n.

Proinpa pas√≥ por momentos dif√≠ciles. Cuando dejaron de ser un proyecto, tuvieron que abandonar sus amplias oficinas de la ciudad de Cochabamba. Durante un tiempo alquilaron un viejo edificio alejado de la ciudad que hab√≠a sido un centro gubernamental de control de la rabia. M√°s tarde, s√≥lo pudieron pagar una planta de ese edificio. Recuerdo estar all√≠ el d√≠a de la mudanza, hace a√Īos, cuando todos se dieron modos para entrar en el espacio m√°s peque√Īo, cargando alegremente cajas de archivos para apretarse en oficinas compartidas. Estaban sobreviviendo.

Sobrevivir era importante. La investigaci√≥n agraria p√ļblica en Bolivia atravesaba tiempos dif√≠ciles. El Instituto Boliviano de Investigaci√≥n Agropecuaria (IBTA) cerr√≥ en 1997 y su sustituto muri√≥ pocos a√Īos despu√©s. La investigaci√≥n agropecuaria estatal no se reanud√≥ hasta 2008, cuando se cre√≥ el Instituto Nacional de Innovaci√≥n Agropecuaria y Forestal (INIAF). Durante esos a√Īos, Proinpa fue un destacado centro de investigaci√≥n agr√≠cola en Bolivia, y conserv√≥ invaluables colecciones de papa y quinua.

Ese banco de semillas de papa se manten√≠a en Toralapa, en el campo, a unos 70 km de la ciudad de Cochabamba. Con los a√Īos, Proinpa hab√≠a ampliado la colecci√≥n de 1000 accesiones a 4000. Esta biodiversidad es la fuente de material gen√©tico que necesitan los fitomejoradores para crear nuevas variedades. En 2010, el Gobierno, que era propietario de la estaci√≥n de Toralapa, la cedi√≥ al INIAF. Proinpa trabaj√≥ con el INIAF durante un a√Īo para garantizar una transici√≥n estable, y el Gobierno de Bolivia sigue manteniendo esa colecci√≥n de papas y otros cultivos andinos.

Hace poco, Proinpa me pidi√≥ que me uniera a ellos en el acto de su 25 aniversario, celebrado en su peque√Īo campus, construido despu√©s de 2005. La celebraci√≥n comenz√≥ con visitas a los stands, donde Proinpa destac√≥ sus investigaciones m√°s importantes.

La Dra. Ximena Cadima, miembro de la Academia Boliviana de Ciencias, explic√≥ c√≥mo Proinpa ha usado su conocimiento de los cultivos locales para obtener 69 nuevas variedades oficialmente liberadas de papa, quinua y siete cultivos m√°s. Tambi√©n animan a los agricultores a cultivar papas nativas en sus chacras, lo que tambi√©n es crucial para mantener vivos estos cultivos √ļnicos.

Luis Crespo, entomólogo, y Giovanna Plata, fitopatóloga, explicaron sus investigaciones para desarrollar alternativas ecológicas al control de plagas. Luis habló de su trabajo con las feromonas sexuales de los insectos. Una de las muchas cosas que hace es disecar polillas hembras y extraerles las glándulas de olor, que envía a una empresa en Holanda que aísla la feromona sexual de las glándulas. La empresa sintetiza la feromona, fabrica más y Proinpa la usa para cebo de trampas. Las polillas machos huelen la feromona, piensan que se trata de una hembra receptiva y vuelan hacia ella. Los machos frustrados mueren en la trampa. Las hembras no pueden poner huevos sin aparearse, lo que elimina la siguiente generación de plagas antes de que nazcan.

Giovana nos mostró cómo estudian los microbios que matan a los patógenos. Coloca diferentes hongos y bacterias en placas Petri para ver qué microorganismos pueden desplazar físicamente a los gérmenes que causan enfermedades en los cultivos. También aísla hormonas de crecimiento de plantas, producidas por los microbios buenos.

Este trabajo sobre la ecología de los microbios ha permitido a Proinpa crear una nueva industria de control natural de plagas. Jimmy Ciancas, ingeniero, nos guio por la nueva planta de Proinpa, donde producen toneladas de bacterias y hongos benéficos para sustituir a los químicos que los agricultores fumigan para controlar plagas y enfermedades.

Proinpa también nos mostró las investigaciones del Dr. Alejandro Bonifacio y sus colegas, que están desarrollando rompevientos con plantas nativas y sembrando tarwi silvestre como cultivo de cobertura. Esta investigación tiene como objetivo salvar a los altos Andes de la devastadora erosión desatada cuando el boom de la quinua de (2010-2014) arrasó con la vegetación nativa. El suelo simplemente se voló.

M√°s tarde, nos trasladamos al confortable comedor de Proinpa, sombreado pero abierto al aire por tres lados, perfecto para el clima de Cochabamba. El lugar hab√≠a sido acondicionado como un auditorio formal, donde, durante m√°s de una hora, Proinpa entreg√≥ placas en honor a algunas de las muchas organizaciones que les hab√≠an ayudado a lo largo de los a√Īos: universidades, INIAF, alcaldes de municipios donde Proinpa hace trabajo de campo. Muchas organizaciones reciprocaron, entregando a Proinpa premios que ellos trajeron. Proinpa ha sobrevivido gracias a un buen liderazgo y a sus muchos amigos.

Entre los discursos, tuve la oportunidad de conocer al hombre sentado a mi lado, Lionel Ichazo, que supervisa tres fincas comerciales para una empresa molinera en las tierras bajas del este de Bolivia. Cultivan soya en verano y trigo y sorgo en invierno. Lionel confirm√≥ lo que Proinpa dice, que el uso de plaguicidas naturales se est√° disparando en las llanuras bajas. Lionel usa los plaguicidas naturales de Proinpa como tratamiento de semillas para controlar las enfermedades. Lionel, que tambi√©n es ingeniero agr√≥nomo y graduado de El Zamorano, una de las mejores universidades agr√≠colas de Am√©rica Latina (en Honduras), dijo que not√≥ c√≥mo el suelo ha ido mejorando durante los cuatro a√Īos que ha usado los microbios. Los microorganismos descompon√≠an los rastrojos en carbono que las plantas pod√≠an usar. Lionel a√Īadi√≥ que la mayor√≠a de los agricultores a gran escala siguen usando agroqu√≠micos en el tratamiento de semillas. Sin embargo, se est√° viendo que los productos biol√≥gicos funcionan, con precios accesibles y hasta m√°s baratos que los qu√≠micos. Por supuesto son m√°s sanos para el manipuleo y amigables con el medio ambiente. Y eso es la clave del √©xito de los productos. La demanda se est√° disparando.

Ha tomado muchos a√Īos de investigaci√≥n para producir plaguicidas biol√≥gicos que cuidan el medio ambiente y que puedan convencer a los agricultores comerciales para que empiecen a abandonar los productos agroqu√≠micos. Me acord√© de una √©poca, unos 15 a√Īos antes, cuando vi a Proinpa haciendo ensayos con agricultores cerca de Cochabamba. Aquella fue una etapa temprana de estos productos naturales con base cient√≠fica. La investigaci√≥n agr√≠cola es lenta por naturaleza, pero como un √°rbol frutal que tarda a√Īos en madurar, la espera vale la pena.

Previamente en el blog de Agro-Insight

No te comas las c√°scaras

Commercializing organic inputs

El mejor conocimiento es local y científico

Recuper√°ndose del boom de la quinua

Videos relacionados

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Agradecimientos

Paul Van Mele, Graham Thiele, Rolando Oros, Jorge Blajos y Lionel Ichazo leyeron e hicieron comentarios valiosos sobre una versión previa de este blog.

.

 

Shopping with mom February 12th, 2023 by

Vea la versi√≥n en espa√Īol a continuaci√≥n

Shopping can not only be fun, but healthy and educational, as Paul and Marcella and I learned recently while filming a video in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

We visited a stall run by Laura Guzmán, who we have met in a previous blog story. Laura’s stall is so busy that her brother and a cousin help out. They sell the family’s own produce, some from the neighbors, and some they buy wholesale.

The market is clean and open to the light and air. All of the stalls neatly display their vegetables, grains and flowers. While Marcella films, Paul and I stand to one side, keeping out of the shot. Paul is quick to observe that Laura holds up each package of vegetables, explaining them to her customers. One pair of women listen attentively, and then buy several packages before moving on to another stall.

Paul reminds me that we need to interview consumers for this video on selling organic produce, so we approach the two shoppers. As in Ecuador, when we filmed consumers in the market, I was pleasantly surprised how strangers can be quite happy to appear on an educational video.

One of the women, Sonia Pinedo, spoke with confidence into the camera, explaining how she always looks for organic produce. ‚ÄúOrganic vegetables are important, because they are not contaminated and they are good for your health.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúAnd now you can interview my daughter,‚ÄĚ Sonia said, nudging the young woman next to her.

Her daughter, 21-year-old university student, Lorena Quispe, spoke about how important it was to engage young consumers, teaching them to demand chemical-free food. She pointed out that if youth start eating right when they are young, they will not only live longer, but when they reach 60, they will still be healthy, and able to enjoy life. Remarkably, Lorena also pointed out that consumers play a role supporting organic farmers. She had clearly understood that choosing good food also builds communities.

Food shopping is often a way for parents to spend time with their children, and to pass on knowledge about food and healthy living, so that the kids grow up to be thoughtful young adults.

Watch a related video

Creating agroecological markets

DE COMPRAS CON MAM√Ā

Jeff Bentley, 5 de febrero del 2023

Ir de compras no sólo puede ser divertido, sino también saludable y educativo, como Paul, Marcella y yo aprendimos hace poco mientras grabábamos un video en Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Visitamos un puesto de ventas de Laura Guzm√°n, a quien ya conocimos en una historia anterior del blog. El puesto de Laura est√° tan concurrido que su hermano y un primo la ayudan. Venden los productos de la familia, algunos de los vecinos y otros que compran al por mayor.

El mercado est√° limpio y abierto a la luz y al aire. Todos los puestos exponen con esmero sus verduras, cereales y flores. Mientras Marcella filma, Paul y yo nos quedamos a un lado, fuera del plano. Paul no tarda en observar que Laura sostiene en alto cada paquete de verduras, explic√°ndoselas a sus clientes. Un par de mujeres escuchan atentamente y compran varios paquetes antes de pasar a otro puesto.

Paul me recuerda que tenemos que entrevistar a los consumidores para este video sobre la venta de productos ecológicos, así que nos acercamos a las dos compradoras. Al igual que en Ecuador, cuando filmamos a los consumidores en el mercado, me sorprendió gratamente que a pesar de que no nos conocen, están dispuestos a salir en un video educativo.

Una de las mujeres, Sonia Pinedo, habla con confianza a la c√°mara y explica que siempre busca productos ecol√≥gicos. “Las verduras ecol√≥gicas son importantes, porque no est√°n contaminadas y son buenas para la salud”.

“Y ahora puedes entrevistar a mi hija”, dijo Sonia, dando un codazo a la joven que estaba a su lado.

Su hija, Lorena Quispe, una estudiante universitaria de 21 a√Īos, habl√≥ de la importancia de involucrar a los j√≥venes consumidores, ense√Ī√°ndoles a exigir alimentos libres de productos qu√≠micos. Se√Īal√≥ que, si los j√≥venes empiezan a comer bien de peque√Īos, no s√≥lo vivir√°n m√°s, sino que cuando lleguen a los 60 seguir√°n estando sanos y podr√°n disfrutar de la vida. Sorprendentemente, Lorena tambi√©n se√Īal√≥ que los consumidores juegan un papel de apoyo a los agricultores ecol√≥gicos. Hab√≠a comprendido claramente que elegir buenos alimentos tambi√©n construye comunidades.

La compra de alimentos suele ser una forma de que los padres pasen tiempo con sus hijos y les transmitan conocimientos sobre alimentaci√≥n y vida sana, para que los ni√Īos se conviertan en j√≥venes adultos pensativos.

Vea un video relacionado

Creando ferias agroecológicas

The struggle to sell healthy food January 22nd, 2023 by

Nederlandse versie hieronder

Consumers are increasingly realizing the need to eat healthy food, produced without agrochemicals, but on our recent trip to Bolivia we were reminded once more that many organic farmers struggle to sell their produce at a fair price.

The last few days Jeff, Marcella and I have been filming with a group of agroecological farmers in Cochabamba, a city with 1.4 million inhabitants at an altitude of about 2,400 meters. Traditionally, local demand for flowers was high, to use as gifts and decorations at the many festivities, weddings, funerals and family celebrations. When we interview do√Īa Nelly in front of the camera, she explains how many of the women of her agroecological group were into the commercial cut flower business until 5 years ago: ‚ÄúThe main reason we abandoned the flower business was that various people in our neighbourhood became seriously sick from the heavy use of pesticides.‚ÄĚ

As the women began to produce vegetables instead of flowers, they also took training on ecological farming. They realized that the only way to remain in good health is to care for the health of their soil and the food they consume. All of them being born farmers, the step to start growing organic food seemed a logical one. With the support of a Agrecol Andes, a local NGO that supports agroecological food systems, a group of 16 women embarked on a new journey, full of new challenges.

‚ÄúOver these past years, we have seen our soil improve again, earthworms and other soil creatures have come back. But I think it will take 10 years before the soil will have fully recovered from the intense misuse of flower growing,‚ÄĚ says Nelly.

On Friday morning, we visit the house of one of the members of the group. Various women arrive, carrying their produce in woven bags on their back. Their fresh produce was harvested the day before, washed, weighed, packed and labelled with their group certificate. Internationally recognized organic certification is costly and most farmers in developing countries cannot afford it. So, they use an alternative, more local certification scheme, called Participatory Guarantee System or PGS, whereby member producers evaluate each other. More recently, the group also gets certification from the national government, SENASAG.

Agrecol staff supports the women as they prepare food baskets for their growing number of customers that want their food delivered either at their home or office. Some customers also come and collect their weekly basket at the Agrecol office. Jeff’s wife, Ana, shows us one evening how every week she receives a list of about 4 pages with all produce available that week, and the prices. Until Wednesday noon, the 150 clients are free to select if and what they want to buy. The demand is processed, farmers harvest on Thursday and the fresh food is delivered on Friday morning: a really short food chain with food that has only been harvested the day before it was delivered.

Organizing personalised food baskets weekly is time-consuming. Most farmers also need institutional support as they lack a social network of potential clients in urban centres. Agrecol has invested a lot in sensitising consumers about the need to consume healthy food, using leaflets, social media, fairs and farm visits for consumers. Without support from Agrecol or someone who takes it up as a full-time business, it is difficult for farmers to sell their high-quality produce.

In her interview, Nelly explains that the home delivery was a recent innovation they introduced when the Covid crisis hit, as local markets had closed down, yet people still needed food. Now that public markets re-opened, demand strongly fluctuates from one week to the next, and with the tight profit margins, it might be a challenge to turn it into profitable business. NGOs like Agrecol play a crucial role in helping farmers produce healthy food, and raising the awareness of consumers, who learn to appreciate organic produce.

As Cochabamba is a large city, Agrecol has over the years helped agroecological farmer groups to negotiate with the local authorities to ensure they have a dedicated space on the weekly markets in various parts of the city.

Local authorities have a crucial role to play in supporting ecological and organic farmers that goes way beyond providing training and inspecting fields. Farmers need a fair price and a steady market to sell their produce. Being given a space at conventional, urban markets and dedicated agroecological markets is helping, but in low-income countries very few consumers are willing to pay a little extra for food that is produced free of chemicals. Public procurements by local authorities to provide schools with healthy food may provide a more stable source of revenue. It is no surprise that global movements such as the Global Alliance of Organic Districts (GAOD) have put this as a central theme.

Agroecological farmers who go the extra mile to nurture the health of our planet and the people who live on it, deserve a stable, fair income and peace of mind.

As Nelly concluded in her interview: “It is a struggle, but we have to fight it for the good of our children and those who come after them.”

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De strijd om gezond voedsel te verkopen

Consumenten worden zich steeds meer bewust van de noodzaak om gezond voedsel te eten, geproduceerd zonder landbouwchemicali√ęn, maar tijdens onze recente reis naar Bolivia werden we er opnieuw aan herinnerd dat veel biologische boeren moeite hebben om hun producten tegen een eerlijke prijs te verkopen.

De afgelopen dagen hebben Jeff, Marcella en ik gefilmd met een groep agro-ecologische boeren in Cochabamba, een stad met 1,4 miljoen inwoners op een hoogte van ongeveer 2.400 meter. Traditioneel was de lokale vraag naar bloemen groot, om te gebruiken als geschenk en decoratie bij de vele festiviteiten, bruiloften, begrafenissen en familiefeesten. Als we do√Īa Nelly voor de camera interviewen, legt ze uit hoe veel van de vrouwen van haar agro-ecologische groep tot 5 jaar geleden in de commerci√ęle snijbloemenhandel zaten: “De belangrijkste reden dat we de bloemenhandel hebben opgegeven was dat verschillende mensen in onze buurt ernstig ziek werden door het zware gebruik van pesticiden.”

Toen de vrouwen groenten begonnen te produceren in plaats van bloemen, volgden ze ook een opleiding ecologisch tuinieren. Ze beseften dat de enige manier om gezond te blijven, is te zorgen voor de gezondheid van hun grond en het voedsel dat ze consumeren. Omdat ze allemaal geboren boeren zijn, leek de stap om biologisch voedsel te gaan verbouwen een logische. Met de steun van Agrecol Andes, een lokale NGO die agro-ecologische voedselsystemen ondersteunt, begon een groep van 16 vrouwen aan een nieuwe reis, vol nieuwe uitdagingen.

“De afgelopen jaren hebben we onze grond weer zien verbeteren, regenwormen en andere bodemorganismen zijn teruggekomen. Maar ik denk dat het 10 jaar zal duren voordat de grond volledig hersteld is van het intensieve misbruik van de bloementeelt,” zegt Nelly.

Op vrijdagochtend bezoeken we het huis van een van de leden van de groep. Verschillende vrouwen arriveren, met hun producten in geweven zakken op hun rug. Hun verse producten zijn de dag ervoor geoogst, gewassen, gewogen, verpakt en voorzien van hun groepscertificaat. Internationaal erkende biologische certificering is duur en de meeste boeren in ontwikkelingslanden kunnen zich dat niet veroorloven. Daarom gebruiken ze een alternatief, meer lokaal certificeringssysteem, het zogenaamde Participatory Guarantee System of PGS, waarbij de aangesloten producenten elkaar controleren. Sinds kort wordt de groep ook gecertificeerd door de nationale overheid, SENASAG.

De medewerkers van Agrecol ondersteunen de vrouwen bij het samenstellen van de voedselpakketten voor hun groeiende aantal klanten die hun voedsel thuis of op kantoor geleverd willen krijgen. Sommige klanten komen ook hun wekelijkse mand ophalen in het kantoor van Agrecol. Jeff’s vrouw, Ana, laat ons op een avond zien hoe zij elke week een lijst van ongeveer 4 pagina’s ontvangt met alle producten die die week beschikbaar zijn, en de prijzen. Tot woensdagmiddag zijn de 150 klanten vrij om te kiezen of en wat ze willen kopen. De vraag wordt verwerkt, de boeren oogsten op donderdag en het verse voedsel wordt op vrijdagochtend geleverd: een echt korte voedselketen met voedsel dat pas de dag voor de levering is geoogst.

Het wekelijks organiseren van gepersonaliseerde voedselmanden is tijdrovend. De meeste boeren hebben ook institutionele steun nodig omdat ze geen sociaal netwerk van potenti√ęle klanten in stedelijke centra hebben. Agrecol heeft veel ge√Įnvesteerd in het sensibiliseren van consumenten over de noodzaak van gezonde voeding, met behulp van folders, sociale media, beurzen en boerderijbezoeken voor consumenten. Zonder steun van Agrecol of iemand die er fulltime mee bezig is, is het voor boeren moeilijk om hun kwaliteitsproducten te verkopen.

In haar interview legt Nelly uit dat de thuisbezorging een recente innovatie was die ze introduceerde toen de Covid-crisis toesloeg, omdat de lokale markten gesloten waren, maar de mensen toch voedsel nodig hadden. Nu de openbare markten weer geopend zijn, schommelt de vraag sterk van week tot week, en met de krappe winstmarges kan het een uitdaging zijn om er een winstgevend bedrijf van te maken. NGO’s als Agrecol spelen een cruciale rol door de boeren te helpen gezond voedsel te produceren, en door de consumenten bewuster te maken van biologische producten.

Omdat Cochabamba een grote stad is, heeft Agrecol in de loop der jaren groepen agro-ecologische boeren geholpen bij de onderhandelingen met de lokale autoriteiten om ervoor te zorgen dat zij een speciale plaats krijgen op de wekelijkse markten in verschillende delen van de stad.

Lokale autoriteiten spelen een cruciale rol bij de ondersteuning van ecologische en biologische boeren, die veel verder gaat dan het geven van trainingen en het inspecteren van velden. Boeren hebben een eerlijke prijs en een vaste markt nodig om hun producten te verkopen. Een plaats krijgen op conventionele, stedelijke markten en speciale agro-ecologische markten helpt, maar in lage-inkomenslanden zijn maar weinig consumenten bereid een beetje extra te betalen voor voedsel dat zonder chemicali√ęn is geproduceerd. Openbare aanbestedingen door lokale overheden om scholen te voorzien van gezond voedsel kunnen een stabielere bron van inkomsten opleveren. Het is geen verrassing dat wereldwijde bewegingen zoals de Global Alliance for Organic Districts (GAOD) dit als een centraal thema stellen.

Agro-ecologische boeren die een stapje extra zetten om de gezondheid van onze planeet en de mensen die erop leven te voeden, verdienen een stabiel, eerlijk inkomen en gemoedsrust.

Zoals Nelly zei in haar interview: “het is een strijd, maar we moeten deze voeren voor het welzijn van onze kinderen en zij die na hen komen.”

The kitchen training centre December 18th, 2022 by

Nederlandse versie hieronder

In an earlier blog, we wrote how indigenous women in Ecuador were trained by a theatre coach to improve their customer relations when marketing their fresh food at an agroecological fair. During our annual Access Agriculture staff meeting, this year in Cairo, Egypt, we learned about other creative ways to build rural women’s skills and confidence.

One afternoon, our local colleague, Laura Tabet who co-founded the NGO Nawaya about a decade ago, invites us all to visit Nawaya’s Kitchen Training Centre. None of us has a clue as to what to expect. Walking through the gate, we are in for one surprise after the next.

Various trees and shrubs border the green grass on which a very long table is installed. Additional shade is provided by a ramada of woven reeds from nearby wetlands. The table is covered with earthenware pots containing a rich diversity of dishes, all unknown to us. ‚ÄúOne of our policies is to avoid plastics as much as possible in whatever we do with food,‚ÄĚ explains Laura. But before the feast starts, we are invited to have a look at the kitchen.

Hadeer Ahmed Ali, a warmly smiling staff of Nawaya, guides the 20 visitors from Access Agriculture into the spacious kitchen in the building at the back end of the garden. Several rural women are frantically putting small earthen pots in and out of the oven, while others add the last touches to some fresh salads with cucumber and parsley. The kitchen with its stainless steel and tiled working space is immaculate and the dozen women all wear the same, yellow apron. Their group spirit is clear to see.

We are all separated from the cooking area by a long counter. When Hadeer translates our questions into Arabic, the rural women respond with great enthusiasm. One is holding a camera and takes photos of us while we interact with her colleagues. It is hard to imagine that some of these women had never left their village until a year and a half ago, when Nawaya started its Kitchen Training Centre.

Later on, Laura tells me that each woman is from a different village and is specialised in a specific dish: ‚ÄúWe want each of them to develop their own product line, without having to deal with competition from within their own village. While the basis are traditional recipes, we also innovate by experimenting with new ingredients and flavours to appeal to urban consumers.‚ÄĚ

The women source from local farmers who grow organic food, and cater for various events and groups. In the near future, they also want to grow some of their own vegetables and sell their own branded products to local shops, restaurants and even deliver to Cairo.

The women have sharpened their communication skills by regularly interacting with groups of school children from Cairo. But becoming confident to interact with foreigners and tourists from all over the world is a different thing. Hence Nawaya engaged Rasha Fam, who studied tourism and runs her own business. She taught the women how to interact with tourists. Unfortunately, it is against Egyptian law to bring foreign tourists to places like this, because tour operators can only take tourists to places that are on the official list of tourist destinations. The tourism industry in Egypt is a strictly regulated business.

Rasha also confirms what we had seen: these rural women are genuine and when given the opportunity it brings out the best of them. The training program helped women calculate costs, standardise recipes, host guests and deliver hands on activities in the farm and the kitchen.

When we walk out of the Kitchen Training Centre, a few women are baking fresh baladi bread (traditional Egyptian flatbread) in a large gas oven set up in the garden. Large wooden trays display the dough balls on a thin layer of flour. One of the ladies skilfully inserts her fingers under a ball to transfer it to a slated paddle-shaped tool made from palm fronds  (locally called mathraha). When she slightly throws the flat balls up, she gives the mathraha a small turn to the left. With each movement the ball becomes flatter and flatter until the right size is obtained. With a decisive movement she then transfers the flatbreads into the oven.

Nandini, our youngest colleague from India is excited to give it a try. Soon also Vinjeru from Malawi and Salahuddin from Bangladesh line up to get this experience. We all have a good laugh when we see how our colleagues struggle to do what they just observed. It is a good reminder that something that may look easy can in fact be rather difficult when doing it the first time, and that perfection comes with practice.

Our appetite raised, we all take place around the table, vegetarians on one side. The dishes reveal such a great diversity of food. It is not every day that one has a chance to eat buffalo and camel meat, so tender that they surprise many of us. The vegetarians are delighted with green wheat and fresh pea stews.

Promoting traditional food cultures can be done in many different ways. What we learned from Nawaya is that when done in an interactive way it helps to build bridges between generations and cultures. People are unique among vertebrates in that we share food. Eating and cooking together can be a fun, cross-cultural experience.

Whether people come from the capital in their own country, or from places across the world, they love to interact with rural women to experience what it takes to prepare real food. Nawaya’s Kitchen Training Centre has clearly found the right ingredients to boost people’s awareness about healthy local food cultures.

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Het keukenopleidingscentrum

In een eerdere blog schreven we hoe inheemse vrouwen in Ecuador door een theatercoach werden getraind om hun klantrelaties te verbeteren bij het vermarkten van hun verse voedsel op een agro-ecologische markt. Tijdens onze jaarlijkse Access Agriculture stafvergadering, dit jaar in Ca√Įro, Egypte, leerden we over andere creatieve manieren om vaardigheden en vertrouwen van plattelandsvrouwen op te bouwen.

Op een middag nodigt onze lokale collega, Laura Tabet, die ongeveer tien jaar geleden de NGO Nawaya mede oprichtte, ons allemaal uit voor een bezoek aan Nawaya’s Kitchen Training Centre. Niemand van ons weet wat hij kan verwachten. Als we door de poort lopen, wacht ons de ene verrassing na de andere.

Verschillende bomen en struiken omzomen het groene gras waarop een zeer lange tafel staat. Een pergola van riet uit de nabijgelegen wetlands zorgt voor extra schaduw. De tafel is gedekt met aardewerken potten die een rijke verscheidenheid aan gerechten bevatten, allemaal onbekend voor ons. “Een van onze beleidslijnen is om zoveel mogelijk plastic te vermijden bij alles wat we met voedsel doen,” legt Laura uit. Maar voordat het feest begint, worden we uitgenodigd om een kijkje te nemen in de keuken.

Hadeer Ahmed Ali, een hartelijk lachende medewerkster van Nawaya, leidt de 20 bezoekers van Access Agriculture binnen in de ruime keuken in het gebouw achterin de tuin. Verschillende plattelandsvrouwen zijn verwoed bezig kleine aarden potjes in en uit de oven te halen, terwijl anderen de laatste hand leggen aan enkele verse salades met komkommer en peterselie. De keuken met zijn roestvrijstalen en betegelde werkruimte is onberispelijk en de twaalf vrouwen dragen allemaal hetzelfde gele schort. Hun groepsgeest is duidelijk te zien.

We zijn allemaal gescheiden van het kookgedeelte door een lange toonbank. Als Hadeer onze vragen in het Arabisch vertaalt, reageren de plattelandsvrouwen met groot enthousiasme. E√©n houdt een camera vast en neemt foto’s van ons terwijl wij met haar collega’s omgaan. Het is moeilijk voor te stellen dat sommige van deze vrouwen nooit hun dorp hadden verlaten tot anderhalf jaar geleden, toen Nawaya zijn Kitchen Training Centre begon.

Later vertelt Laura me dat elke vrouw uit een ander dorp komt en gespecialiseerd is in een specifiek gerecht: “We willen dat ieder van hen zijn eigen productlijn ontwikkelt, zonder dat ze te maken krijgen met concurrentie uit hun eigen dorp. Hoewel de basis traditionele recepten zijn, innoveren we ook door te experimenteren met nieuwe ingredi√ęnten en smaken om stedelijke consumenten aan te spreken.”

De vrouwen kopen in bij lokale boeren die biologisch voedsel verbouwen, en verzorgen de catering voor verschillende evenementen en groepen. In de nabije toekomst willen ze ook enkele van hun eigen groenten kweken en hun eigen merkproducten verkopen aan lokale winkels, restaurants en zelfs leveren aan Ca√Įro.

De vrouwen hebben hun communicatievaardigheden aangescherpt door regelmatige interactie met groepen schoolkinderen uit Ca√Įro. Maar vertrouwen krijgen in de omgang met buitenlanders en toeristen uit de hele wereld is iets anders. Daarom heeft Nawaya Rasha Fam aangetrokken, die toerisme heeft gestudeerd en een eigen bedrijf leidt. Zij heeft de vrouwen geleerd hoe ze met toeristen moeten omgaan. Helaas is het tegen de Egyptische wet om buitenlandse toeristen naar dit soort plaatsen te brengen, omdat touroperators toeristen alleen naar plaatsen mogen brengen die op de offici√ęle lijst van toeristische bestemmingen staan. De toeristische industrie in Egypte is een streng gereguleerde business.

Rasha bevestigt ook wat we hadden gezien: deze plattelandsvrouwen zijn oprecht en wanneer ze de kans krijgen, komt het beste in hen naar boven. Het trainingsprogramma hielp de vrouwen bij het berekenen van kosten, het standaardiseren van recepten, het ontvangen van gasten en het uitvoeren van praktische activiteiten op de boerderij en in de keuken.

Als we het Kitchen Training Centre uitlopen, bakken enkele vrouwen vers baladi-brood (een traditioneel Egyptisch plat brood) in een grote gasoven die in de tuin staat opgesteld. Op grote houten schalen liggen de deegballen op een dun laagje bloem. Een van de dames steekt behendig haar vingers onder een bal om deze over te brengen op een schoepvormig werktuig van palmbladeren (plaatselijk mathraha genoemd). Wanneer ze de platte ballen lichtjes omhoog gooit, geeft ze de mathraha een kleine draai naar links. Met elke beweging wordt de bal platter en platter tot de juiste maat is bereikt. Met een kordate beweging schuift ze dan de platte broden in de oven.

Nandini, onze jongste collega uit India, is enthousiast om het te proberen. Al snel staan ook Vinjeru uit Malawi en Salahuddin uit Bangladesh in de rij om deze ervaring op te doen. We moeten allemaal lachen als we zien hoe onze collega’s worstelen om te doen wat ze net hebben gezien. Het is een goede herinnering aan het feit dat iets dat er gemakkelijk uitziet in feite nogal moeilijk kan zijn als je het de eerste keer doet, en dat perfectie komt met oefening.

Onze eetlust is opgewekt, we nemen allemaal plaats rond de tafel, vegetari√ęrs aan de ene kant. De gerechten tonen een grote verscheidenheid aan voedsel. Men krijgt niet elke dag de kans om buffel- en kamelenvlees te eten, dat zo mals is dat het velen van ons verrast. De vegetari√ęrs zijn blij met groene tarwe en verse erwtenstoofpotten.

Het bevorderen van traditionele eetculturen kan op verschillende manieren gebeuren. Wat we van Nawaya hebben geleerd is dat wanneer het op een interactieve manier gebeurt, het helpt om bruggen te slaan tussen generaties en culturen. Mensen zijn uniek onder de gewervelde dieren omdat we voedsel delen. Samen eten en koken kan een leuke, interculturele ervaring zijn.

Of mensen nu uit de hoofdstad van hun eigen land komen, of van plaatsen over de hele wereld, ze houden van interactie met plattelandsvrouwen om te ervaren wat er nodig is om echt voedsel te bereiden. Nawaya’s Kitchen Training Centre heeft duidelijk de juiste ingredi√ęnten gevonden om mensen bewust te maken van gezonde lokale voedselculturen.

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