Case Study from the Paqocha Project, Peru
Strengthening Food Security
and Reducing Climate Vulnerability
of Alpaca Farmers in Peru
The perfect channel
Author: Gabriel Reaño
Three characteristics help to
understand the personality of
Germán Copsiconde, beneficiary of
the Paqocha project: he is an
admirer of Mexican lecturer Miguel
Angel Cornejo, a former member of
the Peruvian military and an
inveterate reader. He returned to
his native town of Ayacucho after a
long exile on the coast, to work
with what he considers a blessing:
alpacas. Now his mission is to
improve his animal husbandry
techniques and transmit his
knowledge to his community.
The first thing that attracted our attention when talking to Germán Copsiconde was his
flowery vocabulary. The way he pronounced each word, pausing to clarify his ideas, and
his natural ability to inject into each syllable the serenity typical of a priest or preacher of
any faith. Copsiconde conveys peace. We were in the Huatajocha community in the Sipao
district of the Lucanas Province in the department of Ayacucho, one of the target areas of
the project Organization of a local farming innovation and extension system for the
sustainable development of alpaca farming in the Apurimac-Ayacucho macro region, also
referred to as the “Paqocha project”. A treacherous wind is blowing and conversation is
difficult at an altitude more than 4 thousand metres above seal level). Nevertheless,
Germán’s serenity is contagious.
He is 36 years old and moments before our conversation, we saw him gently interacting
with his wife and his two year-old daughter Naomi. The Copsiconde family will soon have
a second child. We are standing in a spot that Germán has chosen to implement a small
improved mating pen suggested by the project. “The pen will allow me to make genetic
changes to improve the quality of my alpacas”. For the time being, the area is surrounded
by symmetrically placed stones, but the materials to build the pen that German is waiting
for are still missing. “I don’t live here”, my house is down there” he told us, pointing to a
distant place. “It would be too cold here; it is an ideal spot for the alpacas, but not for
Germán is one of the people selected to form part of the project’s Kamayoq School to be
effectively trained to serve as an information agent in his community. After talking to him
it is easy to see why his community chose him as their representative. “I reach out to my
people, I know how to talk to them and they listen to me”. The training sessions are three
times a month and Germán never misses one. “We are going through a learning process,
there is still a long way to go, but we have already improved some things”.
The improvements in the Huatajocha community are directly related to the way alpacas
are cared for. “First of all, we have become more organized” said Germán in a tone of
voice ranging between that of a lecturer and a secondary school teacher. “It is important
to recognize where we are now and where we want to go”. The alpaca farmers benefitting
from the Paqocha project must understand that the techniques of the past have not been
adequate; therefore, it is essential for Kamayoqs like German to be convinced of that.
“Now we know how to select our alpacas properly and have better breeding techniques.
We also received help in preparing an alpaca calendar so that we know when to act in one
way or another. At the same time, we learnt things that we were unaware of before, such
as the health of our animals.” Alpacas do not get sick like they did before and the
mortality rate has dropped.
With a view to achieving a higher level of food security among rural households, one of the
objectives of the Paqocha project is to encourage them to carry out appropriate joint
purchases and sales of inputs and alpaca products in local and regional markets. Germán
now maintains that “we cannot sell our products like fibre, meat or hides indiscriminately,
as they are our greatest assets. We have learnt to store our products so that we always
have a stock”.
Nevertheless, Germán knows that there is still much room for improvement and that in
other alpaca farming areas like his, located in the Apurimac Ayacucho macro region, there
is a shortage of water. “I remember when I was a child, my mother used to raise alpacas
in an environment full of green grass. There is much less of that now. It is due to climate
change”, Germán pointed out, quite rightly, taking the time to suggest where the aid could
go. “We have a shortage of water. We have some water sources, but we need sprinkler
irrigation facilities to build reservoirs so that we can store water during the rainy season”.
The conversation could not end without Germán solving the mystery of his good
vocabulary. “A teacher once told me that man’s best friend was not a dog, but books. I
like to read everything: philosophy, politics or economics. I also read the Bible, which
helps my ethical and personal education. I always try to encourage my fellow countrymen
to read”, concluded Germán. Now that his mission is to transmit what he has learnt from
the project to his community, they are more likely to take notice. He certainly has the
capacity to do so and more.
Photos: Practical Action/Peru/Marco Antonio Arango
Practical Action is a British charity (Registered Charity No 247257) that aims to build the technical skills of poor people in developing countries,
enabling them to improve the quality of their lives and that of future generations.
We have offices in Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Peru, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Zimbabwe, together with a head office in the UK. The charity was
founded in 1966 by E F Schumacher, author of the book “Small is Beautiful”.