Case Study from the Paqocha Project, Peru Strengthening Food Security and Reducing Climate Vulnerability of Alpaca Farmers in Peru September 2011
The perfect channel
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.
Author: Gabriel Reaño
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 us”.
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”.
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