News from Peru


October 21st, 2013

We may think of Peru as a holiday destination, and imagine scenes like Machu Pichu, or hiking in the Andes yet according to The World Bank 50% of people in Peru are poor and 20% extremely poor. Most poor people live in rural areas. This poverty is something we in the rest of the world rarely see as it doesn’t fit with the image travel companies want to promote – and to be honest people – poor or not – in their traditional dress can look amazing!

Poverty in Peru may not be ‘in your face’ but it is severe and people are in need of urgent solutions which is why I loved this case study of Practical Actions work there and the pride of the women who are now able to help their families and communities.

Doris from our Peru office writes:

The deep sound of a horn in the highlands of Cusco, that loud sound of a conch shell across the mountains, could only be a signal of one thing: on Monday 12th November in the vicinity of the Toxaccota community, forty five women from 17 communities in the Canchis province would demonstrate to 400 guests what they had learnt during twelve months of studies in the Kamayoq school organized by Practical Action for extremely poor towns situated at altitudes of more than 4000 m.a.s.l.

The Kamayoq school is where dozens of people have to opportunity to acquire technical expertise in what for them are common activities, like raising livestock or growing crops, among other things.

There would be nothing new about this fair, which has been held for the last ten years every time a promotion completes the course in the school, except for the fact that this occasion could not be more special: it is the first promotion comprised exclusively of women alpaca-raisers. Although livestock-raising is considered a natural activity for these women, they are the ones with the least opportunities for broadening their knowledge beyond the popular know-how they have inherited.

Vicentina Cahuana had arrived early from the Erca community in Sicuani to prepare the stands at the fair and provide advice to some of the nervous graduates. Her experience as one of the graduates of the very first promotion of Kamayoqs in 1997 has given her enough confidence to encourage the new students to continue practicing what they have learnt.

Peru Women Kamayoqs

She did not specialize in alpacas, as the first five promotions in the school were divided into workshops on horticulture, cattle-raising, forestation, small and large animal breeding and sanitation.

There were not many women participants when she began her studies. “We were very afraid as we were learning new things and our husbands were not in agreement with that”, she acknowledged. “That is why seeing these 45 fellow alpaca-raisers here explaining their methods and talking like experts gives me great satisfaction”, said Vicentina.

She herself remembers that she used to think she should only acquire basic knowledge. “Looking after my family was all I knew how to do”, she said. “When my husband went out to work I didn’t know how to control the flock, many animals would die and we had great losses”, she explained.

Now she recalls that when her animals were ill she had to hire a technician who was not always able to cure them. “I had animals for the sake of it, I had no idea of their value”, she explained. Now that she can identify the symptoms of certain diseases she can prevent the adverse effects on her economy.

Vicente continued helping the students and remembering how they must be feeling during their presentations. However, the confidence with which they speak and the way they express themselves is what makes them different from other women who are not Kamayoqs.

She is also well aware of the fact that responsibility and example are important parts of being a community leader. Of the 150 people trained in the schools 113 are active. The previous promotion of alpaca-raisers began with 49 but only 35 remained. “This time nobody left, in fact one more even joined us on the way”, said Vicentina. “The community and the family itself are more demanding now, but they are also more confident in our skills”, she remarked. “It is a question of each one forgetting to make excuses and continuing this work for generations”, she ended.

I think Vicente is an inspiration! I hope you do too.

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