written by Catherine Scott
Filiberto Lopez, his wife Josefina Alvarez, and Domingo Barrios (CEO Heifer Foundation) at the presentation of the Golden Talent Award.
“Everything I have done is for my community. That is why I am happy” – Filiberto Lopez.
Several years ago, Filiberto Lopez was ready to pack up and move to Cochabamba, Bolivia in search of work. He was frustrated by the changes in the weather that meant an already difficult life as a farmer was becoming even more difficult. He admitted to us how, at the beginning of the project in Pajcha Baja, he had been a skeptic. He was unsure of how organic farming in such a poor area was going to be able to help him, his family or his community.
Soon, however, the families in the area were able to harvest cabbage, lettuce, and carrots, in addition to their traditional staple of potatoes. They were able to feed their families and take the excess to market. Having sheep and chickens also meant their children were able to have some much needed protein and to use the animal manure for organic fertilizer. With just a small amount of success, Filiberto became a true believer in the project and has emerged as a leader in his community.
With an air of quiet and humble pride, Filiberto Lopez was presented with the Golden Talent Award by Domingo Barrios (CEO of Heifer Foundation) in front of his entire community. Mr. Barrios spoke of how the people in Pajcha Baja “are not poor. They are rich in spirit, and rich in community.” We all saw what he saw. These are rich people in an impoverished land. However, through sharing and caring for one another, along with community training, they are finding ways to increase their income and improve their quality of life. Together, they have even built a bridge so that their children can continue to cross the river during the rainy season and attend school.
One of the most surprising and touching moments of the ceremony was when we learned that Filiberto has already returned some of his award money to be used by the community as a whole. He did not want to keep it all for himself, and that is part of what makes him such a strong leader and an even better man.
While Filiberto was the named winner of the award, he was quick to publicly acknowledge his wife, Josefina, as being a full and valued partner in their farming operation. Standing and smiling together with their three children, we saw hope for the future in Pajcha Baja.