Ian Hands is an employee of Elanco, one of Heifer’s corporate partners. He recently participated in a Heifer Study Tour to Peru and was gracious enough to share his reflections with us.
Today we saw an example of Heifer working in collaboration with other organisations with great success. Unusually, this is an urban project approximately one hour from Lima. (Most of Heifer Peru’s projects are focused on the high mountain communities.)
During the political unrest of the 1970’s many people moved out from Lima and its suburbs into relatively unpopulated areas outside of Lima. Of course, lack of resource and infrastructure meant that these communities were, and still are, in constant threat of poverty.
With gender equity being so important in Peru, this project focused on training women to grow vegetables so that they could feed their under-nourished children. Initially, the reaction from the men was not great as the women were leaving the home to attend training! With many literally starting with a 20-inch growing area, the results seen today were amazing. All kinds of vegetables are being grown – eggplant, celery, radish, onion, lettuce, spinach, yellow pepper. The growing is entirely organic. Aromatic herbs are positioned next to the vegetables to deter insects. Compost from vegetable leaves and guinea pig manure is fed back to the plants. Water is only available from the municipal supply for 30 minutes each day. With 70 women being involved and the success of the project, they were not only growing enough to provide for their families, but also enough to sell in local markets. Assistance was given in demonstrating that with a differentiated organic project, this could raise more money by selling the produce in the more affluent areas of Lima. They now have their own brand and a source of income.
Training was also given in the rearing of guinea pigs, which are a common delicacy in Peru. From knowing nothing about the rearing of the animals, one lady has expanded her breeding stock over a period of 10 years from 5 guinea pigs to 300.
It was amazing to see today that with basic training and the efficient utilisation of resources, a community can be transformed. What stood out more than anything was the pride with which the women show in abundance. They attribute their success to necessity and the pure will to succeed.
We were also shown a demonstration farm showing that self-sufficiency is possible by utilising Peru’s natural resources and bio-diversity. This included a bio-digester that used guinea pig manure to provide the entire farm’s gas supply. The gas could also be used to generate electricity.
Today was an inspiration and confirmation that a little can go a long way, not just in providing food security and income, but also in pride and self-belief.