In the high plains of the Andes Mountains, a dozen indigenous communities participating in FRB’s Bolivia-Potosí program are enjoying better health, eating nutritious, varied food and drinking clean water, thanks to their successes in vegetable production. Ninety percent of families have established vegetable gardens, and 70% of these families have boosted their incomes by 70%. Advertising that promoted the communities’ organic onions and lettuce in the nearest city led to an increase in sales.
The 12 communities have received training in appropriate farming, irrigation methods and marketing, and program follow-up in the areas of nutrition, hygiene, and preventive health. As a result, at least 90% of families have permanently assimilated the new practices for better overall family health. In addition, community water committees have installed sprinkler irrigation systems to capture water from irrigation canals, thereby optimizing water use. Community members pay dues based on the economic means of the families, to be used for maintenance, purchasing accessories, and expanding the system for all. Irrigation is now taking place in all 12 communities.
Juan and Vicenta and their five children are among the families whose lives have dramatically improved through the program. According to Juan, “The main problem used to be irrigating the land where we grew our potatoes, wheat, beans, and oca (a tuber). When flooding occurred the canal would fill up with soil, so we could not irrigate on time, and the crops would dry up. Cleaning the canal took a week among 10 families, but with the support of the program we now have two motor pumps with the sprinkler irrigation systems. Now we use the motor pumps and irrigate our crops so we do not experiences losses as we did before. This was a huge help to my community.
“None of us knew how to grow vegetables before, so we didn’t eat them. Since then, we’ve learned how to prepare the land to plant vegetables and how to consume them along with our other crops for the health of our families. Through the trainings, my wife has learned a lot about food hygiene and how to combine what we produce into delicious meals that my family and I really like.”
Vicenta talks about how their children used to be constantly sick with diarrhea and coughs. The community was not aware of the importance of hygiene in the home or why they had to boil or purify drinking water, clean kitchen utensils, or wash their hands. She says, smiling, “We would eat leftovers from the day before without thinking that they might have spoiled or gotten dirty. Now my husband and I have had some training and we know how and why to clean the house and keep the children clean. We are all happier and healthier now.”
Bolivia-Potosí encompasses 12 communities, 200 households and 1000 individuals