Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A week in the Life of Focapaci

When I was told that I had been given a place to work with International Service in Bolivia, I assumed that my project would involve working with children. However, at my training day in June, I was told that I would be working with the urban agriculture project, Focapaci, specifically with greenhouses. Although, obviously excited about the next 3 months, I was also slightly daunted having never worked in this field before. I had no idea what to expect, and what my day to day working life would involve. We are now over half way through our time here, and I have really enjoyed the variety that each working day brings. Here are some of the experiences expected from a week working with Focapaci.


On Mondays the Focapaci team are responsible for delivering the vegetable order from APU, an association of producers in El Alto, to restaurants in La Paz, other clients and the IS office. We arrive at La Fejuve in El Alto and meet with the producers to collect the vegetables. Our tasks include weighing the vegetables and ensuring the quality is up to standard. We then deliver the vegetables to the various places in the centre of La Paz. Despite some initial hiccups (mostly due to Bolivian time keeping!), the process is now much smoother, and we all find it a great way to interact with local people.

  David and Berta weighing vegetables at La Fejuve


Every Tuesday is spent undertaking the pre and post production of the video manuals which show new urban agriculture techniques and technologies. The majority of the video manuals are filmed in El Alto in Focapaci´s greenhouses and feature the Focapaci engineer Willfredo Blanco and the producers of APU. The end goal is to share the new techniques with the population of El Alto, and equip them with the skills needed to produce their own vegetables in their greenhouses successfully.

 Katy and Mateo checking the sound for the videos


On Wednesdays we usually work in the IS office completing various jobs that we have been asked to fulfil by Focapaci. During the cohort, I am responsible for developing the social media and marketing for APU and for the production of the video manuals. Ilyas and Josh the other British volunteers are responsible for nutrition and commercialisation. Our team also consists of 2 Bolivian volunteers, Mateo and Carla, and Pedro our team leader. Sometimes we have meetings with the producers at the Focapaci office in El Alto. We are currently developing a transference plan for commercialisation, so that slowly the producers themselves take on the responsibility for the order and delivery of the vegetables.

Meeting with the producers in the Focapaci office


Thursdays are usually our construction day. We visit a different producer each week to help with the maintenance of their greenhouse. Over the last few weeks we have helped to do various jobs such as watering and caring for the plants and general tidying. I have learnt a range of news skills from making doors and building walls for chicken pens, to how to make your own compost using a process called lombricultura (vermicompost). We all love this type of hands-on work.

Making compost using lombricultura

Katy, Ilyas and Josh very dirty after a construction day


On Friday mornings all the volunteers and cooperantes gather in the office for Guided Learning. Each week a different project group takes it in turn to run activities about an aspect of development. This is an opportunity to learn more about the type of work NGOs do. After lunch is Action Friday, where volunteers, cooperantes and team leaders take part in an activity laid on by a different project. This is one of my favourite parts of the week, as we are able to work all together and can really make a difference in a short amount of time. Activities have ranged from painting outside in a children’s centre, to dressing up as a Cebra to promote safer roads in central La Paz. For Focapaci´s turn we went to plaster the walls of a family´s greenhouse in San Roque, El Alto. This process involves pic-axing the ground in order to collect dirt, mixing this with water in a hole we dug, and then finally using our bare-hands to throw the mud at the wall, in order to fill in any holes and ensure that no air could enter the greenhouse. This was incredibly fun, although as you can imagine very messy!

Everyone after the Focapaci Action Friday

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