Sunday, November 2, 2014

Reflections of one month on Project..

Now that we’re one month into our time here (even though it feels like we only arrived a week ago!), it seems a good opportunity to evaluate our progress so far working with Focapaci, our project partner, and APU, the association of women we directly work with.

In commercialisation we have created a new poster, leaflet and website featuring new photos of all the vegetables grown by the producers, with the aim of increasing their client base (apuvegetales.weebly.com in case you’re interested to see our work). The nutrition document, which should provide a source of information and support for the producers, is also progressing well, with a first final draft due this Thursday. We have tentatively begun planning human rights workshops, with a particular focus on strengthening group cohesion amongst the producers.

A photo of Locoto, taken by ourselves, to be included in the flyer and poster publicising the work of APU.

Perhaps most significantly, we have assisted several producers with the construction of their greenhouses and planting vegetables, and in the process learnt a lot about their lives and the different challenges facing each of them.

We have spent much of our time, including our project’s ‘Action Friday’ working with Doña Emiliana. She has five children, including a very young baby, and is widowed. The family lives far into El Alto in an area called Playa Verde, around a one and a half hour journey from the centre of La Paz. They share one room, and do not have a bathroom or running water. We talked with her a little about her life, and it quickly became apparent that she has little time or resources to work on her greenhouses, and faces additional challenges such as a lack of water when the weather is dry. However, it was similarly evident that her family would really benefit from the nutrition provided by home-grown vegetables, in an area where there are very few shops of any kind, let alone selling fresh fruit or vegetables. For this reason we have been pushing hard to finish off her greenhouses: installing doors, windows and a water system; and preparing the soil for planting.

Working on the windows of Emiliana's greenhouse during our 'Action Friday'.
However, I’m aware that constructing the greenhouses is probably the easy bit. How can we encourage Dona Emiliana to make good use of her greenhouses given the additional challenges she faces? She is resistant to even attend the producers’ meetings for fear of a fine, as she has already missed several meetings and been threatened with expulsion from the association. As there seems to be a lack of organised refuse collection in Playa Verde, her yard is strewn with rubbish, including inside her greenhouses.

There are no easy answers to these issues, but we hope that our workshops with the producers’ organization will foster a more cooperative attitude, leading to greater group support for women such as Doña Emiliana and ultimately a more sustainable development for the urban agriculture project.

The greenhouse of Doña Hilda, a more advanced producer than Doña Emiliana.
A visit to another producer later on in the week offered a very different perspective. Doña Hilda already has two fully-functioning greenhouses, growing a wide range of vegetables, for her family and with some left over to sell as an additional source of income. Although Hilda’s family’s living conditions are less precarious than Doña Emiliana’s, seeing Hilda’s thriving greenhouses made me feel much more optimistic about the prospects for Emiliana’s greenhouses. Some producers may need more assistance than others, but hopefully with time and support from us and from each other, they will also succeed in establishing their greenhouses and securing better nutrition and income for their families.

Written by Katie Steval

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