Monday, May 18, 2015

Over half way through!

This week marks the halfway point of our placement here in Bolivia. Despite being currently fully immersed in the project work, I think it is essential to take a step back and assess what we've achieved and are still achieving. As I write, I am busy overseeing the planning of the inaugural event of what we are hoping will turn into a weekly market place for the producers of APU to sell their produce here in La Paz.
The team striking a pose while working on a greenhouse in El Alto.

What initially drew me to the Urban Agriculture project was the fact that it encompassed a extremely wide range of activities which touched on a whole plethora of issues. I remember in our very first week here in La Paz, our team leaders, very fittingly decided to take us to La Casa de los Ningunos, a local vegetarian communitarian house, for  our team icebreaker event. As I sat there, enjoying a delicately crafted and socially responsible meal, I quickly found myself daydreaming about how I could somehow get involved in working alongside La Casa and was therefore very excited when, a week later, I was invited to a meeting about collaborating with them in organising a weekly fair.

As I showed an interest in the fair itself, my team leaders, very boldly I must say, entrusted me with the task of coordinating the establishment of the inaugural vegetable market. Organising a one-off event may seem fairly straightforward but I was amazed, not to say overwhelmed, by how many different tasks it entailed.

The first of our tasks was to carry out a market research workshop in the local Sopocachi market in order to  establish a pricing system and to determine how an ecological fair could be potentially viable in our area. This sounds quite technical but in reality it just consisted in harassing perfect strangers with questions about vegetable prices and ecological food.

Another aspect of organising the fair was constructing a stall made up entirely with recycled materials in order to fit with the ideology of the project and of La Casa de los Ningunos. For this we approached Sagitario, Bolivia's largest printing press, and were miraculously granted a meeting with the company's CEO. Despite not being particularly optimistic, he turned out to extremely kind and laid and not only generously donated 6 wooden pallets but also kindly gave us a tour of his printing press. We now need to somehow figure out a way to put the stall together with the simple tools we have. Having almost no prior experience in design or construction, this was indeed interesting.

Hard at work building a stall made entirely out of recycled wooden pallets.

At the moment, we are working hard on the marketing aspect of the project. This means designing, printing and distrbuting posters and flyers all over Sopocachi. I must say, there is something very gratifying about walking around Sopocachi and seeing posters for an event you helped organise.

 DIY stencil for our market banner.

As Saturday draws nearer, I am keeping my fingers crossed that this event will not only be a steep learning curve for myself but also a step in creating a legitimate space for the APU producers to improve their livelihood.

Hopefully, all the posters and flyers will help spread the word.

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