Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Cusco-Puno Corridor

Happy New Year!!  Am still trying to catch up on field trips from December and although I am tempted to write about more recent events, I am going to be diligent and take us back to earlier in December.

My MIMDES host has arranged a meeting with Agro-Rural, a section of the Agricultural Ministry, to see whether I can visit some women associations that practice agriculture. Cesar greets us warmly when we meet and after a brief chat says he would be happy to organise a visit for me at various places along the Cusco-Puno Corridor.

The Cusco-Puno Corridor project aims to increase rural and urban incomes in the Puno-Cusco area by supporting agricultural production and development of the manufacturing and services sectors by micro- and small-scale enterprises. To reduce rural poverty and increase rural-urban linkages, the project provides technical assistance, training, investment funds for community initiatives, legal and entrepreneurial development advice, product certification, interaction between buyers and sellers of goods and services, and financial services. The project has a knowledge brokering component delivered face-to-face and via tele-centres which are located in several places along the corridor. People who benefit from the project include subsistence farmers and herders marginally inserted in the local markets, and small groups of micro entrepreneurs who use simple technologies and have limited access to financial resources. access to Internet.  It sounds interesting so I decide to head back to Cusco.

The tricky part is going to be the timing. Peruvians celebrate immaculate conception ( as a holiday (Dec 8) and we have to make sure people are around for the visit. But these things seems to have a way of working themselves out and my MIMDES host ~ who is combining a visit to Cusco for another project with the opportunity to accompany me on part of semi coordinate our travel from Lima to Cusco -- same route and timing that is, but different airlines.

There are a number of stops on the schedule, so a fair bit to tell, so will cover different stops in different blogs. First stop after arriving in Cusco, being greeted by Ciro the local agro-rural rep, and after about an hour's drive in a twin cab ute, we reach the municipality of San Salvador, where we visit an assocation of women Kiwicha producers.

The association has been up and running for about 4 years – San Salvador won a local government capacity building grant. The organisation initially attracted  14 women, but not all were able/willing to contribute 10% of their own money to the project grant and now only 4 women remain active in the association. Local government has helped to improve the capacity of these women in terms of setting up their infrastructure and equipment as well as how to use the machinery. 

The women make bread, cakes and cookes and have a capacity to produce 2200 packages of handmade organic cookies per week, which they sell at 1 sole per packet. When I express surprise at the low price I am told that this is in fact twice as expensive as commercially produced cookies and that they wouldn't be able to compete at all if they charged more.

San Salvador is a tourist destination (more about that shortly) so they are able to sell many cookies locally. They also sell at fairs in the region. They make enough money to pay off their debts but have no savings and say they expect to start making a profit next year. To date they have been using their own land to grow kiwiche grain for the production of the cookies, but if they want to expand production in future they will need to start purchasing grain. As long as there is grant money in the bank from the grant the women will be able to buy grain from external sources, but it will eat into their already meagre margin. Still, they talk about their desire to expand the business and sell wholesale. When Ciro from Agro Rural asks how much money they each put into the business, they shake their heads saying they don't know, revealing the need for some core business skills such as keeping books and marketing, given that wholesale would require them to compete in the market place against much larger companies.

We are about to leave San Salvador but my host from MIMDES pleads for a small side trip up the mountain near San Salvador to visit Señor de Huanca sanctuary. According to the legend, in 1675 Diego Quispe who was an Indian escaped from the Yasos mine where he had suffered abuse. He hid from his master in a cave, and it is said that this place was illuminated by the presence of Jesus who spoke to Diego and told him to go back to his village.  Every year, on September 14, thousands of devotees from Peru and also from places such as Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile make a pilgrimage to the Santuary of Huanca to receive its healing powers and blessings from El Señor. Often people will take new cars to be blessed ~ must be why Peru roads are relatively safe, compared to Bangladesh that is...

No comments: