Well, we are just wrapping up our first full week of work in Bolivia and we can’t believe how much we have learned so far! Today we had two more very informative meetings.
We first spent about some time with Javier Delgado from PCI Bolivia looking over maps of the MIS Llamas Project in order to get a better understanding of the geography of Southwestern Bolivia. The picture below is a map of Bolivia focusing on the departments of Oruro, Potosí, and Cochabamba. In red are the areas where PCI has llama corrals. The white area just below, near the large salt lake called the Salar de Uyuni is where most of the quinoa cultivation takes place, but in recent years it has been spreading into traditional llama grazing territory in the “red” zones.
Next, we met with Cesín Curi from Centro de Promoción de Tecnologías Sostenibles or The Center for the Promotion of Sustainable Technology (CPTS). Curi has been working for many years to try to solve many of the sustainability issues regarding quinoa that we have been interested in. His organization has been creating various types of worm compost fertilizers as well as testing other types of organic pesticides and machinery for quinoa cultivation. While he has made a lot of progress, he admits that the problem is difficult. His primary interest is extending organic quinoa cultivation to land that currently is not being utilized, but to do so, requires a cost-effective and scalable fertilizer solution. He jokingly said that if we could figure out a way to create a Nitrogen fixing fertilizer that worked in the extremely poor quality soils outside of traditional farmlands, he would build a monument of us in the Altiplano!
We then spent a few hours with Walter Nuñez, Chief of Party of USAID’s Bolivia Productivity and Competitiveness Project. They have been working closely with Proinpa, an organization we learned about a few days ago that is based in Cochabamba and has developed a new type of organic fertilizer. Interestingly, one of Proinpa’s products is made in part with manure turned into worm compost and Nuñez believes there might be an opportunity for us to work together to help llama farmers sell their manure directly to Proinpa. Of course there are various factors to consider but we think it is a exciting possibility. Nuñez was also kind enough to set up a meeting for us with Proinpa in Cochabamba the week after next so we will get to learn more.