While Ana and Christie explored the salt flats in traditional quinoa growing territory, I, Lindsay, headed to Northeast Oruro this weekend to a small community called Curahuara de Carangas. Curahuara is a small town the traditional llama-farming region and I was lucky enough to visit for the community’s 19th annual llama festival! Much like a state fair in the U.S., this was an event in which llama farmers from all over the region brought their llamas (and some alpacas) in to sell and participate in various contests. There was a lot of live traditional music, food (I ate llama meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner), handicrafts; and of course, an abundance of llamas.
While there I had the chance to visit with several llama farmers and other individuals who work for VALE (acronym for Vicuñas, Alpacas, Llamas & Ecotourism), the state’s rural development program that works with camelid producers. I was surprised to learn that in that particular region of Bolivia, llama manure is extremely under utilized. Every one of the farmers I spoke to said that they only use a small fraction of their manure, mostly to fertilizer their potato fields, and the rest is actually a nuisance. Many were interested in our idea of implementing a low-tech compost system on their farms if they could make money from it. While this news was promising, it still leaves us with the big question of cost: will it be cost effective to connect this supply of manure with quinoa farmers living over 500 km (300 miles) away? The high demand for fertilizer gives us hope, but we will be continuing to work on answering this question.
Overall, it was a beautiful and culturally rich weekend!