Today was a very important day as we visited for the first time the corrals of PCI’s MIS Llamas project! MIS Llamas is an acronym for Manejo Intergral Sostenible or Integrated Sustainable Management of Llamas. The 8 year-old development project was implemented to increase the productivity and effectiveness of how llamas are managed in the Altiplano region. Some of the main problems that existed previously were high rates of llama mortality due to the harsh climate, cold weather and predators such as condors. The project also focused on helping llama farmers improve nutrition and the overall health of their animals. Since the program’s implementation they have seen a 64% reduction in the mortality rate of young llamas, a 34% increase in the production of female llamas milk and 100,000 llamas under more sanitary conditions.
Perhaps most striking about today’s visit was realizing just how remotely located are the corrals! We visited the “closest corrals to Oruro” and we still traveled 3 hours each way on unpaved roads. While the scenery was gorgeous, we saw that MIS Llamas sites are in some of the poorest and most remote villages in the country. People in these villages are mostly subsistence farmers – they grow potatoes and raise llamas. Anything else they eat comes in by truck about twice a week. Interestingly, people can pay about $1.15 to transport about 100 kg of goods from the villages to Oruro. They often pay a driver to bring their potatoes or chuño (dehydrated potatoes) to market in Oruro and then are paid when the truck comes back to pick up more goods. We do think there is potential to follow this model for the sale of compost. However, according to our partners, this region in particular would not be the best place to develop the business because most of the farmers only have around 25 llamas. In other areas, such as Curahuara de Carangas, farmers have anywhere from 100 to 1,000 llamas and therefore, there would be more raw material available.
Another unique thing about this community is that it is one of few in which PCI has already started a worm composting project. It is very small scale (due to the limited about of manure), but has been successful as an additional form of revenue for these farmers. They mostly sell the compost in 1 kg bags for about $.70 to individuals seeking inputs for houseplants or very small gardens.