Tuesday morning we awoke bright and early to catch a 4 hour bus ride from Oruro to Cochabamba to meet with Fundacion Proinpa. The ride took us from the arid Altiplano to another set of mountains that are green with trees and surround the very colorful city of Cochabamba. We’ve heard about Proinpa since arriving in Bolivia and were elated when they invited us to their facility. Upon arriving in the city we were met by our PCI Bolivia partner, Javier Delgado who is the National Coordinator for the MIS Llamas project. After lunch with Javier we drove through the city and passed numerous motorcades and official vehicles all over the city as Cochabamba is hosting the summit of the Organization of American States (OAS). That however is a topic for another day.
Proinpa is a local Bolivian organization that focuses on the conservation of natural resources, food security and competitiveness of the agricultural sector with an emphasis on reducing poverty in rural and urban areas. They do biological research on various plant sciences, technology, and organic fertilizers and have laboratories that test new techniques and inputs that can be used by farmers to improve land, yields and environmental impact. They are incredibly inventive and the research they do all over Bolivia is funded by their new technologies and products such as organic fertilizers. Their technology promotes agricultural innovation and allows producers to meet market demands with limited resources. This point is where our interest in meeting with them came in.
We met with Edson Gandarillas, Technology Manager and Noel Ortuño, Coordinator of Integrated Management of Agriculture who explained more in depth all the research and development Proinpa is doing. They were really interested in our business plan and especially interested in making a connection with PCI Bolivia and the llamas project. Proinpa even offered for Javier to send them some llama manure samples for testing its components as an organic fertilizer base. This connection is of course the exact link in the chain that we are looking to bring together for this venture’s success.
Additionally, Proinpa took us on a full tour of their labs, facilities, greenhouses and buildings to see all that they are doing. The research they conduct with agricultural scientists and experts is astounding and Noel (a microbiologist) showed us micro-organisms they are working with and sub strains of crops they are trying to improve with various kinds of organic fertilizers (powders, small pellets, liquids). It was incredibly informative and their commitment to finding affordable solutions to help farmers lacking inputs in really encouraging. Their business model of financing their continued research through their already successful technologies is one that is in line with the type of organization we would like to work with.
Our Siembra Organica team has become really informed about these agricultural topics but we are excited for the connection with Proinpa as they have the scientific and agricultural background specific to Bolivian organic farming that will be important for moving this venture forward. It was a fantastic meeting and after we finished touring the facility we went to the airport and hopped a 30 minute flight back to La Paz. Those in-country flights can really save the day! It was a crazy day of travel to 3 cities, meetings and learning but served as an important day for our team.