Our greenhouse agriculture project contributes to the ambitious initiative of combating malnutrition and advancing food sovereignty in the Andean region of Peru. Greenhouses are knowledge-based tools that not only enable the cultivation of fruits and vegetables at high altitudes, but also engage communities in a transformative learning process.
Deadline: May 30, 2012
Total needed: $1,200
Imagine living at an altitude between 12,000-14,500 feet above sea level high in the Peruvian Andes. The closest market sits at least three hours away by bus on a one-lane dirt road that winds precariously along steep mountainside drop-offs. The harsh climate, fragmented government aid, and dearth of infrastructure render your community relatively inaccessible to any outside visitors. Moreover, as a subsistence farmer you must battle with the harsh growing environment characterized by marginal growing lands and major temperature fluctuations. These challenges make it nearly impossible to grow much more than root crops and a few grains.
Yet despite these hardships, you persevere. You excel in school during the days while helping in your family’s chakra (field) in the early mornings, late evenings, and weekends. With a lot of hard work and a little luck, you earn an opportunity to travel 22 hours by bus to Lima where you study agricultural practices at a technical university. Through hard work you earn a scholarship to study abroad in the United States to work on a farm learning invaluable sustainable agriculture techniques. Finally you return home to your community, inspired and ready to apply your knowledge to advance food sovereignty in your region and ready to combat high rates of malnutrition. Then suddenly reality sinks in. You realize you have no resources, limited contacts, and no idea how to begin such an ambitious endeavor.
This is where Ruben Quispe found himself in 2009 until, by chance, he linked up with a group of eager graduate students from the Monterey Institute of International Studies and began working alongside them to create a greenhouse initiative in his home region. Today Ruben oversees the design, planting, and teaching that take place in seven school greenhouses, two of which are in the community where he grew up. The impetus for these projects comes from a unique partnership between community members and students, guided by Ruben’s fierce dedication.
|Working with Team Peru and the MIIS student-founded NGO, The Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development last year, instilled a sense of motivation in us. We felt so fulfilled by the success of the established projects and even more by the relationships we established with communities. As we worked together on the agriculture initiative for school greenhouse projects, we became increasingly invested in the planning and implementation process. In Peru we discussed our passion for seeing tangible results and the excitement of being involved in grassroots development work. We returned to MIIS inspired and motivated, incorporating projects into academic work such as grant writing, evaluation, and thinking critically about organizational design. Now we want to share our stories and be part of the movement with MIIS students and The Andean Alliance to continue producing positive projects. We were inspired by the potential of these projects to provide communities with the means to achieve greater self-sufficiency and improved health. At the same time, we have truly grappled with how to sustain these projects, how to have a greater impact.|
There are so many skilled people out there like Ruben yet they lack resources and a solid support system. We want to be a resource for students in Peru, working with them so that they can grow and eat vegetables for the first time, learn about greenhouse management and actively work to combat their malnutrition challenge. Providing a steady flow of graduate students to design and evaluate projects as well as a source of funding to ensure projects can be maintained and expanded drives us everyday. We hope to return to Peru and expand this greenhouse initiative within yet another community. This is because we see this approach as the most effective way to truly connect the Ruben’s out there with the resources they need.
We invite you to join us in training the next generation of leaders in Andean region. We will work closely with Ruben and local leaders to select a community in the Andes. Many similar projects in the region fail due to poor planning and minimal follow up. Based on a needs assessment, we may choose to reinvigorate a failed project abandoned by its founders or to establish a completely new project. Our decision will be based on ensuring project sustainability both through the selection of a partner community and through a responsible project design.
By working closely with students and Ruben, we are able to ensure projects are well maintained. Students follow an alternative curriculum comprised of working weekly in the greenhouses learning about management, maintenance, and greenhouse cultivation, in addition to the importance of a nutrient rich diet from fruits and vegetables. The greenhouse is a valuable knowledge-based tool for students. These future leaders will be the change agents that take ownership of their new knowledge and expand such projects throughout the region. Partner with us to connect these leaders with the tools they need to mobilize their communities, advance self-sufficiency, and achieve food sovereignty.