Sunday, March 7, 2010

hope in the campo

Morning hopes float over the green countryside cradled by hands of clouds splattered across the sky. The campo (county) is one of my favorite parts about visiting the Andes. Rolling green hills seem to extend forever, and because the road infrastructure is rudimentary after twists and turns and climbs and falls you feel like you are somehow lost and found in the middle of these powerful mountains.

Thursday we left Cajamarca at 7am to visit the town of San Marcos, about 1.5 hours through the countryside from Cajamarca center. The mission of the trip was to visit loan clients at Multicredit’s site there and to meet with a group of women to discuss village banking in the town.
On the ride there, we took turns listening to “gringo” music and Peruvian music. As co-pilot, I told Oswaldo one of my primary jobs was to “wo”-man the music—Nora brought some country, rock, pop, hip-hop and at one point laughed to myself while skidding around curves on the mountain road as we sang “One Love” by Bob Marley. It is refreshing to find yourself in scenarios you could have never dreamed up for yourself.

Once we descended into San Marcos, which is literally in a hole surrounded by mountains, we visited different clients in the field who raised cuy (guinea pig) as their main source of income. I am adding some pictures to the blog since we have guinea pigs as pets in the US, but here they are a total delicacy and everyone eats them. From the frame of reference of the US, it is a little bit different to walk into a room where hundreds of cuys know they are there for eating. They actually sense this and when you walk by their cages they all begin to squeal loudly and pile on one another to hide so that hopefully they won’t get chosen for the next meal. They sure aren’t waiting to be lovingly petted or to eat yummy pellets and run around a wheel like they are in the US!

We even visited the husband/wife team who proudly celebrated their victory producing “La Reyna Cuy 2009” (The Queen Cuy of 2009). Yes…there is a pageant and everything, and yes this is a picture of the queen’s cape and crown! These types of visits are wonderful in really assessing what kind of capacity training you can give to people based on their passions and desires. For example, the community of cuy growers here talked about benefitting in the past from classes about animal care and prevention of disease, as well as needing space and training on proper sanitary butchering to reduce incidence of contamination.

The visit with a group of women later was an incredible experience. Every village banks starts with a promotional meeting about what village banking is and how it works. Women from different neighborhoods may come depending on where the meeting is and how it formed. I really enjoyed listening to women talk about their businesses, what help they could use, and to watch them organically form themselves into smaller interested groups to move forward with bank formation (usually 3 more meetings if a woman is interested: baseline interview-home and business visit; bank actualization and election of board of directors of bank, name chosen, foundation docs agreed upon; and then formal final meeting to celebrate the bank, swear in the board, receive actual first loans).

On the ride home, we were all beat from the sun and walking and dusty day and I enjoyed hearing the healthy discussion about capacity building in a community, and the despite the ease of trying to tell people what is best for them…the key to everything being the creation of everything from the inside of a community and listening to their hopes, cradled by those amazing clouds hovering in the sky.

Sending all my love.

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