Video Tour: Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture in Cochabamba, Bolivia

Video Tour: Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture in Cochabamba, Bolivia

Take a tour of our Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA) on the outskirts of Cochabamba, Bolivia with Mano a Mano agronomists Camila and Victor:

Video Credit: William Wroblewski

The CEA Has Grown Since its Inception in 2012

The CEA was started in 2012 with the goal of demonstrating good agricultural practices in action for rural Bolivian communities, and the site has been growing over the past 4-5 years to include many more tools & techniques. Also, 3 out of 4 Mano a Mano’s counterpart organizations are now on the same site as the CEA, which helps with integrating some of our projects, such as the sorting and distribution of donated supplies shipped from Minnesota.

More Information About the CEA

Thanks MINN Volunteers!

Thanks MINN Volunteers!

Last night we hosted a group of volunteers from the Minnesota International NGO Network at the Mano a Mano office/warehouse to sort & pack donated medical supplies, and we got a lot done!

MINN volunteers at Mano a Mano, March 1st, 2017

MINN volunteers at Mano a Mano, March 1st, 2017. Photo Credit: MINN Facebook page.

Here’s a note from Mano a Mano volunteer warehouse manager Ray:

Amazing what 9 dedicated volunteers can do in 2 hours. Here is a shout out to the Minnesota International NGO Network’s 7 members who helped Karen and I sort out and prep 17 gaylords of wheelchairs, walkers, crutches and canes this evening. And in the end just a few orphan crutches who will also find a Bolivian home….. Thanks MINN volunteers!!!

MINN volunteers packing crutches

MINN volunteers packing crutches & walkers

A few orphan crutches left...

A few orphan crutches left…

These Supplies are Included in Mano a Mano Shipments to Bolivia…

The prep work done by MINN and other Mano a Mano volunteers at the warehouse – shrink-wrapping crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs; sorting & packing boxes with supplies; filling gaylords; stacking pallets – is a big part of the shipping process. A couple of times a year we buy 40-foot containers (usually 4 at a time) to stuff with all of these ready-to-go supplies & equipment, and ship them to Bolivia, where they are then sorted & organized again by our Bolivian staff & volunteers in preparation for their distribution to people & organizations in need throughout the country.

One of the four containers leaving the Mano a Mano warehouse on February 14th, 2017 - nearly 85,000 pounds of supplies are currently en route to Bolivia.

One of the four containers leaving the Mano a Mano warehouse on February 14th, 2017 in our most recent shipment – nearly 85,000 pounds of supplies are currently en route to Bolivia.

Mano a Mano staff and volunteers at our Cochabamba, Bolivia warehouse sorting supplies shipped from Minnesota in a previous shipment earlier this week.

Mano a Mano staff and volunteers at our Cochabamba, Bolivia warehouse sorting supplies shipped from Minnesota, in a previous shipment sent last year, earlier this week.

…Where They are Distributed to People in Need Throughout Bolivia

Once supplies are ready for distribution at our Cochabamba, Bolivia warehouse, a large portion are donated during big public distribution events, like this one in October 2016:

October 2016 Distribution Event

Sending a Truckload of Supplies to the Municipality of San Ignacio de Moxos

Sometimes larger amounts of supplies are sent directly to the community, like this truckload to the Municipality of San Ignacio de Moxos to benefit 32 health centers in the area:

Thanks Mano a Mano Volunteers!

Thank you to everyone that helps in this process! It takes many months, and lots of work, from the time a box of medical supplies or a pair of crutches arrives at our St. Paul warehouse until it gets in the hands of someone that needs it in Bolivia. But for us it is worth the effort, and we couldn’t do it without the many amazing people that help out.

One of the many wheelchairs that were donated on October 22nd to people in need.

One of the many wheelchairs that were donated on October 22nd, 2016 to people in need.

Municipality of San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia – Receiving Medical Supplies From Mano a Mano

Municipality of San Ignacio de Moxos, Bolivia – Receiving Medical Supplies From Mano a Mano

The Municipality of San Ignacio de Moxos in the department of Beni, Bolivia shared this video showing the donation and reception of medical supplies from Mano a Mano for use in 32 health centers in the area, including Hospital 3 de Noviembre.

Part of October 2016 Distribution Event

These supplies were part of a larger distribution event in October 2016, where dozens of organizations came to Mano a Mano’s warehouse to receive about 90,000 pounds of donated supplies collected and shipped from Minnesota.

Distribution event at Mano a Mano warehouse, October 22, 2016.

Distribution event at Mano a Mano warehouse, October 22, 2016.

Learn more about this event, and Mano a Mano’s surplus program, here.

Four Containers With Almost 85,000 Pounds of Supplies En Route From Minnesota to Bolivia

On February 14th, 2017, four containers – that Mano a Mano volunteers had spent the last few days loading – were picked up from the Mano a Mano warehouse in St. Paul, Minnesota and are starting their journey to Bolivia. Nearly 85,000 pounds of wheelchairs, crutches & walkers, boxes of medical supplies, larger equipment like gurneys, and many other items will be distributed by Mano a Mano in Bolivia to people & organizations in need - just like our last distribution in October to places like San Ignacio de Moxos.

One of the four containers leaving the Mano a Mano warehouse on February 14th.

One of the four containers leaving the Mano a Mano warehouse on February 14th.

Check out pictures and video from our container loading in February here.

Sorting Supplies at the Mano a Mano Warehouse in Cochabamba

Sorting Supplies at the Mano a Mano Warehouse in Cochabamba

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Mano a Mano staff & volunteers ‘taking advantage’ of the national holiday to sort supplies! These supplies were sent from Minnesota late last year, and are sorted and organized by Mano a Mano for distribution to people and organizations in need throughout Bolivia. We just loaded four more containers with almost 85,000 pounds of supplies at our St. Paul warehouse, and they are now en route to Bolivia to be sorted in this same warehouse in preparation for distribution.

Four Containers With Almost 85,000 Pounds of Supplies En Route From Minnesota to Bolivia

On February 14th, 2017, all four containers – that Mano a Mano volunteers had spent the last few days loading – were picked up from the Mano a Mano warehouse in St. Paul, Minnesota and are starting their journey to Bolivia. Nearly 85,000 pounds of wheelchairs, crutches & walkers, boxes of medical supplies, larger equipment like gurneys, and many other items will be distributed by Mano a Mano in Bolivia to people & organizations in need.

One of the four containers leaving the Mano a Mano warehouse on February 14th.

One of the four containers leaving the Mano a Mano warehouse on February 14th.

Learn more about this shipment, and Mano a Mano’s surplus distribution program, HERE.

Mid-February Update from the Center for Ecological Agriculture by Volunteer Lindsay Emi

Mid-February Update from the Center for Ecological Agriculture by Volunteer Lindsay Emi

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Lindsay Emi. Lindsay is a writer and student from Los Angeles, California. She is eighteen years old and a volunteer from Princeton University’s Bridge Year Program in Bolivia. She will spend six months in Cochabamba volunteering with Mano a Mano, and then attend Princeton beginning in the fall of 2017, where she hopes to study English and creative writing.

This is Lindsay’s 6th post; below are her first four posts:

  1. Mano a Mano’s Second Large-Scale Distribution Event in October: Ceremony and More Behind-the-Scenes
  2. My First Week at the CEA – Lindsay Emi
  3. An In-Depth Look at CEA’s On-Site Agricultural Training Workshops
  4. November 28-December 4: Two Kinds of Visits to the CEA
  5. When the Rain Won’t Come: Farmers Receive Agricultural Training and Workshops in Omereque

February 13-19, 2017: Departures at the CEA

by Lindsay Emi

For the past year, Leandro has worked and lived at the Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA) as a farmer and to support the work of CEA and its agronomists and engineers Camila and Víctor. The CEA has literally been Leandro’s home; he lives in a repurposed and renovated shipping container with his wife and five children just inside the CEA’s gates. While Camila and Víctor often work in design for projects to be implemented in communities or plans for the CEA’s expansion and development, Leandro’s primary work for Mano a Mano is in maintaining and taking care of the CEA. He works a full week, several hours a day, to maintain all of our crops, livestock, and infrastructure.

Leandro, working at the CEA

Leandro, working at the CEA

I’ve been so fortunate to get to know Leandro; I see and work with him every day I’m at CEA. He was one of the first people I met at Mano a Mano, and I consider him one of my mentors and bosses at CEA. I think the first thing I ever did at CEA was clean out the cow pen. Leandro was helping me, and we were both shoveling and scraping the bottom of the pen. After basic questions like my name, where I was from, he asked me, ‘hablas español?’ and I hesitated. I said something to the effect of not really, not yet, but I’m learning, and he nodded thoughtfully. I barely understood or spoke any Spanish. Leandro’s first language is Quechua, and although the Spanish of Quechua speakers can sometimes be pretty clear to me, on the other hand, my error-riddled Spanish is usually more difficult to understand for Quechua speakers than it might be for Spanish speakers or especially for Spanish speakers with some knowledge of English. So for the first two weeks, we struggled to communicate, for that reason and for my lack of what I call my CEA vocabulary—the amalgamation of farm-related words that I’ve picked up over these months.

But since October, since that first day and first week, Leandro has been endlessly patient with me. Usually, I go to Leandro for my day’s tasks, whether it’s weeding or cutting alfalfa or watering the greenhouses, and Leandro will stop his work to explain and show me what I should do. In those first few weeks, Leandro would speak slowly, demonstrate the task at hand, and correct any mistakes I made. And as I slowly got better at Spanish, I became better at communicating with all of my CEA colleagues, better at following directions and doing my day’s work. I’ll always remember conversations that I had with Leandro about the US and our families, as we cut alfalfa together, talking about other volunteers and my counterpart Asia from last year’s program, or telling him about my mid-course travels as we took the sheep out to pasture. I’ve gotten to know his family a little more too, including his wife and children; they have also chatted with me, unlocked the door for me nearly every morning, even shared some of their food and fruit with me.

After a year at Mano a Mano and the CEA, February is the last month of Leandro’s time at CEA before he moves on to other work.

Leandro and his family have shown me so much kindness, are always grateful for the work I do no matter what it is. I know I’ll miss seeing them everyday, helping Leandro and trying to make his own work a little bit easier. And I’ll remember and appreciate everything I’ve learned from Leandro about not only agriculture but also the effort it demands to do it conscientiously and sustainably.

We’re also saying goodbye to two volunteers this month, Natalie and Daniel. Natalie, our volunteer from Canada, has been an incredible help to Mano a Mano Internacional. For the past three months, she has worked in the CEA, assisting with farm maintenance and sorting medical supplies, and has also helped us research, assemble, and translate information and materials on nutrition and anthropometrics that we will use for impact assessments in our beneficiary communities. After more travel through South America, she plans to return to Canada and eventually attend graduate school to study occupational theory.

Daniel, a university student from Peru, came to us from the organization AIESEC. He worked with us and lived at CEA for six weeks, and was extremely important in keeping the CEA maintained through the holidays. His experience at Mano a Mano and the CEA has fostered his interest in agriculture and permaculture, Daniel says, and will serve him well in his continued studies in environmental engineering and industry. Both Natalie and Daniel have been extremely hard workers and wonderful company, and I’ve really enjoyed my time with them.

All of us at Mano a Mano Internacional greatly appreciate their help, will miss them, and wish them well in future endeavors.