Editor’s Note: The post below was written by Sam Klein, a volunteer from the US that will be working with Mano a Mano Internacional in Bolivia for the next few months. This is Sam’s second post (CLICK HERE to read the first one about their first few weeks with Oxford students at the CEA). We will be posting more from Sam over the next few months about activities at Mano a Mano.
Sam is an 18-year-old volunteer from Boston, Massachusetts on his breach year from high school, with plans to pursue a degree in journalism. Sam arrived in Bolivia on July 26, 2016 to volunteer with Mano a Mano in the Center for Ecological Agriculture (CEA).
Mano a Mano’s Winter Greenhouse Construction Project is Halfway Complete
Sept. 10, 2016
A Quechua subsistence farmer watched his harvest multiply while the sun went down on the community of Rodeo on Saturday, Aug. 20.
The farmer, however, was not observing his plants grow. Rather, he was looking on as Mano a Mano nailed in yellow panel after yellow panel of a roof for a greenhouse that he had constructed of adobe bricks.
The Mano a Mano group roofing greenhouses consisted of three Mano a Mano members and ten volunteers from Oxford Development Abroad, a group in its fifth year of collaboration with Mano a Mano. Between Aug. 20 and Sept. 7, the thirteen people reached their goal of roofing 42 greenhouses.
The three weeks of construction ended in a celebration held by community members. Volunteers sat and listened to speeches and music, ate lunch with the farmers they had built the greenhouses for, and played soccer until 4 p.m.
The farmers who spoke talked about how grateful they are for the greenhouses and how it will entirely transform their lives and their children’s.
As if to prove this point, when it was time to eat, bowls of potatoes and a bowl of meat sat out on the dry ground. With traditional farming methods that the people of these communities use, meat and potatoes is most of what the ground can produce.
Those ingredients, however, may not be the entirety of the farmers’ lunches for much longer.
The point of the greenhouses is to allow the farmers to grow more crops, including green vegetables, than they are able to without the greenhouses’ temperature-controlled environment.
With access to those new vegetables, children will grow taller and stronger, and the people of the communities will live longer, healthier lives. This creates a society better suited to the harsh environment of the Bolivian altiplano.
Before Mano a Mano offers to aid a farmer with a greenhouse, the farmer must sign off that they will use the structure for growing crops, rather than as shelter. The farmer will build foundation and walls, and Mano a Mano roofs and does preliminary seeding.
This method is the way that Mano a Mano’s charity work functions; the organization helps communities and individuals improve their lives – in this case, through food productivity – in the long-term, and the organization requires that the person or people receiving the aid contribute part of the work as well. For example, in this case, the farmers construct all except the roof.
With the roofing finished, and after seeding takes place by Sept. 8, the greenhouses will be set for growing plants for years to come; adobe lasts a long time. This will let the farmers diversify their currently carbohydrate-based diets, and improve their and their children’s lives as a result.
So it may not come as a surprise that, as the sun fell behind the mountains and shone off the yellow roof that Saturday evening, the farmer sat and watched each hammer stroke. He didn’t want to miss seeing his entire way of life transform in just a few hours.