In 2018, Sacabamba community leaders approached Mano a Mano with a compelling request.  “Please come to our villages and build greenhouses with us. Many students live at our schools during the week because their houses are too far away to walk home every night. They’re hungry.  We have to feed them.” Of the nearly 600 children who attend school in their three villages, more than half of them live at school during the week.

During an earlier visit to our Center for Ecological Agriculture in Cochabamba, these leaders had seen for themselves that adobe greenhouse structures with plastic roofs could protect tender fruit and vegetable crops against bitter cold high Andean winds. Attending CEA nutrition classes, they also learned of the importance of adding these foods to family diets. The lessons were taken to heart. They came to Mano a Mano to advocate for their children.

The leaders presented a clear request: build three extra-large greenhouses in each of three villages that have primary and secondary schools: Sacambamba, Que Coma, and Matarani.  

In 2018 Mano a Mano’s Center for Ecological Agriculture designed a 65’ x 25’ multi-family greenhouse. Steel pillars and trusses that support the structure are manufactured in Cochabamba and transported to the site. Mano a Mano engineers survey the site and assist with any design questions. The structural lifespan of the extra-large greenhouse is projected to be 15-20 years.  Where terrain and housing distribution patterns allow, the larger greenhouse is the design of choice, as contrasted with the 13’ x 15’ single-family design which we have used to build over 300 greenhouses along steep mountainsides.

In partnership with the municipality of Sacabamba and the parents and teachers from the three requesting villages, Mano a Mano constructed nine greenhouses next to public schools, three in each village.

The community constructing the adobe bricks for the Sacabamba greenhouses, August 2018.
                 St. Paul, Minnesota Rotarians joined the celebration when the nine greenhouses were dedicated.

With careful selection of plants, correct timing, efficient use of water, and focus on maintaining the quality of soil, these greenhouses can yield abundant fruit and vegetable crops. 

Crops in the Sacabamba greenhouse, March 2023.

Teachers view the greenhouses as real-life laboratories. Along with parents, they involve the children in all aspects of gardening. They integrate age-appropriate garden assignments into their math and biology lesson plans.

Mano a Mano travelers visiting Sacabamba, March 2023.

In March, Mano a Mano sponsored its first trip to Bolivia since the pandemic derailed our last planned travel experience in March 2020. Children from each of the three villages lined up to greet the visitors and invite them into their gardens. In anticipation of the group’s arrival, they prepared signs of greeting in English, including one that celebrates Independence Day in the U.S.

Greeting Mano a Mano visitors, March 2023.

Visitors gifted the school children with school supplies which they had packed at the CEA on the previous evening. Students responded with their irresistible traditional dance.

Dancing in Sacabamba, March 2023.
Sacabamba students proudly displaying their greenhouse crops, March 2023.

Formally Dedicating the Sacabamba Greenhouses with a Group of Mano a Mano Visitors – March 2019

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