Improving food security in Bolivia

IFAD Asset Request Portlet

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Improving food security in Bolivia

11 December 2015 – Juana Huarachi is a llama herder and agronomist from the poor rural community of Curahuara de Carangas, Oruro in western Bolivia.

Fifteen years ago Juana graduated in agronomy from the University of San Andrés.

Coming from a farming community,  she knew that lama meat, which has been eaten in Bolivia since 4000 B.C., was considered by many people to be “food for the poor” and was not easily marketable in the country.

An entrepreneur by nature, Juana decided to try to change those perceptions.

Juana and her sister set up a small butcher in La Paz and processed llama meat in the same way as beef. They bought a large refrigerator and good quality tools. They made sure their shop and workspace was clean and followed hygienic guidelines.

Although business was good for a while, the quality of the meat they sold did not meet the standards of hotels and restaurants. This was mainly because of the poor quality of the faenado  – the slaughter method – and the poor meat processing techniques used by the slaughter house they partnered with .

With little business from larger hotels and restaurants, Juana and her sister were forced to close shop.

Juana, however, was determined to persevere.

She returned to Curahuara de Carangas with the aim of organizing people, making them aware of the value of llama meat and the importance of good production processes, especially good slaughter techniques.

With the support of the mayor and a non-governmental organization, Juana and her sister built a slaughterhouse and a storage facility for llama wool.

Together they began raising llamas and selling meat and sausages.

Now Juana and her cooperative produce lama meat and also use the wool fibre to create hats, mattresses, and other products.

Subsequently, eight other women joined them, and together they formed the La Llamita cooperative.

La Llamita began to receive support through the IFAD-funded Camelids Community Grant and the Support for the Enhancement of the Peasant Camelid Economy Project (VALE).

Project staff worked with La Llamita and other cooperatives in the sayañas (family plots where farmers live and breed animals) to improve llama rearing and meat processing techniques, ensuring that the quality of the final product was up to market standards.

The project managed to meet this important target by involving the communities. The participatory approach allowed the local people to see how their ideas could improve productivity. Which, in turn, created trust and loyalty.

According to Juana, a major benefit was that the IFAD-funded project helped them to improve and boost their overall production process.

"Without the support of the project, things would have taken much longer, and certain changes would not have happened," said Juana.

"For example, thanks to project interventions we were able to put in place a simple thing such as fencing the yards to avoid llamas running away," she said.

To refine their techniques and make businesses profitable, the owners of the sayañas regularly met with technicians. At the meetings, they voiced questions, doubts, and made suggestions.

These knowledge-sharing sessions were not only great capacity-building opportunities, but they also presented a chance for farmers to organize and plan their activities.

Now Juana and her cooperative don’t just produce meat but use the wool fibre to create hats, mattresses, and other products.

They also work hard to promote their products.

"There is a camel festival every May in the region, " explained Juana.

"We go there with our products such as charque (sun-dried meat) or our sausages. Others see what we do…and guess what? Next year we see that they have all imitated us," she exclaimed.

Juana says that all of these activities have paid off and that slowly her family is earning more income and is now better off.

"I already have 60 llamas. And very nice ones."