Eliany Portocarrero Novoa: concern for the environment

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Eliany Portocarrero Novoa: concern for the environment

Eliany Portocarrero Novoa, aged 15, comes from a peasant farming family in the village of Ramos in the Amazonas region of Peru and is a weekly boarder at a state secondary school for gifted students. She is supported in this by a church organisation and will be the first member of her family to get an education beyond primary level.

Eliany says her parents are "doing the same activities that their parents and ancestors did for years" and believes they would "improve their life quality" if they ever gave up farming. Her older brother and two sisters were not keen to study, so they help on the family farm. With land fertility and crop yields falling, Eliany doesn't see much future in agriculture without more training to help people make the most of their land.

She doesn't believe that using chemical fertilizers is the answer, however, and feels that farmers should make more of natural fertilizers such as animal dung. Eliany belongs to a youth association that is involved in environmental regeneration. She feels passionately about the need for environmental protection and sustainable farming. "We are not using the forests in an adequate and proper way. We cut trees and burn down woods every day, we are plundering nature… climatic changes are occurring for which we are to blame, with our activities…the seasons don't follow one another properly, so the crops get spoiled."

Eliany does see some promising economic possibilities, however, and is keen that the newly established activity of producing panela (unrefined cane sugar) in her home community should expand, but only if the Association of Panela Producers proves a viable organization. "There are many corporations that don't flourish, they stay just there", she remarks, "or many times they get smaller and they turn into a zero."

Eliany's youngest sister is at the local primary school. Standards are so low, she says, with most children just learning the most basic numeracy and literacy, that it can put them off going on to secondary school.Eliany's class has recently set up a mobile library for the local community. She sees education as crucial to economic improvement: "Without studies," she comments, "a person can do nothing… by studying you will get a good job and make money to support your family." Her own ambition is to qualify for a profession such as accountancy, where you sit "in front of a computer…you don't suffer burning sun or pouring rain".