The dry and dusty Tunuyán riverbed contrasts sharply with the dark and heavy clouds that threaten rain. "You are arriving just in time for the rain although, to tell you the truth, this year we have had plenty of it", comments Silvia Gómez, President of the Asociación La Gloriosa, with a smile. She welcomes us to La Gloriosa, in the department of La Paz in Mendoza, Argentina.
Silvia was born in La Paz and two days after her birth her parents brought her to the family’s rural home, or puesto as it is called in this region, where she has lived her entire forty years. "This is where I have lived and this is where I will die, and it gives me tremendous satisfaction to know that my two children also want to settle here once they are done their studies, because we love the countryside."
In 2016, the 22 members of a rural civil association called La Gloria proposed a project within the framework of the IFAD-financed Inclusive Rural Development Programme (PRODERI). The project’s goal was to improve access to quality water for household use and to upgrade production facilities for goat and cattle farming. La Gloriosa wanted to acquire better facilities to mitigate climatic conditions, decrease the perinatal mortality rate of their new-born goats, and enhance the profitability of individual farms. Once the project is approved, investments will be made this year in each of the participants’ productive units to make household water available and to improve the pens and other facilities used for raising animals.
"I feel proud to be President of the association, especially as a woman, because all five women are very active in the project. We used to meet intermittently, but a year and a half ago we decided that we needed to formalise it. Putting the project together was a challenge and it took us almost a year", says Silvia with satisfaction as she shows us some newborn goats.
The project’s main objective is to incorporate pasture reserves for productive management linked to the birth of animals, services and other activities. Additional goals of this initiative include development of adequate infrastructure to provide shelter from extreme weather conditions and other climatic stressors, and improved water catchment and reserves for household consumption. The project has 16 participants, including five women, and total financing is 1,058,671 Argentinian pesos. The association contributes an additional 10 per cent to this amount in labour provided to install the investments.
"Last year it rained in April, and the baby goats did not suckle and they died. We lost 20 baby goats, but once the shelter is built they will be safe and I may only lose one or two, at most, because of the cold. That will make a big difference, so much so that I will be able to continue paying my two children’s boarding school. Life has become very expensive".
Silvia takes care of her father, who can no longer live alone, and she also has the sole responsibility for her children who are now 14 and 11 years old and who study in primary and secondary schools in La Paz. They board there from Monday to Friday. She barely has time to rest: "I get up at 7:00 a.m., I drink my mate and I go out to the pens to feed the baby goats. Then I let them out in the fields from 8:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. and I continue working with the rest of the animals: cows, horses, donkeys and hens. I also make cheese and crafts that I sell in La Paz. I sell the baby goats as soon as they weigh 8 kilogrammes.” All of this barely generates enough for her to support her family, but Silvia never stops smiling and she exudes so much enthusiasm for the new project that it is contagious and energises the other members of the association and the visitors.
Silvia has already had another project approved and that is why she knows how to work with this type of initiative. The association gets together once a month to meet with the municipality’s Director of Economic Development. During these meetings, they have the opportunity to address some of the project’s technical issues, as well as, other issues affecting the region.
"We have really noticed climate change. Before, it barely ever rained and now it often does. Temperatures rise a lot in the summer, even higher than 40 degrees Celsius, and there is also more wind. But there are years when it almost never rains and the animals lack food, become thin, and some die. There is a lot of variability; we go from cold to intense heat and it is difficult to predict", comments Silvia while she checks to make sure the baby goats have everything they need.
While this project has not yet begun, there are other IFAD-financed projects in the same region that are finalising their activities. Members of the La Sureña Cooperative, a few kilometres away from La Gloriosa, greatly value the benefits that they obtained from Juntos por un Sueño, a project that has allowed them to build a platform for marketing cattle, and to adequately adapt the property to carry out the exhibition and sale of animals, among other improvements.
"IFAD’s support is very important for rural Mendoza", comments Silvia as she bids farewell. "We have seen many projects improve participants’ living conditions, and we will achieve this goal too".