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Quinoa cakes for education

“The surplus from the bakery will be put in a community fund for health and education for our children”, says Marcelino Cruz, one of the leaders at the newly started quinoa bakery in Japo. He is wearing a traditional jaquet with pearl embroideries on the chest, bracelets around his wrists and a caps on his head.  “The bakery employs people and buys quinoa from local peasants. We need projects that bring income to the community”, he continues.

Japo is the central village for 17 small communities, counting a total of 600 families, situated at 4100 meters in the Andes region of Cochabamba Department, Bolivia. In the surrounding hills peasants grow potatoes and quinoa (a nutritious seed that can replace rice and grain) on small plots. Lamas, sheep and goats graze the dry earth. Houses are made of adobe (clay) and fences made from rocks.

The quinoa bakery employs 20 part time workers from the surrounding communities. They buy quinoa from local peasants, ground it, and bake cakes and biscuits. The products are sold at markets in different towns and villages. They also supply the public school feeding program in the area, which means the state has started buying local products instead of buying food from large businesses, and that children have a more nutritious diet.

The bakery project receives funds from the governmental Indigenous Fund. The board of the Indigenous Fund consist of representatives from five national indigenous organizations, including Norwegian People’s Aid’s partners La Unica (the national peasant organization CSUTCB) and Bartolina Sisa (the national women’s peasant organization).

The regional branch of La Unica I Cochabamba provides advice and administrative support to the local branches of the organization when they apply for funds.

“We help them develop the project idea, with the actual application process that is quite complicated, and finally with implementing the project”, says Delfin Alvarez, responsible for training programs in La Unica, Cochabamba.

Delfin is also responsible for the organizations political training program. Around 60 participants (40 % women) meet for three days every month over two years.

“The participants learn about institutional structures in the Bolivian society, about history, politics and economy, the change process in our country and the implications for ordinary people. They also learn about the constitution, indigenous peoples’ rights, and management of natural resources”, says Delfin . “People are eager to learn to be able to participate and influence”.

08.04.2014 | Helle Berggrav Hanssen