The Northern Altiplano and Lake Titicaca area of Bolivia is characterized by extremely variable weather conditions that include droughts, hail and a near constant threat of frost due to high altitudes and low night time temperatures. The relative proximity to a large metropolitan area (the Bolivian capital of La Paz) has enabled a growing amount of migration and market linkages over the past decades that have accelerated the loss of traditional knowledge and crop management that was critical to the sustainable production of crops in this challenging environment. Many farmers now spend most of their time near the city, engaged in trade or construction. The social changes in the Northern Altiplano are exacerbated by global climate change that has produced startling changes in the cropping systems in the past few years. In areas where only bitter native potatoes could be produced and then processed into naturally freeze dried potato (chuño) it is now possible to cultivate improved potato varieties often using chemical fertilizer and pesticides. Likewise, in many areas where quinoa was a staple, it is now too dry to grow. In other places near Lake Titicaca, farmers can now grow commercial vegetables like green onion. Similarly, increasingly farmers are raising cattle instead of llamas. These changes can have negative impacts on the soil, yields, and nutrition of the farmers in the Northern Altiplano, where malnutrition and stunting rates among children is over 30%.
To understand if the Yapuchiri system has generated or generates effective and efficient solutions to the production problems and necessities that are prioritized in their particular contexts.
To sharpen communal ,organizational and institutional mechanisms of the farmers that allow them to resolve 80% of their production problems through farmer agriculure research and innovation.
To consolidate the farmer agriculture research and innovation nucleous for the Yapuchiri system to make them suppliers of communal services.
To sharpen the organizational, institutional and comunal mechanisms of the farmers in a way so that through conventional agricultural research and innovation that can resolve problem identified on the order of 20%.
Outputs and Outcomes:
According to 59 farmers (intentional, snowball sample) who have attended trainings run by yapuchiris, some go to learn about organic farming (mostly the use of bioinputs) and some go because if they don’t they get fined by the community. Often men cannot belong to multiple associations, so they choose to participate in dairy associations and send their wives or eldest child to the yapuchiri trainings. Many think bioinputs are too labor intensive and not effective enough. About half were happy with the training, half not. Of those that were not happy, they prefer Yapuchiris from other communities that don’t play favorites and most would prefer a technician from Prosuco.
Conducted experiments in 3 communities with 4 different crops initiated and done by farmer leaders on the use of different bioles (liquid compost for plant application made from plant and animal waste decomposed through anaerobic fermentation) and biofoliares (bioles with additives to accelerate fermentation). Unfortunately a control with water was not done so the results (which show 50-100% production increase with these 2-3 applications, due to reduction in pest damage among other factors) are not credible in the sense that it might just be the water that is providing the increases. However, the bioles and biofoliares were also tested in a lab for their properties. The results show that the bioles that had fish meal provided the best results both in terms of chemical profiles (much higher N and volatile solids– more readily absorbable organic matter) and yield (although did not control for all variables).
While much is known about Andean potato weevil, many farmers in this project don’t take advantage of the knowledge, it is hypothesized by the project this is because first it is necessary to know the context of individual farmers and communities. Thus 4 expert farmers from 4 different communities in 13 plots engaged in an experiment to monitor 2 species of weevil levels in their fields trough traps and plot the results against precipitation, humidity and temperature data, they also collected final yield and pest damage data for 2 years. The monitoring they did with community participants, the analysis (on graph paper) was done by the 4 expert farmers. The results include knowing that weevil development is tightly linked to plant development, as is humidity/ precipitation (higher levels lead to higher populations.) The incidence of infestation ranged from 5%-13 %. The reflection of the farmers upon seeing the data is that weevil infestations are rising because of climate change and bad management of farmers. For Prosuco the conclusion was to try to influence local policy to have territory wide action to control the pest, they feel that farmers are controlling more in terms of rotations and monitoring pest levels.
Yapuchiris (expert farmers) reach at least 10% of the families in their communities up to 50%. In total yapuchiris have reached 400 families with technical assistance through 2 farmers’ organizations. 330 families have reported implementing the use of organic fertilizers that is promoted by yapuchiris (but only 280 say they received TA from yapuchiris, indicating that there is a spill over effect.) 99% of those surveyed said they now do seed selection, whereas only 63% did in 2008.
Preliminary anecdotal evidence on use of printed communication material: over 700 copies were distributed to farmer members of 2 farmer associations during a census and others during workshops. One community used a booklet on the importance of Andean weevil to demonstrate to the municipal government the importance of the pest and the need to invest in IPM plans. Yapuchiris (expert farmers) have photocopied at their own expense some of the materials to distribute more wildly. Farmers have brought materials to different workshops funded by different sources. A poster distributed by the project has been taped to farmers’ walls.