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Sunday, March 9, 2014
- Women and young people are central players in dozens of small businesses and environmental protection plans that are changing the lives of poor rural families in the Andes highlands of southern Peru.
The initiatives are financed by the government programme Sierra Sur and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
In her colourful traditional indigenous outfit, Yolanda Chaucayaqui shows a grey scale model that reflects what things were like until recently in her town, Yanaquihua, where deforestation and informal sector mining reigned.
Then she smiles as she shows another, brightly-coloured, scale model, which reflects the future she dreams of: avocado orchards kept green with a drip irrigation system, a water tank – and no mining.
“We want our town to be free of all of these negative things, and we are working to forge the way to a different kind of future,” she tells IPS.
Chaucayaqui rode seven hours in a cart from Yanaquihua to Quequeña, a smaller town in the region of Arequipa where hundreds of campesinos or peasant farmers took part in the last Sierra Sur/IFAD projects fair, on Aug. 3.
Peru has been working with the specialised United Nations agency for 20 years, fomenting the creation of small enterprises that improve the lives of poor rural families.
Some 18,000 families have benefited from the second phase of the Sierra Sur programme in the regions of Apurímac, Arequipa, Cuzco, Puno, Moquegua and Tacna.
Of that total, 48 percent of the participants were women committed to business and natural resource management plans, who have managed to join the financial system by opening savings accounts, José Vilcherrez, the head of project evaluation and monitoring for Sierra Sur II, tells IPS.
In these southern regions, 550 business plans are being carried out, each one involving around 20 men and women. On average, 80 percent of each business is financed by the government programme, with loans from IFAD, while the remaining 20 percent comes from the community.
Each project is chosen through a transparent selection process in fairs like the one held in Quequeña, by the local fund allotment committee, made up of residents and authorities from the participating villages and towns.
The businesses are diverse, and women participate in almost all of the activities, from livestock-raising and pasture improvement to bakeries, dairy products, textiles and craft-making.
“These women win a new space in their families, respect from their husbands and their kids. They start to be listened to,” says Vilcherrez, who is evaluating the impact of Sierra Sur on the female population, to determine how support from the programme can be improved.
Women have asked for more information, in order to gain access to new areas of business activity, and to learn about their rights, the expert explained.
Nelly Roxana Cheña presides over a group of local craftswomen in the region of Puno. Thanks to her involvement in Sierra Sur, she discovered her talent for knitting and began to earn money to pay for schooling for her children.
“We have never appreciated our talents,” she tells IPS. “But thanks to the training, we rise at four in the morning, we get our housework done, and we work hard, to pull ahead. We want to continue to receive training,” she enthuses, surrounded by her fellow knitters and balls of yarn and wool caps.
Cheña says the women in her town are actively involved in protecting the environment. There are 127 natural resource management plans in the southern regions, where families are carrying out activities to preserve and administer water sources and soil. The best projects are rewarded with funds from the programme.
“We want to contribute to the recovery of our villages,” says Rosemary Quispe, from Cuzco region. “We want to live in nice, neat houses while preserving the natural resources for ourselves and the next generations,” adds the 19-year-old, one of the many young people taking part in the Sierra Sur projects.
Since late 2012, IFAD has been encouraging youth participation in rural areas of Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Peru, providing financial and technical support through the Young Rural Entrepreneurs programme.
In Peru, 344 young people are involved in 28 rural enterprises, half of them in the south of the country.
“Young people have few opportunities to stay in their village, which fuels poverty and migration,” Wilder Mamani, the head of Procasur, an NGO that works in partnership with IFAD, tells IPS.
Sinthia Yucra, 21, decided to stay in her village, and is generating income for her family by raising chickens.
She lives in the village of Lucre, in Cuzco region, more than 3,000 metres above sea level, where she and nine other young people now have 1,000 hens and another 1,000 chicks. Eight of the 10 people involved in the project are women.
“This has strengthened my family and brought us closer together,” Yucra tells IPS. “I never thought our parents would support us. This is exciting. I have a lot of plans for my village.”
The group, who clarified that they don’t believe in welfare-style assistance, took out a loan to launch the small business and build the sheds. They are now being trained by Procasur technicians and plan to hire an economist, to prepare for selling their products to supermarkets.