The Order of Malta works to reduce the injustice of severe hunger and abject poverty in the Altiplano of Bolivia
Friday, the Canadian Association of The Order of Malta officially signed a contract with CIDA for funding of its second generation project to help the people of the Altiplano Tapicari. This follows the approval of Minister Bev Oda, Minister of International Cooperation received on January 10, 2010. The Canadian Association has partnered with AGRUCO, a center of excellence for agricultural research and development at the university in Cochabamba, to improve the quality of life of the people in the Bolivian Altiplano. The Chuño Project leverages AGRUCO’s expertise in improving indigenous agriculture, making it sustainable with local practices, materials and customs.
The Bolivian Aymara of the Altiplano maintain a centuries old social structure which includes unconditional co-operation to survive in a harsh climate at an elevation of 3,700 to 4,600 m. The severe poverty incumbent to the area, poor agricultural conditions, lack of clean water, sewer or knowledge of hygienic practices, are all factors which inhibit the fulfillment of basic human needs. The project attracted 360 participating Aymara farming families in 16 communities of the ayllu Majasaya Mujlli representing 2,100 women, men, children and elderly. AGRUCO supplied better seed potatoes with more bio-diversity, improved seed selection methods, and ecological pest reduction. This resulted in an increased yield of the potato crop by 17%! Chuño, potatoes that are naturally freeze dried in the open air, during the day by the sun and at night by the frost. With material assistance from the project, beneficiary families constructed 147 pirhuas, small adobe storage sheds for their chuño and constructed 16 adobe community silos for storing and distributing seed potatoes. All 16 communities received 5 training courses about soil conservation and new cultivation methods. Further, the project was enhanced with a 3 year education program for 24 young women, age 18-24, from the Chuño project communities. By giving an opportunity for education to young women, the knowledge base of the community will be more robust. The young women room and board at the Instituto de Educación Rural in Quillacollo, near Cochabamba. The school is owned by the Archdiocese of Cochabamba and managed by the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Laval, Québec. The school’s program includes: reading + writing, Spanish, hygiene, first aid, basic medical care, assisting with child birth, animal care, administration, embroidery, and mathematics. The Order of Malta is one of the oldest lay Catholic orders in the Church, founded in 1099 A.D. The charism of the Order is personal sanctification of members, defense of the faith, and service to the sick and poor.