After a brief internet hiatis, the Bolivia Global Fellos Group is back online!
This morning we rose with the birds to leave our hotel in Uyuni and start the journey towards Rodeo. Much to some of our dismay, Rodeo is a community specializing in growing in quinoa and not an actual rodeo like we have in the United States. After a long and rough four hour trip, we made it and were welcomed with open arms! Thirty-four families live in Rodeo. The community is working towards developing agri-tourism, promoting organic quinoa.
The ‘president’ of the community greeted us, along with many other community members and their children. All were dressed in traditional Bolivian clothing they save for special occasions. It was easy to see they were thrilled to have us as their guests.
One of my favorite sayings is, “The eyes are useless when the mind blind.” This is a saying that suits many situations, but I think has really applied to the last few days of our trip as we have all tried to wrap our minds around quinoa production in Bolivia.
Today, however, we were instantaneously able to observe that this community was more advanced and forward thinking than most of the others we have visited. They diversify their financial risks with multiple enterprises – raising llamas as well as quinoa. They have about 100 llamas that graze on fields that are currently ‘resting’ from quinoa production to increase the soil fertility thanks to the manure.
The community previously had participated in a contest and created a museum to showcase the history of quinoa in their area as well as other pieces of the community’s past. They were able to show and tell us about many historical tools used to work ground, plant and harvest the crop. In addition, there were products made from llama wool, out of circulation Bolivianos (Bolivian currency), many different colored stalks of quinoa, clay pots used to carry water, and even mining tools and an old sewing machine!
Afterward we were able to climb to a hill that serves at the high point in town and from there we were able to view all the fields. We discussed their production practices and exchanged many questions. They were eager to learn from us and what we thought as well.
The community’s hospitality continued into lunch. We were served a two course meal with llama and vegetable soup as the first course and quinoa with vegetables as the second. It was muy bueno!
After lunch we took a closer look at the llamas in the pasture and headed out to the quinoa fields. It was refreshing for all of us to see that their fields were flourishing and they were excited and proud of their work. While production of quinoa in Bolivia is not fully mechanized, the community is certainly innovating. They even offered visitors to come back and observe an entire growing season as well as requested implementing quinoa studies at our respective universities. After many photo ops with the locals and high-fiving with the children, we had to part ways and make the trip to Salinas de Garci Mendoza.
Rodeo offered each of us a different reward – not only did our eyes see amazing sights through today’s journey but I really think the spark and spirit of hope for these people was relit in all of our minds today. Looking forward to what the rest of our trip holds.
See you all soon!
South Dakota State University