Today was another busy day for the Bolivia Global Fellows! We started the day at the Andean Valley Company headquarters in El Alto, near La Paz. We first interacted with this comany back in Uyuni when we visited some of their producers’ fields.
During our visit to their headquarters, we were able to learn more about the company’s values, mission and goals, as well as, the programs they are using to support their producers. After their presentations, we had a tour of the processing facilities and were able to compare this facility to the one we had seen earlier in the week. We also learned about the quinoa value-added products they produce. We were fortunate enough to taste samples of pancakes, brownies, pizza crust, flan, pudding, quinoa burgers and quinoa with rice. We enjoyed quinoa infused flavors in our favorite dishes.
After our visit with the Andean Valley Company, we headed back to the hotel where we met with Sembrar Sartawi and the Sembrar Foundation. Sembrar Sartawi is an organization that provides micro-financing to farmers with 0-20 hectares of land. Together with the Sembrar Foundation, the organization operates using a triangle model that includes financing, market access and technical education. Sembrar Sartawi financing is often the only option for many of their clients. It provides realatively easy and quick access to needed funds, however we were shocked to find out that loans from Sembrar Sartawi have a 22% interest rate. The representatives explained the importance of the financing to farmers and the costs of providing these loans.
The Sembrar Foundation works under Sembrar Sartawi and works to complete their triangle model, providing market access and technical education to farmers. We were happy to learn education was a main goal of this non-profit organization and that they were working with the farmers we have seen struggling in the field. The foundation is currently helping 450 farmers and hopes to continue to grow.
After our meetings, we set out to explore Sopoccachi, the neighborhood where our hotel is in La Paz. Alvero, our translator who is from La Paz, gave us a guided tour and showed us some of the landmarks within the city. With all the walking we did, we all surpassed our 10,000 steps for the day. After returning to the hotel, we split on our own and continued to explore the city for the best places for dinner.
As the trip wraps up, we are all excited to return to the USA. The many experiences we have had and people we have met make each of us value what we have at home even more. Bolivia has shown each of us different methods of agriculture and helped us realize how advanced technology in agriculture is in the United States. We have all been working on our quinoa projects and look forward to presenting our ideas to each other on Sunday and in D.C. on Tuesday.
University of Wisconsin