(Pat Close, QBL Board member, sends this update from her trip viewing QBL projects in Bolivia – April 15 email)
Our visit to the Huancollo and Sojata greenhouses was glorious, glorious greens and reds. The produce was abundant and healthy. Inside the greenhouses it was hot and humid. Outside it was cold and rainy. We had 2 hail storms during our project visits. It would be impossible to grow vegetables outside a greenhouse.
Each greenhouse was a little different and reflected the preferences of the family it belonged to. Most of the greenhouses have lettuce, tomatoes, chard, cucumbers and peppers; pimiento marron (similar to bell peppers) and pimiento locoto (hot, hot, hot). Most families grow some spices such as parsley,quilquina, mint, oregano, camomile, cedron, huantaya and toronjil. Some of the spices have a citrusy flavor to them. Some people grow celery, corn, squash, cauliflower or broccoli.
Prior to the greenhouses, most families subsisted on potatoes, occasionally supplemented by fava beans and quinoa.These greenhouse vegetables that our recipients are able to feed their families greatly improve their nutrition. Additionally, our technicos train the community to use organic farming methods.The greenhouses also extend the growing season.
In these communities the families use half of the greenhouse to grow vegetables for family consumption and they use the other half to grow plants for commercial sale. Previously these families had to purchase what little vegetables they could afford. Now they are the sellers and they are very proud of it. The money they make from the sale of their greenhouse vegetables frequently makes the difference as to whether or not they are able to send their children to school. Even though primary education is free, pencils and notebooks must be provided by the family. Many families simply do not have the money to buy these basic supplies and therefore do not send some of their children to school.
Men and women participate equally in the maintenance of the greenhouses. There is an elected greenhouse committee of at least three people with men and women equally represented. There is a monthly community greenhouse meeting. Each family contributes 5 bolivianos (35 cents) monthly to a fund to buy new seeds and to cover future costs such as for replacement of greenhouse roofs. Our technicos have instructed them in how to make the mud bricks and construct the greenhouses by hand. The entire community builds the greenhouses. It was a very worthwhile experience seeing how well they have used our project funds to improve their lives.