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Posts Tagged ‘donations’

For the last couple of weeks during my teaching and online livelihood investigation, Lou has been steadily tearing her hair out trying to find a reliable home for the donation sent to her by Peros to help the homeless communities affected by the flooding in the Sacred Valley.

It has by no means been an easy road, with community infighting for resources, allegations from all and sundry about the validity of some claims about being homeless/in need of food etc. and a great deal of NGOs stepping on each other’s toes, not to mention the process of starting and managing a project here between locals and extranjeros, an experience akin to herding cats.  There’s also been the overarching issue of how best to use the finances; short-term aid relief or long-term sustainable development project?

In the darkest hour of a haphazard meeting, Lou plucked a solution from the ether; why not buy animals for the affected communities so that they can be reared, sold and eaten?  It covered all the bases for handing self-generating resources over to the communities and avoiding the situation where all the money would be spent after a couple of months, leaving the communities no better of then when the floods first hit.

Amusingly, the most suitable animal of choice turned out to be the cuy, or guinea pig.  These squeaky little furballs are normally classified as pets to be polished off by over-zealous children in the UK, but here they are precious commodities.  Growing to full maturity in about 3-4 months, your average cuy can then mate to produce more (and believe me, they do given half a chance) or be sold to restaurants and suppliers at a tidy profit.  This forms the basis of a very stable business, which has the obvious benefits of additionally generating a food supply and a much-needed source of nutrition to the diets of the locals.  With a certain amount of humoured disbelief, Lou has set the wheels in motion for a guinea pig empire.

She’s been working with a team composed of a range of people over the last couple of weeks, which recent swelled to include a couple of agronomists, specialists in the agro-industrialisation of cuy.  One particular proponent of the crack squad of fur-peddlers has been Carlos, a Cusqueñan who has a powerful desire to help in any way possible.  Sadly, this tends to manifest itself in fairly short-sighted thinking, rushing out to buy building materials at great expense and putting up structures without due planning or consideration for the needs of the community or the wider priorities of the situation.  It seems that Carlos sees the available fund as bottomless and capable of sustaining random unguided projects for all eternity, which it obviously isn’t.

Most of Carlos’ ideas begin with a colourful sketch on graph paper (one presumes to emphasises the engineering importance of the scheme).  Sometimes these drawings include measurements, sometimes not.  Having accepted the cuy project reluctantly (he was angling to put up as many kitchens as possible and keep supplying them with food until the money ran out) he swung into action with these works of art below.

Witness the majesty of...Cuylandia!

When pressed for specific costing on ‘Cuy Land’, three categories were submitted, each with their own question mark (literally) to substantiate the pending financial liability.  Costs, it seemed, were not a factor in this scheme.  No joke, here’s the breakdown in the 4th section of the proposal, “Investment”:

  • Ground: 500m2 * $??? = $????
  • Construction: $????? (does the greater amount of exclamation marks infer a higher cost?)
  • Guinea pigs: $????
  • I have to admire Carlos’ enthusiasm, but the short-sighted nature of his schemes is fairly depressing.  I have to say that it’s a fairly characteristic approach that I’ve seen demonstrated many times in Peru; many people here will insist on taking an extra 20 soles extra out of your hand today without thinking about the possibility that their pushy attitude will lose them future business with you that could add up to a lot more than the short-term win.

    The other sobering point is the complete lack of willingness to take the time to speak to someone who knows what they are doing; Carlos really doesn’t have a clue (his drawings bear strong testament to this), but he’s been insistent in his proposal despite failure to provide costing and also very unsupportive of any alternatives or measures of caution and consideration provided by the rest of the group.  This has demonstrated the double-edged sword of  another characteristic Peruvian attitude; there’s nothing wrong with rolling your sleeves up and having a go, but resistence to experienced or educated advice can be tiresome and potentially damaging.

    All in all, not an easy situation for Lou to manage, but with an increasing number of capable heads around her she’s sure to see the project through to a successful outcome.

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    A nice surprise...

    Since the last weekend of sobering revalations, people have been busy in Cusco.  Tuesday morning dawned and I stumbled down the stairs to find Lou staring slightly confounded at her laptop.  She was coming to terms with the fact that she had just recieved a very generous donation from some UK business contacts, a fairtrade sales and distribution company called Peros.  If you want to know how much, check out the JustGiving link, and while you’re at it, please leave a few quid yourself…

    Now to anyone, a donation of this size would be a marvellous godsend.  That is, until you realise that you have to navigate the tricky waters of how to spend a large amount of money and make sure that you get every ounce of value possible.  With small donations, the logical route is to chip away at relief effort, but a large sum opens up long terms options; how can the money be invested to really benefit communities in the long term?

    Options pop up for the coming months, including:

    • Debris clearance, relocation and reconstruction projects for affected communites
    • Investment in small businesses to diversify income from farming, which has been seriously affected by the distruction of the crops

    and of course, right now

    • Ongoing relief aid; people need food, water, clothing and shelter, and in many cases are still not being provided with it

    How do you balance the immediate need for aid and the sustainable investment of donations in longer term projects?  And just as importantly, how do you choose the right partners for the long term options?  There are a lot of community projects, NGOs and government schemes, but the waters are muddied with the mistrust between locals, government and foreign interests founded on a long history of corruption.

    Rest assured the connections that are already forged with the communities of the Sacred Valley allow for a diverse range of perspectives about choosing the right options for development, and the right  partner to do them with.  It’s just a matter of time…

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