Cristian, a 33 year-old farmer, lives in a remote Andean village in Peru. His community lives a traditional life, and until recently the closest water source to Cristian’s village was over a kilometre away, so they had no running water and no irrigation for their farms.
For as long as he can remember, Cristian and his family have always relied on rainfall to water their crops. They planted staples like potato, wheat and maize that would be likely to grow, despite unreliable watering, but were unable to sow high-value crops that demand consistent watering.
“My family and community have always worked to make sure we never lacked mountain produce,” says Cristian. “When there were no rains we suffered a lot, because sometimes the fields would not produce. Despite that we always had some food.”
In an effort to modernise their farming practices, Cristian and 14 other young farmers in his community participated in the Rural Development Program run by Caritas Australia’s local partner, Caritas Huacho.
With materials, capital and training, the program supports farmers and their families in rural areas to establish their own sustainable farms to produce reliable, profitable and long-term crops.
The program helped the 15 young men secure an unused plot of land in their village, then with seedlings and agricultural training, the farmers learnt to grow and harvest sustainable, high-value orchard crops including peaches, custard apples and avocados. They were also supported with materials and training to build an irrigation system to water their fields.
While Cristian raises a few cattle, sheep, cuyes (guinea-pigs) and hens for food, it’s the new orchard that’s made the biggest impact on his family’s diet. They’re now enjoying a bountiful harvest of varied, nutritious fruits in addition to their regular staples. Their steadily increasing family income is also changing the family’s life for the better.
“There is a good market for the peaches that we grow, which sustains our household,” says Cristian. “And custard apples, which also have a good price in markets, provide us with more income than the other crops.”
For Cristian, one of the most rewarding parts of the program has been working with his neighbours. The farmers have helped one another to learn and achieve, and are now beginning to reap the rewards of their hard work. “We all work helping each other. Here, this way in which we work is called aychamoa, which means, “giving each other a helping hand,” says Cristian. “The fact that I and the other partners can grow and develop together makes me proud.”
Now, the 15 farmers and their families can see a brighter future. “We are less worried because we are focussed on development, and with that in mind we are improving ourselves, with the help of Caritas, on the best way to produce,” says Cristian.
Would Cristian like his 3 year-old son to be a farmer when he grows up?
“I would like him to be a teacher so he can come back to the community and develop it,” says Cristian. “But he could consider being a farmer, because now prospects are better than in the past.”
Please donate to Project Compassion 2015 and help farmers in Peru grow and harvest sustainable crops, providing their families with food for life.