Hi dear friends!
This is a report of two field trips:
During the first trimester of 2016 we were working with Pedro Dominguez who is a masters student doing credit work, under CEDESOL supervision, with Arizona State University. He has taken the information and profiles gather by Wendy and Caroline (ex CEDESOL’s volunteers) and based on the results of these surveys, has developed a Modular Educational Program draft for the schools, that covers different topics such as health, nutrition, environment, etc.
After a difficulties in establishing a meeting date with Toro Toro Mayor for signing the new Contract with the modifications, in April 2016 CEDESOL traveled again to Toro Toro and there the Mayor, promised to introduce the new agreement to the Council for approval and signature.
Continuing with the planned activities, the team this time composed of:
The team visited 6 schools and touched base with the teachers and school directors, informing them about the project and its latest developments. Some of the schools were ones CEDESOL had not visited before, so it was important to give them information about the project. Some schools did not know about the project, nor knew we were coming, so we caught them by surprise.
In Toro Toro, before visiting the schools, we met with the mayor of Toro Toro and also gave to him our Project Plan. He said that if there is no adequate space for the stoves, then they will be exposed to rain, wind, and quickly go into disrepair. Other clean-cooking projects have failed because of this and he doesn’t want it to happen again. Before we left, we didn’t make clear who would provide the roofs/cooking space, either us or the municipality. However, we agreed to collaborate with each other to make a solution for this. He said that he would present the project to the council and see if they approve of it for the collective agreement.
Toro Toro is a very complicated region, primarily because of the rugged mountains that make life very hard. However, for the people who live there, they deal with the difficult realities and slow progress. It seems that under Evo Morales, there have been improvements in the region in projects that aim to eradicate extreme poverty which is widespread in the Toro Toro mountains.
The projects that we see announced on billboards are for water, solar lighting, school facilities. Transportation in the region is another obstacle, as the unpaved roads suffer frequent landslides. There are few vehicles in the region because of this, as they surely would lose tires, so people have no options for transportation except for walking up/down the steep mountains on small paths. Some places have no water, telephone service, or even electricity/lights. People live in small houses and tend to agriculture and raising livestock. Students have to walk to school, sometimes everyday, depending on the school.
The “internados” are schools where students can sleep, like a boarding school (Pic.14). The cooking situation in the schools is very hard too, since all cooking is done with firewood that has to be collected. The “stoves” are either stone pits or “malenas”, clay-formed structures that hold pots over a fire. Cooking is slow, inefficient, and produces lots of smoke. Normally the parents take turns cooking, but sometimes they are late because of whatever reason, and the students can’t eat.
The teachers and directors generally are supportive of our project mainly because we are aiming to involve the parents, teachers, and students for their participation. David mentioned that we want them to feel like it is their project, instead of us giving them stoves and then leaving them, which makes this project unique for them.
The project will last at least 2 years, where CEDESOL will return periodically to each school for trainings, monitoring, and evaluation of use of stoves. The teachers also like the ideas about renewable energies and the educational material, especially photos and videos. They said they would support the project, especially with the 2 major themes about health and environment that are useful in their classes.
Having the feeling of heart warming because one of the biggest challenge were executed, CEDESOL team proceeded to return to Cochabamba. That feeling remained frustrated the day we received the news that the Council had not accepted the signing of the agreement that the mayor had presented, because the economical funds as a Municipality counterpart had been used in other activities. Searching solutions, CEDESOL modified the Memorandum of understanding once again, excluding the Municipality of the counterpart that had initially committed
Continuing our activities in this Project, and after experimented that the teachers expressed how they lacked audio-visual materials, CEDESOL demonstrated the 3 DVDs at each school along with the educational printed material and teaching guides.
We shared this info with some of the teachers and the Director of Education, and received their feedback. The didactical material is being revised taking into consideration their feedback.
The project has been stuck due to lack of signing the agreement, now CEDESOL has agreed to cover the costs that the Municipality had to cover.
This time the team was composed of:
CEDESOL’s team travelled to Toro Toro for the final signing of the Contract for Schools. We left at 6am to allow plenty of time for the journey but ended up making fantastic time thanks to all the new roads and construction work completed in the last 4 years. We passed houses with solar panels and tanks for collecting rain water, although the effects of deforestation could be seen clearly on the hills as the trees were sparse. We also passed schools we intend to work with during the project and groups of students travelling on foot.
When we arrived we visited a women’s centre where they use traditional dying and weaving techniques to make high quality aguayos, bracelets, blankets and bags. We took photos for the crowd-funding campaign as ideas for gifts to send donors. Buying traditionally made goods would provide support for local businesses, so they would ideally be bought from women working near the schools we work with. We took some posters for … away too that were sitting on the table. As we passed the old municipality building we could see it was being entirely reconstructed, although work seemed to be progressing very fast.
Before the meeting we went for a sandwich at a small café, where we talked to the owner about the difficulties of installing electricity in his 1901 building. He was well connected with a cable television but told us he was unable to have WiFi for customers since losing his phone. There was a single internet hotspot in the town, to which he could connect with his phone and make a local hotspot for the restaurant. The owner also expressed an interest in our stoves and said he had heard of solar cookers used in Cochabamba; how they make tastier chicken because the meat doesn’t get dried out. Before we left, David promised to return to talk more about the solar stoves when we were back in Toro Toro.
At 11am we met with the Alcalde Eliodoro Uriona Pardo in his temporary offices. Also present was Prof. Hugo Garcia Sanchez, Director of Education in Toro Toro, and Efrain Zurita Escobar, President of the Toro Toro Municipality. Deforestation was brought up as an issue and after some discussion about how the stoves worked and how they would be constructed, it was decided that the first phase of the project should go ahead, with the next phase dependent on these results. The report was then signed by the Alcalde, Director, Presidente and David.
After the report was signed there were some (very) fond goodbyes and we went on our way, having finally sealed the deal after a three year wait!
On the way home we passed a woman carrying a heavy “aguayo” (local type of bag) full of wood, which served as a reminder of why the day’s success really mattered.