Learning about territorial rural development, cultural maps and ecotourism

Wednesday, 20 January 2010. Departure from Chivay to Sibayo. Breathtaking landscape with rugged mountains, steep gorges, stone walls, some alpaca and cattle, very few people. We arrive in the small town that is in a process of reconstruction, fully on the basis of its low stone houses and thatched roofs. Martin from Malawi likes the place so much he'd like to stay. Today it’s Maria Hartl’s time to get altitude sick, and Lorena from the Lima office takes good care of her, after a visit to the health post Maria retreats to the room. This is also the town that won the support for the underground electricity connections with its elaborate play at the CLAR yesterday. We visit the Sumac Pallay handicraft association that has managed to start a medium-scale business processing the wool of the 20 members. With a local trainer and some matching grant support, their lives have clearly improved. Yet for further growth they are still dependent on grants, and for the assets they own it's surprising that the only financial service they use is a savings account. All seems to be targeted at tourism. It intrigues me that there aren't any tourists, but Raúl, the mayor, assures me they come in organised tours by the busload year-round.

We continue through the picturesque town, past stone walls on which cacti were planted to discourage animals from climbing across. Next is a company of 10 local partners producing trout in many large tanks built and owned by the municipality. The tanks are managed by the company under a contract, without rent, and have a capacity to produce 5 t of fresh fish per month. The business is new, albeit well operational, and according to Raúl it represents a model for economic development. However, for an investment as large as this it appears that more partners could be involved, and possibly it might have been more equitable and less risky to set it up as smaller units.

He then proceeds to give a passionate presentation in a thatch hall, outlining his development approach in working with local associations and companies that need to compete for public support. He likes incentives. The municipality provided a laptop to the best scholar of the agricultural college, it subsidises thatched roofs, English courses, daily pay for road works for residents, lots of things. And he likes competitions. Any support the municipality provides it allocates through public competitions: pasture improvements, rehabilitation of houses, reforestation. What could be a sleepy little town is actually a dynamic local capital that manages to leverage 14 Sol for every Sol of its budget, and a participatory budget at that.

After the warm midday sun the cold sets in. We follow a couple of presentations on the concept of territorial rural development, cultural maps and ecotourism, and after a good round of comments and questions disappear with our host families to their rustic guest houses where we'll spend the night. Janvier, Benson and I are staying with Dora, a little lady in her 50s with traditional dress, and share a room that fits just about 3 beds and a table. Very homely, simple, clean. We help ourselves to coca tea, and for the joint dinner in the town hall Elizabeth Farmosi arrives in traditional Colca dress. After dinner there’s music with a local group, we move out to the log fire that struggles badly with the thin air, but when it finally gets going there’s dancing around the fireplace until we’re all warm and tired.

Claus Reiner, Country Programme Manager, Rwanda