Maps that can talk

Friday, 21 January 2010. After a long wait for the bus in front of our rather basic hotel on the unpaved roads of Yauri, a town that should be rich with mining revenues, we all meet for breakfast at the Katamaran restaurant with its peacocks running around outside. Bellies filled, we’re off to the Comunidad Campesina de Antaccollana, which presents its development plans that include many elements of natural resource management. A number of sub-committees manage different aspects: tractor management, irrigation, mirocredit, playschool, etc.

After this brief introduction that included not only traditional music but collective dancing, we jump in the buses to have a look at one of the small hand-dug reservoirs. Now in the rainy season, it's hard to imagine how crucial its water will be during the 9-month dry season.

As we discuss water and pasture management, our drivers turn the buses around and get them both stuck in the mud. Immediately they get different and even contradicting proposals, it seems in Africa and Latin America the approaches to this quite common situation are rather different. As the former throw stones under the wheels, the latter take them out again and replace them with grass. But somehow we push the two busses out, and continue to different families that demonstrate sound natural resource management at household level. I join the group visiting Lorenza, a lady whose exemplary improvements to her cattle, pasture, silage, compost, weaving, cooking and cheese making activities leave us all well-impressed. You name it, she's improved it.

What’s more, she goes around encouraging and teaching others all the various skills she learned from the local trainers contracted by the community. And to top it, her personal development plan, skilfully painted by her nephew, illustrates so well what she's already done and what's still up. We leave her thoroughly impressed.

Heaps of alpaca for lunch back at the Katamaran. Thereafter, it's not exactly easy to continue with a 4-person working session on the Rwanda innovation plan, with which we want to adopt the CLARs. But it's well productive, and we continue in the entire group with an analytical round on the territorial development, the talking maps and business plans. All well-appreciated tools, effectively applied by the project. Of course the group also has recommendations to make to the project team, although the heavy rain on the roof makes communication rather difficult. A particularly tough time for the interpreters.

Just before dark we board the buses for Cusco. The rid takes ages, partly due to the heavy rain, partly as the accompanying pickup has a double puncture and we stay together. I happen to be on the bus without heating, and it feels more like a mobile fridge. By midnight, we pull into Cusco, and are more than glad to be back to warmth and wireless.

Claus Reiner, Country Programme Manager, IFAD