The marvels of Peruvian rural businesses

Thursday, 21 January 2010. At sunrise, I go for a walk up the hill behind the church. A couple is already weeding potatoes and a girl fetches firewood by chopping branches and roots off the thola bush. The view is spectacular. Back in town, I realise that it's this herb that's giving the aromatic morning flavour to the thin air.

We start with a breakfast working session in which we analyse the CLAR and the rural businesses we met at the fair on Tuesday. All routeros see them as great development mechanisms that can promote local ownership and capacities at both local government and community levels, and thus achieve higher levels of efficiency and sustainability than conventional project implementation approaches. Clearly, one of the preconditions for a functioning CLAR is a relationship of trust between the local administration and the rural population. The participants made a number of practical suggestions that may strengthen the CLARs further. These include more illustrative documents to be used for consideration by the CLAR, feedback to the groups, and the transfer early on of many management aspects of the CLAR to the local government.

On the enterprise, the routeros felt that they had clearly improved people's lives, not least through elements of scale. One of the main shortcomings seems to be marketing, which is often thought about too late. Many businesses would also benefit from better linkages to banks and MFIs.

Despite having started our session at 6h30, we depart with the usual 2-hour delay to climb up the Tisco pass, which we cross at 4800 m. The castle-like rock formations are absolutely stunning, the only other traffic on the dirt road is trucks from the silver and copper mines, that have no linkages whatsoever with the local communities. After hours of knocking about the almost uninhabited and beautiful countryside, we pass a mountain flank disfigured by artisanal gold mining, and just before pulling into Yauri a huge copper and gold mine. The sheer size of the mining operations illustrate quite well the power imbalance in any conflict with agricultural land use.

After a late lunch Maria continues to Cusco to cure the altitude sickness, she’s not really recovered after 3 days and at this point it’s better to seek sound medical advice. The rest of us are off to the comunidad campesina Huisa Ccollana (yes, 2 c’s), a conglomerate of 200 milk producing farmers. As the average farmer owns around 20 heads of cattle and cultivates between 5 and 60 ha, a few of us have the feeling that we may have a targeting problem here. We continue to a progressive association that has trained two members in milk processing and artificial insemination. So far so good, but when we hear that the land in jointly owned and there seems to be no member who's not closely related, it becomes clear this is not an association, but a family. That's not the idea of the CLAR support. No doubt the training investment is very useful and even reaps a multiplication effect, but should one force the trainees into bogus associations?

As last event of the day we hold a discussion round with rural savings groups, MFIs and a microinsurance company. The project is encouraging a savings cultures through providing access and different subsidies. While the clients gladly take the subsidies, I’m not fully convinced that these transfers are required to convince rural women of the advantages of formal savings. But there’s no doubt, the savings introduction changes many aspects of women’s life to the better. Maria would have loved to see this. Similarly the life insurance, once people see its utility they will probably not be discouraged by a price of 5 USD per year and person. While the age of the joining person is the most important factor for the insurance company, HIV/AIDS is no big topic here. However, in Rwanda and many other African countries it would probably require higher premiums.

Another full day ends, albeit not in such a picturesque little town as Sibayo.

Claus Reiner, Country Programme Manager, Rwanda


willem said…
Yoru reports are not juts good travel writing but have interesting lessons and observations ....I hope you and Roberto wiLl want to continue share yoru thoughts about CLAR , local development, savings with or without incentives etc. here in Rome based on this routeros trip. Saludos a Juan e Ariel e a tu equipo de Rwanda.