Peru, Day 5, Guinea Pigs, Artichokes, and the Group photo

by | Jun 6, 2007
Who said travelogues need to be chronological? Not I. I’d rather start at the intersection of memory and an available photo, for example, this one, taken on May 31st when we visited the Shupluy area. (Copyright 2007 by Peter Frey for CARE).
On the day this photo was taken (t-shirt day, can you tell?) we visited Primorpampa to see the results of a CARE initiative related to small-scale guinea pig production. Guinea pigs are native to the Andes, and their meat is considered a delicacy, something I can affirm firsthand. High in protein and low in fat and cholesterol, guinea pigs can be bred, raised, and taken to market in as little three months, making them a very efficient source of both food and income.
CARE’s intervention included hygiene, segregation of the animals in pens for better hygiene, and construction of a common sanitary facility for processing the meat. Families now use the composted animal waste to fertilize feed crops such as barley or alfalfa, which are used in turn to feed the animals. Some families have been able to cultivate substantial organic vegetable gardens in addition to the feed crops.
We observed two significant systemic changes related to the changes in guinea pig production. One is the improvement in overall hygiene as sanitary practices related to raising the animals are applied to other aspects of everyday life. We rubbed our shoes in a tray of lime before entering the houses, for example, to control the spread of contamination.
The second systemic change has to do with empowering women, who are the primary providers of care for the guinea pigs. As their ventures prosper, the women enjoy greater standing in the community and command more respect. One woman told us that the men in the village used to sometimes hit their wives, but that this has stopped as the women have attained more economic power.
Perhaps, like me, you recall the black and white television and magazine ads for CARE circa 1960 featuring the ubiquitous CARE package. If so, you have some catching up to do. CARE’s approach to aid has changed dramatically, shifting from the provision of direct service to providing technical assistance, analysis, and start up funds for systemic interventions that result in long term improvements that are maintained by the community rather than by ongoing outside support.
This kind of systemic intervention is not as sexy as direct relief, and as a result, CARE faces fund raising challenges today that it did not face in the past. It’s ironic that now that a dollar donated to CARE has so much more leverage, it is harder to attract support. Not to worry. I know 11 alpha women who came home last week with a bee in their bonnets, a bee that is going to be spreading the CARE buzz for a long time to come.
Photo: From left to right, Peggy and Frannie Northrop, Coco Fossland, Juli Mahoney, me, Joeann Fossland, Dawn Fossland, Fran Thorsen, Carol Moore, and Amanda Bolster. And yes, the group was somewhat weighted toward the Fossland clan, as was only appropriate given Joeann’s role as chief instigator.