Tuesday, August 26, 2008

FUNDACOM: it's all the buzz

Yesterday Bill and I went to Coroico, the nearby pueblo, to learn more about FUNDACOM—a local NGO founded by a group of UAC-CP graduates with help from the Horning Family and the Carmen Pampa Fund.

FUNDACOM’s main objective is to create a sustainable and socially conscious industry for the people of the Yungas region. Currently, FUNDACOM manages a beekeeping project. As part of their work, FUNDACOM trains local farmers in beehive management and provides them with access to a market to sell their products.

Pastor smokes bees out from the bee colony.

FUNDACOM director and UAC-CP agronomy graduate Rene Villca explained that their work is rooted in the mission of the College. “We are committed to helping the people of the countryside live better lives.” Rene told us that, for example, FUNDACOM pays fair and just prices to the farmers. “Of course, as a business, we need to make money,” Rene admitted. “But we also need to make sure that we treat our honey producers fairly. We have helped increase wages for all local beekepers.”

FUNDACOM also works closely with the College by providing internship opportunities for UAC-CP students. Like the College, FUNDACOM works to empower farmers through education.

The goal, Rene said, is for FUNDACOM to be entirely self-sufficient in two more years. And it seems the organization is well on its way. Mostly because of a contract secured through the federal government, FUNDACOM is working to produce more honey to meet the increasing demand.

Freddy demonstrates the difficulty of harvesting honey the "old fashioned" way

UAC-CP vete graduate Pastor Acho took us to FUNDACOM’s honey processing plant in nearby San Jancinto where he explained the relatively simple process of preparing honey for sale. From there, Bill and I accompanied Pastor and another UAC-CP graduate, Freddy Quispe, to a beekeeping site. As thousands of bees buzzed around, Freddy and Pastor installed new, custom made panels to replace the older ones made of sticks. Pastor explained that the new panels will not only make it easier for farmers to harvest the honey, but it will increase the overall yield.
Pastor holds one of the panels that FUNDACOM is helping to install

“So, this is my job, Sarita,” Pastor told me as we followed Bill, Freddy, and our canine companion back to the honey processing plant. “This is what I do every day—I go out into the countryside and do this same type of work with the campesinos.” When I asked him if he likes his work, Pastor turned to me and smiled broadly. “I love my job!”

During the 20 minute ride back to Coroico, I listened as Pastor fielded questions about bee management from our taxi driver--a man who has recently started dabbling in apiculture. At this moment, I realized I didn’t have to ask; it’s pretty obvious that Pastor loves his work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are a rockstar! What is your address down under there? Looks like it is cold.... is it Spring?

Great to hear from you!