10 January 2012 - Women from the municipality of La Asunta recently received training under Jatun Sach'a, a development project meaning "big tree" in Quechua, the language of the indigenous people of Bolivia. The aspiring entrepreneurs learned how to exploit the possibilities offered by native Andean plants, such as yucca and majo, and to use them in organic products and local dishes, such as "chive", "chichi" and "sonso".
Armed with their new knowledge, the women won first prize at the Third Organic Fair, sponsored by the municipality of La Asunta. The jury assessed producers of coffee, honey, cocoa and other products, but gave the La Asunta women's group top marks because of the range of products they offered and their inventive yucca and majo recipes. Their successes have greatly increased demand for similar training in the use of other plants and vegetables found locally, such as plantain, and their processing to create products that could enhance food security and improve nutrition in farming communities.
Jatun Sach'a, an example of successful grass-roots development work, is part of the Comprehensive National Development Strategy 2011 - 2015 and contributes to maximizing the gains derived from natural resources. Those gains include income generation and job creation through forestry activities; forest management; and the cultivation of crops using agroforestry systems. The project focuses on environmental protection, the empowerment of women and microcredit schemes to generate decent employment and income.
"The beauty of Jatun Sach'a is that by involving the whole community, everyone has a stake in its success", said Cesar Guedes, UNODC Representative in Bolivia. "People can realistically hope for better long-term prospects with new skills and high-quality products."
UNODC and the Ministry of Rural Development of Bolivia have been working to support the management and sustainable use of natural resources in the tropics of Cochabamba and the Yungas region of La Paz. Some 4,200 families have already benefited from the initial phase of the project. In the second phase, the project is expected to benefit more than 12,000 families.
Important activities have been implemented in the tropics of Cochabamba and the Yungas region of La Paz to support farmers' cooperatives, indigenous territories and protected areas, yielding great social and economic benefits and improved technical know-how in the cultivation of coffee, cocoa, achiote and other produce.
Supported by the European Union and the Governments of Germany, Austria, Italy and Liechtenstein, the next phase of the project will include more agroforestry activities based mainly on the cultivation of coffee, as well as tree-planting and forest management. Promising coffee production has raised ambitions of developing protocols for the certification of seeds and of the origins of produce, which would help to ensure consistently high standards.