Posts Tagged With: Yanacancha

Deep Thoughts About Peru…


Fourteen years ago, I went to Peru, visited Machu Picchu, Cusco and Lima, and figured I’d seen the country.

Machu Pichu

Machu Picchu… check!

Last year, going back to Peru with Heifer, I realized what a boneheaded assumption that was. For one thing, the country has changed radically since 1999. Lima’s population is now approaching 9 million and the city is far more glamorous and glittery than it was back then, although the slums on the outskirts of Lima stretch for miles and are truly grim.

RivasMoney photo from Wikipedia.

RivasMoney photo from Wikipedia.

Despite the country’s huge economic advances (no Latin American or Caribbean economy grew faster than Peru’s from 2001 to 2011) over 30% of Peruvians are still poor — and the struggle to survive is concentrated in the sierra (highlands) and the selva (Amazonian jungle) where Heifer works.Coming up to Chillcapata

While Peru is beautiful in almost every conceivable way…

Gorgeous Lake Titicaca

Gorgeous Lake Titicaca

…this country twice the size of Texas is packed with copper, gold and zinc, ripe for mining. And its climate poses a bit of an agricultural challenge, to say the least.andres

In the sierra, it’s difficult to raise much of anything except potatoes…

A million hours of work to create an arable plot of land.

A million hours of work went into building terraces to create arable land at 10,000 feet.

….and just about the only animals that can survive the altitude and cold are sturdy llama and alpaca.On the road to Chillcapata

The people who live in the highlands, where I spent most of my time wheezing for breath at 8-12,000 feet, are mostly indigenous and are now embroiled in an epic battle to save their beloved mountains from rapacious mining interests (that also threaten to destroy the jungles).

Pasco City is right on top of this ugly open mine.

Pasco City is right on top of this ugly open mine.

They are hard-working, proud, creative and fiercely independent people. chillcapata mama

…and I have so much respect for Heifer working with those communities to help them make a living on the land.

17-year old Rebecca Yanac keeps the breeding records for the family's alpaca herd.

17-year old Rebecca Yanac keeps the breeding records for her family’s alpaca herd.

I usually never like to go back anyplace (there are too many new places to see) but I reckon I’ll be going back to Peru soon. mom & baby

For one thing, I’ve got a new god-daughter there.

Leidy Melisa Arpasi Calle (before I cut her braids & became her godmother)

Leidy Melisa Arpasi Calle (before I cut her braids & became her godmother)

And I’ve got some other important people I need to check on, too.little oneTo read my previous blogs on Peru (including explicit alpaca lovemaking– and the story of my new god-daughter) check these links:

Categories: Heifer International, Peru, Philanthropy, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Never can say goodbye…

Non-readers, rejoice!

A few of my favorite photos of Peru, virtually unencumbered by any stories or text….

Every terrace was built by Incan hands, hundreds of years ago.

At 14,000 feet, in wind, rain and cold, the Yanqui sandal is made of tire strips and is the only foot-covering Highlands people wear.

Even the boys are fancy ...

Lunch is served.

Three generations of strong women.

And a true gift for giving.

If you want to thank the people who made this trip possible, show some love with a donation to Heifer Peru.

Muchas gracias, mis amigos...

OR.. try this groovy idea on for size: Buy a Sevenly t-shirt & $7 will be donated to Heifer Haiti (which I also LOVE). Next stop: China & Nepal…. stay tuned!!

Todo mi amor, Peru!


Categories: Animals, Heifer International, Peru, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Feeling the love in Yanacancha.

Spending the night with somebody new is always kind of tricky, what with the awkward getting-to-know-you bits. So the day we Heifer folks went to Yanacancha (an hour from Marcopata, Peru) to spend the night in the community, we were lucky to kick things off with a guaranteed ice-breaker: an alpaca mating session at the home of Juan Yanac and Santusa Mamami.

Boy, howdy that did the trick! Despite ensuing cold, wind and rain, nothing could dampen our enthusiasm for this seductively adorable town and its inhabitants.

Our exploration of Heifer’s Alpaca Bio-Diversity Project in High Andean Communities began with this X-rated “empadre” that represents a spectacular leap forward in a real life-and-death matter: the health and well-being of the Alpaca of Yanacancha.

Mr. Commitment: Claudio Pacco.

At an altitude of 14,000+ feet, alpacas are the one and only lifeline of high Andean communities; nothing but a few varieties of potatoes grow here, and precious few animals can survive the cold, wet, wild weather and raggedy thin air. But alpacas, members of the camelid family, can survive and even thrive here, given the right attention – and that guarantees food and income-producing fiber for families that live on the razor’s edge of poverty and malnutrition.

And that is where Claudio Pacco, the Heifer/AMADARES vet/tech comes in. During the first year of this Heifer project, Claudio has visited every one of the 22 communities involved, identifying alpacas house by house, and beginning monthly Heifer workshops to share better breeding and husbandry methods with the breeders.

It’s a complex process, raising good alpacas. The end goal is a healthy animal that will produce fiber that is insanely thick, incredibly fine, and of a uniform color. After years of purging non-white animals from their stock, breeders are using 22 gorgeous Heifer stallions here to bring back black, brown, golden, and butterscotch hues to their herds. But the challenges go far beyond color.

Baby alpacas are born in January in the wet season, so they can easily find pasture, but the next three months are marked by extreme cold, constant wet, and vicious hail. The babies are fragile and can easily develop bacterial diarrhea that will spread through a herd in days and wipe out an entire generation. So much is at risk that from December (before the babies are born) until March, Claudio teaches the breeders to maintain daily contact with the grazing mothers and babies, making sure they are in good health, or quickly receive antibiotics before they can infect others.

Baby dearest...

In the intensive Heifer workshops, breeders are given vet kits with meds; sturdy 6-foot high nets that keep the babies safe from foxes and puma; a variety of good, nutritious seeds to cultivate fertile pastures; and trainings to harvest rainwater and bring water from the glaciers so the alpaca will never go thirsty.

Virginia Huaman, 17, promoter & aspiring vet.

The result? Last January, 60 alpaca babies in this community died (the equivalent of a $60,000 loss). This year, just twelve months into the Heifer program, only 15 died—a 75% reduction. And next year, Claudio believes the losses will be far less – with the help of 18 “promoters” like Virginia and Gabrielle, who are being trained to spread the trainings and mentor others. These unpaid volunteers, 8 of them women, follow Claudio around on his individual visits, learn everything they can from him, and then pass the knowledge on to other breeders in the community.

Gabrielle Quispe and her family (notice the bare feet in 40 degree rain)!

Gabrielle and Remauldo Quispe have so enthusiastically adopted the Heifer trainings that in their herd of 80 alpaca, Gabrielle didn’t lose a single baby this year. With only a third-grade education, Gabrielle is intent upon her children becoming professionals and wants to use her thriving alpaca herd and her beautiful handicrafts (where does she find the time??) to support their education. (I’m still hacked off that I didn’t buy her gorgeous work.)

Why didn't I buy this??

Soup's on ...

By the time dusk fell, we were so cold, wet and altitude-challenged, (while all the villagers were walking around unfazed, in bare sandaled feet) we piled into the kitchen to warm up. Chef Johnny worked his magic in the kitchen with local women and made a gorgeous soup, while we drank tea and showed the children photos of themselves, which delighted them to no end.

After a singing/storytelling/dance fest, we went off to bed in the house of one of the villagers and I wore every piece of clothing I had on: 4 shirts, 2 pairs of pants and leggings, 3 pairs of socks, a down vest, hat and scarf–and I was still cold under about 20 pounds of wool blankets. But miraculously, I slept… only to wake at 5:30 a.m. to dogs barking, roosters crowing, alpacas being led out to pasture, and the smell of fires started for breakfast.

There is nothing that makes you realize how removed most Americans are from the earth, animals, plants, and weather than to spend 2 days in a village in a developing country. You walk away with a whole new level of respect for the dignity, creativity, and incredible work ethic of these people– and for the luxuries of  hot water, flush toilets and yes, heat.

(And this is with nothing to drink....)

But the truth is, I’ll never forget that beautiful night. And the truth that our Yanacancha was never, ever lacking in warmth.

Categories: Animals, Heifer International, Peru, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

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