The Aymara women of Achocalla are working their way to self-sufficiency, sustainability, and a better life.
Achocalla, which means in Aymara big brother, is a small town 15 km away from La Paz, in Bolivia. Under 20.000 people live in this beautiful and high location, organized in 26 communities. Only 14 of them are officially registered.
At 4000 meters over the sea level, their lives are very conditioned by the harsh climate, which also affects their main economic activities: agriculture and animal husbandry.
The poor quality of the roads and houses; the generalized lack of access to basic services such as water and electricity; added to the little access to technology -only a 11.7% has access to a computer in 2012, and only a 3.7% had access to the Internet-, are some of the social and economic conditions that also determine the lives of the people of Achocalla, where more than 60% of them live below the poverty line.
But in this difficult scenario, there is a bright spot of hope for a better future.
Communities against poverty: a co-operative agricultural business
in the Highlands
In 2005, a group of Aymara indigenous people from Achocalla founded AFLOPHA, a comunity Association of Flower Growers and Vegetables Producers.
Although this association has 104 registered members, there are only 30 active people among them, and 29 of those are women. They grow and produce a wide range of organic vegetables, including potatoes, beans, tomatoes, celery, chard, pepper, squash, onions and many others.
Because of the tough conditions of the Highlands they need to protect some of their crops. For this reason, they grow their vegetables in a number of greenhouses that have been installed in their individual family land plots.
Apart from growing and selling vegetables, they are starting to produce and sell processed dehydrated products, such as mixed dehydrated fruit-based snack bags; instant soups made of different vegetable flours and llamas jerky; a wide variety of herbal and fruit infusions, such us carrot, camomile, lemongrass or lemon balm, and also some spices like ground locoto and powdered quirquiña, the Bolivian cilantro.
They grow flowers and produce vegetables, and also process and sell dehydrated fruits, instant soups, and herbal infusions.
The association has currently 30 Aymara members, 29 of them are women and 1 man.
This producers association was founded in 2005.
They are located in the village of Achocalla, in the department of La Paz, Bolivia.
Capacity building and seed capital to help them become a solid organization
This business path hasn’t been easy. Even though half of the land of the area is used for agricultural purposes, it is incredibly hard for them to access funding and training opportunities to acquire skills and capacity to succeed in their business aims.
In 2016, CEF started supporting AFLOPHA by providing access to training and funding to help them purchase a new land and build more greenhouses in the future. They went through this first stage with effort and hope, and 2 years later, they applied for another funding stage with us to build four greenhouses in the land they acquired.
Step by step, they are progressing. On average, each family has currently an income of 3000 USD per year. Their most sold products bring them a revenue as an organization of nearly 100.000 USD annually.
Their next steps include the construction of a workshop space to elaborate their new processed products, the consolidation of their marketing and sales strategy and mechanisms, and the expansion of their production capacity as a co-operative business by buying more land and building more greenhouses.
We are happily witnessing how 30 aymara families that were individual producers are pooling resources, energy and work to become a strong and profitable collective organization, with capacity to produce and sell organic certified products.