Water changes everything

November 28, 2019

Home and family mean everything. This Quechua family in the Bolivian Andes worked hard to make sure they could keep both.

Marina Serrato and Pelagio Coca Capuciri stand in their field with five of their eight children.

Pelagio Coca Capuciri, Marina Serrato and their eight children live in the community of Taconi, a remote, high-altitude community in Bolivia’s Moscari district.

The area is only accessible by trails, and there is no local school, which means their three eldest children – teenagers now – need to go to a different community for school. Despite these challenges, the family- who belongs to the Quechua Indigenous cultural group- has been able to avoid moving to the city, as so many other Bolivian farmers have done.

This means Marina and Pelagio have been able to raise their children on the land they cherish, giving them a close-knit life near Pelagio’s three brothers and their families.

Water, and the support of SeedChange donors, made this possible.

Ten years ago, Pelagio and Marina encountered PRODII, our partner organization in Bolivia. The organization offered to help them find sustainable solutions to their most pressing challenges.

“One was to produce alfalfa to raise cattle,” remembers Pelagio. “It was a lot of work and there was no irrigation system. Another was to improve the production of my crops to feed us more, and to sell to other markets.”

With financial support from SeedChange and help from PRODII’s field technicians, Pelagio and Marina got to work to tackle their water shortage problem. Making use of several sources of water nearby, they built a 15 bucket irrigation system – enough to water their half-hectare plot.

Pelagio then built terraces to conserve the soil better, and started growing hardy grasses to stabilize the soil and provide fodder for his sheep, goats and cows.

“All the work supports my wife and my children,” he says. “We produce everything to feed ourselves and to sell. We don’t lack, and we make good use of the water to irrigate our crops.”

When we visited the family last August, Pelagio, Marina and their boisterous children were happy to show us their plot. It was Bolivia’s cool and dry season, yet there was food growing. Carrots, onions, turnips, cucumber, corn, wheat, potato and lettuce grow here throughout the year.

It’s a far cry from the family’s diet 10 years ago.

“Before we only ate potato and chuño,” potato freeze-dried through traditional means, extending its shelf life.

“Now with the variety of crops that we can grow thanks to the project’s support, my children are fed with vegetables, salads and soups.”

For a parent, there’s no greater relief than knowing your children can grow up eating healthy food, on healthy land, surrounded by their own family.