Monday, October 30, 2006

10/30/06 (Day 48): Field based training in Piura & Lambayeque

As Libby head north to Ancash, I traveled via overnight bus further north to the departments of Piura and, later in the week, Lambayeque. We visited several volunteers at their sites and they shared their trials and tribulations. Traveling in small buses and three-wheeled moto-taxis, we spread out to small pueblos where these volunteers work day-to-day. We learned how to: raise bees, organize a micro-enterprise of women weavers, create a trash collection program, and build improved adobe stoves.
One paticularly moving experience was our visit to the tropical dry forest. As one of the most threatened ecosystems worldwide, I was keen to see what activities Peace Corps volunteers were doing to stop logging. We stayed for several days with families in the buffer zone of a protected forest. These people subsist off the wood (to cook) within the forest. Illegal logging for sale of charcoal and wood has been curbed through the association of volunteer park guards. Volunteers are helping to promote economic alternatives for these people in the long term. One project seems to be having success. Families can get a loan to build improved adobe stoves that - among other benefits - decreased the wood consumption (limbs of trees not trunks). The loan is four female ducks and one male. No kidding. After two years of breeding ducks, these families can pay back their stove costs and perhaps also a spacious latrine or sheep or cuyes (guinea pigs) that are also part of the program. By diversifying their economic activities, the hope is that families will be able to resist cutting wood when tourism is scarce or when El Niño destroys all of their crops. It was quite inspiring visiting homes with these improvements. The new stoves have a chimney and, therefore, the smoke does not blacken the pots, the straw ceiling or the women's eyes and lungs. These small projects change lives and preserve the adjacent natural heritage.
Although the forest has been heavily logged and devastated, we saw some incredible things including a thousand year old mesquite (algarobbo) tree, archaelogical sites of the Sipan cultures which had large adobe pyramid burial tombs, and some great birds. The best bird was undoubtedly the endemic and quite endangered (Park officials haven't been able to find a nest) Peruvian Plantcutter, a bizarre bird that strips leaves for food.
We have one more week of training before finding out our site placements. We will then actually visit the sites the following week. Hope all is well in your lives. Please write. We love you and love hearing from you!