Archives for July 25, 2015

Day 32 – An indigenous women leader’s view of sustainability, quinoa production and Andean women’s well being.

Day 32 – An indigenous women leader’s view of sustainability, quinoa production and Andean women’s well being.

Marka Salinas

Marka Salinas

As spoken by Mama Mallku, Florinda Condales of Marka Salinas.  (Shared with permission)

On the theme of sustainability, as the sisters said, before there was production that was all natural. But now we have a production that is more open and requires other methods of production. We have insecticides but they are organic. Some we make ourselves with the plants and herbs and others are done with the authority of another such as UTO (university) or INIAF (technical assistance). We now have associations that we are members of. They make sure we have the certifications and help us with our organic production. How does it benefit the woman? This is what we are manifesting.

When a woman marries, she leaves her home family and is part of another family. How she participates equally with the man, with the new family is now different. Now people have tractors and they work with them more. But the planting is the same. It has to be done by hand.   The work is done by everyone so it is personal enough. One can have more land or less. Some may have 1 or 2 hectacres (2.5 to 5 acres). Another may have 10. Another may have 20 hectacres. It depends on the community, how extended they are. And it depends on the father, how much land he has to parcel out.

But also another result of the expansion of organic production has been the increase of cultivated crop land and a reduction of grazing land and animals. This is why the farmers are buying the manure. Now they say it costs 1000Bs a truckload, but this is a low price. Last year it cost more then 2000Bs. So this is how the soil is fertilized. But fertilizing is not all of it. One part is to fertilize the other is to do the rest, the weeding, planting and harvest. We do not just plant and wait. And that is where the other parts come in. If it rains we say good, welcome rain. But if it does rain or if it rains and freezes…

I have 10 or 11 hectacres. Twice it froze and this is what happened: I was only able to harvest one (hectacre?) and lost the other. This is the situation. It is an investment made first (up front) that may not be able to be recovered. If the price of quinoa is not sufficient, lets say that you are making enough that you are earning 20Bs (per quintal?) or 500Bs and you have five children and three are in school, two in the university, what can you do? There is not enough money to cover even two months or three months of the costs. This is the reality. People always say the quinoa growers have so much money, but it is not like that. Also there has not been a lot of time, maybe two or three years since the quinoa production improved. Before that, there were hardly any earnings. But a lot also depends on the climate. You can plant up to 40 hectacres. If the frost comes, it will take it all. If the rain does not come, the plant will germinate, grow 10 or 15 centimeters and there if still there is no rain, it will die, all of it. These are the risks that we have here. We need to start over each year.

In these last years the problem we’ve been having in the provinces is that if the woman is in the countryside and is single, with children, the situation is very hard in the communities. Because the woman no longer has the right to access the lands of her father anymore. If the community begins to criticize her and asks, “Where is your children’s father?” and demand she bring the children to his land and family, this is discrimination. “Why do you have to be here?” they will ask. And if she is the only child and is a woman and she marries and brings her husband to her land this also causes problems because she suffers. “Why is he not a man?” “Why is he not bringing you to his community?” “Why are you not there?’’ The woman has to confront this. This we forget. It is difficult in the communities. Since you are here. We need to confront this too.

And in the theme of leadership, this is also difficult to find in the woman. Especially for the Andean woman. The reason why is that it is chacha-warmi, man-woman. This way the women does not talk. She has to be at her husband’s side. Her husband will talk, but how many times do you ever heard the woman talk? It is very difficult. An all of us have good ideas, why not? But the space is more for the man to be the leader. And this is where I have to live until now. Because to be a woman leader (Mallku) for the first time one has to have to have allies. I have to be with my ayllu (community), to be strong. But this is how we are pillars. We always have to be next to men. We suffer. But the quinoa puts us in better parts. Never-the-less the chacha-warmi is very strong here. A place for a woman to be a leader is very difficult. It is not going to change quickly. I don’t know how much longer it will be before another woman has the place (position) to be the Mallku. But it costs (one must pay the price). It is a step for the woman and it’s also a challenge. It is not simple and the woman is not strong like a man.

A man has a voice to make demands, a woman has a voice to bring us together at the same level. These things hold us back. Psychologically we have to overcome these things. Psychologically they hold us back. More than anything, psychological violence is strong. If we don’t improve ourselves this can very easily hold us back. He can speak because he is close to the quinoa and he can say help us and take the salaries. But if a woman was to do this, the others would say “Oh look at how this woman speaks!” other same women would criticize this woman. If one of us (women) was a technico (extension agent), amongst ourselves as woman, we will hate this woman, hate her! This is how the machismo is amongst women. It is strong.

Never-the-less, the work in quinoa helps to give us peace. This production of quinoa for example, the work. The work that we live by and do together. It is not considered a valuable job but it is a job that we will see is something that the women will come to participate in; talking and stating what their needs are. The day before yesterday I was in a course describing how violence against women happens daily. We have to withstand so many assaults that we don’t even know it and sometimes we are assaulted every second, for example. The discrimination can unite us. When we can understand this then we will be a better place. In this moment in this reality, we know as quinoa producers we are more involved with the production than the organization. Because we work with the llama, sheep, the land and in the fields, we plant the quinoa the beans, the potato, the alfalfa and this is our world. The farm plus the food, the children at home, the children in the university… and this is how we loose ourselves if we do not take the time to stop and say, “I am an important person, I can move forward and improve myself.” And in this workshop we were just five. But there are other things to prioritize too. I believe that all woman and men want to participate in the sustainable development of quinoa and this is what interests us most.

Day 31– Quinoa cooking secrets

Day 31– Quinoa cooking secrets

Dona Emma, Number 1 quinoa chef of Salinas!

Dona Emma, Number 1 quinoa chef of Salinas!

How can you enjoy quinoa? Let me count they ways…. (and the web sites! Here’s two of my favorites with yummy creative recipes from around the world: http://www.cookinglight.com/food/recipe-finder/cooking-with-quinoa/, http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/quinoa). This is my own personal cooling tips and observations from the quinoa heartland, the Southern Altiplano of Bolivia…

First off, the key to amazing, fresh, nutty flavored quinoa is to wash it well before cooking with it. I usually put my pre-measured amount of quinoa in a bowl and fill it with about twice the amount of water than quinoa. Then with my hands, I rub it together for a minute or less, using medium pressure with my hands. Soon the water turns be a bit cloudy. I pour off this water (using a sieve to catch the tiny quinoa grains) and fill it again. I rub the grains together a bit more. This time the water stays more clear. The quinoa is clean. I drain off this water (don’t forget the sieve) and set it aside. It is ready for most any recipe.

I am not home in my kitchen so I cannot try out the recipes exactly, but I’ve been cooking with quinoa for 20 years and can give you some tips based on what I observed here. Feel free to experiment yourselves. Most grocery stores now carry quinoa, usually in the aisle next to the rice. It comes in three main colors: white, red, black and mixed. The black is more nutritious and makes for a dramatic presentation when served. I hear that Japan is wacko over this black quinoa right now! All colors work in all recipes, but I prefer to use different colors for different dishes.

The most common way quinoa is consumed outside of Bolivia is prepared like rice (or in the p’ischqa style as they call it here). To make the p’ischqa (quinoa prepared like rice). Simply boil 2 cups of water with a teaspoon of salt added. When the water is at a boil, add the quinoa, stir it around a bit, lower the flame to medium/low and let it simmer partially covered (or uncovered) for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed or boiled off. Theh fluff with a fork or mash it around with a spoon (more of the Bolivian way), season with salt to your liking and you are all set. In Bolivia a rich stew of re-hydrated dried llama meet (charque), dried potatoes (chunos), diced fresh potatoes, onions, peas, fava beans, ground powdered yellow and red sweet pepper (aji), garlic is added on top. Or sometimes a thinly sliced pan fried and salted piece of fresh llama meat or grilled llama meat is added, with a few small boiled potatoes on the side. In the US, I often just add a bit of butter to my quinoa p’ischa and it is delicious too. Yum!

My favorite use of the red quinoa is in a cold quinoa salad. This I discovered at my local food co-op and it’s been one of my favorites. Simply cook the red quinoa s described above. Then let it sit aside while you add the ingredients – the idea is to do a sweat-sour combo with some texture. The easy way is to add about 2 tablespoons of good quality Balsamic vinegar to about a cup of quinoa, 2 tablespoons of first cold pressed olive oil (in cold salads the quality of your oils and vinegars make a big difference as the flavors stand out more), ¼ cup of fresh chopped parsley, a handful (1/4 cup or less) of sliced almonds, a handful (1/4 cup or less) of raisins or dried cranberries (these look nicer!), half (or a whole) fresh sliced mango (optional but delicious). Toss it all together and you are done! The taste soaks through it as it sits, so ideally plan to make this about 3 hours before serving so the flavors all soak through. I like to serve it at room temperature too, though it keeps well in the fridge for about a week. Feel free to taste it and adjust it as you wish too. I often make this when I have a last minute potluck to go to that I forgot to get ready for. It is so easy to make, tastes and looks delicious and can be thrown together in just a few minutes!

Black quinoa I like to think of as a fancy dessert quinoa. At the Keene State College Dining Hall, there was a rice pudding version made with black quinoa that was outstanding. I would recommend playing around with different recipes. Here’s one I found: http://www.fivehearthome.com/2014/01/11/quinoa-pudding-with-coconut-milk-maple-syrup/ If I was home, I would make it with raw milk from the farmer down the road, add a cinnamon stick and a few cloves while cooking it. And then serve it with a sprinkling of nutmeg. Yummy! Another idea, to bring out the drama of the black quinoa (which has white specs as it cooks) is to add tiny mandarin oranges slices to it.

White quinoa is the most common in the US and here in Bolivia too. The secret to delicious Bolivian quinoa soup is to slice the vegetables really thin, even grating them. A good veggi combo for 6 cups of soup can be 1 onion, 2 carrots, 3 cloves of garlic. Start out by sautéing these veggis in about 2 tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a cook pot. Then add 6 cups of water, a soup bone and/or stew meat (about ½ cup cubed) – this is optional, and about 5 small fresh potatoes (the Bolivians peel theirs but I like to keep on the skins for the nutrition value – my favorites are the tiny purple or red potatoes) and let boil until the potatoes are almost done (about 10 min.). Then add 2 cups of quinoa and let cook another 15 min. Extra ingredients can be added at this time too such as corn, peas, and small cubes of butternut squash. As a special treat, you can also stir in ½ cup of fresh chopped spinach. To serve the soup, cut one of the boiled potatoes in half and place both halves in each bowl. Pour the soup over this and garnish it with parsley. Bolivians like to eat this soup as a morning belly warmer and also as a favorite lunch dish. In the city they will often have a fresh roll they will dip in the soup as they eat it. Most folks will also add a generous teaspoon of fresh, hand-ground hot sauce to their bowl of soup. Provecho! (good eating).

Day 30 – Waiting for the kids and translating discussions.

Day 30 – Waiting for the kids and translating discussions.

Pro Evo (Bolivian President) propaganda is popular in the countryside.

Pro Evo (Bolivian President) propaganda is popular in the countryside.

There was a strike in the city of Potosi and the roads were blocked for weeks. The people did not like the large, unfinished projects that the government had promised would be completed and were not. It seems the projects funds were paid but the work not completed. Whose fault was it – the government Ministers in charge of the projects, or the local state authorities? The people wanted to know. They asked President Evo Morales to figure this out, hold the delinquent people responsible and finish the projects. The President responded with silence, for two weeks, three weeks… The stand off grew in momentum. People were getting furious. They wanted a meeting, an explanation, and a plan to move forward.

Yesterday 1,500 miners, the president’s allies, descended from the Potosi mines in protest against the President’s inaction. They traveled 10 hours and came to the city of La Paz where the President stays, climbing onto the rooftops of the houses in the hillside neighborhoods ringing the vast city of La Paz below, lighting dynamite and scaring people. 40 miners were arrested. A group of indigenous leaders solemnly walked into the city, decorated in their traditional garb, carrying their vestments of authority, demanding that the President take responsibility and hold a meeting. College students at the state university in La Paz, San Andres, went on strike hollering for the President to take action. The main roads between Cochabamba Potosi and Sucre were closed. Parts of La Paz were closed too. I had to come to Oruro to fix my computer and could not get back out to Uyuni where some of my work was going to take place. And I was unable to get to Cochabamba last night to pick up my kids and bring them here for the Poopo running of he bulls festival today as we had planned. Things were coming to a head.

By morning all was fine enough. The president agreed to a meeting and the roads were re-opened. But the kids were still in Cochabamba four hours away, and I had a full day ahead of me with nothing planned. Their dad was going to bring them to Oruro, and they were going to be late. So I went ahead and entered the last of the Salinas survey data into the computer (that thankfully Lalo of OHM Electronics was able to coble together and get to work again) and translate a 30 minuet group reflection from the workshop I had conducted in Salinas a few days ago.

What I found was quite remarkable. My 2-hour workshop starts with an open monologue with about 12 to 20 participants, preferably women, with each participant speaking on a predetermined theme (by me). This theme was, Sustainable production, quinoa and the well being of the Andean women. The way it works is that after everyone shares their thoughts on the theme, we then discuss it as a group, analyze it and come up with advantages and disadvantages. This opens up space for new ideas and opportunities to form. It’s a research method I created five years ago for my doctoral research (and still needs a proper name) and one I have used many times since all with good results. More about it is published in my book, the cultural and political intersection of fair trade and justice.

Anyway, when I was writing the interview I had with Floninda, the Mallku, I noticed my notes were sparse and I had to relay a lot on memory. This was not like me, I am usually a really good note taker. However, when I got to Florinda’s part of the monologue (this workshop was done with the Indigenous Governors and invited guests) I realized why I had so few notes. Though she does not speak fast, Florinda covers such a gush of topics in a single moment it is difficult to capture on paper. Her 10 minute monologue is clear and follows a logical thought, but with so much brought into such a small moment, I was amazed. I called her to ask for her permission to share this on the blog. I hope she says OK. We will be meeting tomorrow. She is in Oruro now too.