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.

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