Day 29 – Visiting Rodeo – a model town of sustainability and progress?

Day 29 – Visiting Rodeo – a model town of sustainability and progress?

I was supposed to stay with Martha for the night and go to Rodeo the next day.  Martha asked when we would be able to visit the plant and work on the quinoa varieties.  I said I could do it any time, tonight, tomorrow, I had a flexible schedule and was already there.  She said she had no time and it would have to happen later. I explained that there was no “after” – I was scheduled to go to La Paz to analyze my data report results before returning to the US.  That is why the visit had been set up in advance, it was a single opportunity.  I tried to not be annoyed.  I asked her if I should l go to Rodeo that night since several cooperative members lived there, a tiny town 30 minutes away by four wheel drive across some dry and not so dry river beds and sandy roads.  I could get a ride with them.  Martha was not sure.  I asked around 4pm and then at 6pm and again, after the meeting ended at 8.  By then, most cooperative members had left, but the sub alcalde just happened to be passing by.  Martha flagged him down, thanked me for my visit, and Mario took me to his home to sleep since no one else seemed to be around to welcome me to the community.

I had been invited to Rodeo, also by Pedro from FAUTAUPO who was good friends with Milan Cayne, a Rodeo resident highly committed to tourism and development.  Milan helped bring in the water catchment systems for greenhouse production, a sewer system for all homes so they can have proper flush toilet bathrooms, a nursery for rural bushes used to help combat wind erosion of soils, a solar powered communications tower, a new drinking water tank for the community, a comprehensive rotation system for the organic quinoa fields with properly constructed wind and erosion barriers, preserved pastureland for llamas, garbage collection and recycling, a retooling of used plastic water bottles for greenhouse construction (when filled with water) and pathway markers (when planted upside down in the soil and painted), and a village entrance gate and museum.  It was presented to travelers as a “model community.”  I was invited to see it as a model of “bien vivir”.

Though we had been in communication as recently at 4pm that day and several times before then, Milan disappeared upon my arrival in the town – perhaps to the party in a neighboring town.  Mario put me up in his house and I contacted Pedro to let him know all that passed (or not) in Puqi and now Rodeo.  Deeply apologetic he had hoped for different outcomes from the visits.

The sub=alcalde Mario was put in charge.  Somehow he managed to find he village key to the museum and the next day Mario and his wife Frida Huaychi Mamani were tour guides as we quickly enjoyed the view from the outlook, surveyed the different projects, toured the tiny museum of antique handicrafts and tools form peoples’ houses and grandparents’ colelctions representing the history of the village and within 45 minutes, took off down the road to Challapata/Salinas where we would depart.  Me to Salinas and him and his wife to Challapata.

Rodeo houses 60 families of which 33 are present year round.  The rest come in for the quinoa planting and harvest. Many farmers in the town are part of Sindan, a La Paz based Fair Trade quinoa buyer.  Mario recently sold half his 120 qintal quinoa production to SIndan for 440Bs a bag, 22% lower than the current market price in Challapata.  Like most publicly traded markets, timing is everything in the quinoa fields.  With prices still fluctuating, and now slowly climbing, it is always a trick to know when to sell, when to wait, but also when be loyal to the big buyers – the cooperatives that the farmers are members of.  Though the cooperatives often buy below the Challapata market prices because of buying contracts they have already made with foreign buyers, they are buying in large quantities at once.  Mario just made almost $4,000 in a single sale, enough for him and his wife to live on in a simple way, for almost a year.  It’s a trade-off and a gamble to sell a lot for less to one’s cooperative or a little for more in the local market.  Famers do both, balancing their responsibilities and commitments.