In the Bolivian province of Cochabamba, farmers’ fields lie high up on the Andes mountain slopes. The incline on these slopes is so steep it’s difficult to imagine farmers planting, weeding and harvesting.
For generations, though, farmers have relied on what they can dig out of these fields to sustain their families. Traditionally, that’s meant potatoes, but the potato crop does not sell for enough money to support their families.
With support from MCC, a local social development organization is training farmers to grow maca, a crop which can currently sell for four times more than potatoes. Maca is a root crop native to the region and, unlike potatoes, can withstand frosts at the high altitudes in the Andes. Once harvested, the maca root is dried and often ground into powder or flour. It may be used locally but is often exported to Canada and the U.S., where maca is sold as a nutritional supplement.
Training and start-up seeds are provided to 15 different farming communities in the area. In addition, MCC money helps farmers form producer associations and negotiate contracts with buyers who will process the maca to sell or export. Eventually, farmers hope to create their own maca processing facility in the mountains.
All these pieces work together to help farmers support their families. The extra income not only increases food security, but also access to the market, education, and health services.
As MCC country reps in Bolivia, Steve and Janet Plenert help support and administer the maca project.