My first month in Bolivia

Tuesday, 6 April 2010- I can hardly believe that an entire month has passed already since I first came to the project in Tarairi, the first project officer for a fledgling project. Quite a change from London to the Bolivian Chaco, and not just in terms of temperature!During my first introduction to the school on a hot and dusty Sunday afternoon I was shown the two dairy cows (Mamila and Cleo) and their year old calves, the semi constructed chicken coop, the silos where corn was being stored until the market price would rise, the three functioning beehives which have yet to be harvested, and the 15 beehives which still need to be placed and have their queens installed. The teachers explained enthusiastically the plans for a vegetable garden, an ornamental plant greenhouse, a piggery and an organic composting site. I was shown a large well constructed classroom, the dairy where milk could be kept fresh in the chest freezer, and a computer room with four brand new computers.

The project clearly has potential. My first surprise came the very next day, when no students appeared for afternoon classes. Given that I expected a current enrollment of upwards of 40 students, this was far from what I was hoping to see. And the surprises kept on coming over the next two weeks. The plans I had been told about, for pigs and bees and vegetables and flowers were all as yet unwritten, and the organic composting business was underway without having been in the plans at all. The project is clearly going to be a challenge!

Over the last month, we have begun to address the challenges. We have had two meetings for the parents of eligible students to help raise awareness of the activities in the school, and the response has been very positive. The community leaders have been vociferous in their support of the project. We have presented the school to the students at the colegio, and enthusiasm is rising. We have finalized and written up business projections for the dairy, the honey and the vegetables, and are working on a full business plan and budget for 2010. All of the corn has been sold at a 100% mark up, the students have made dulce de leche at a handsome profit, and the first of the composting beds has been filled. Building has begun for the greenhouse, and we have attended a workshop on organic compost production and its uses in citrus cultivation. On to April, rested after the Easter long weekend and optimistic about overcoming the remaining challenges. Now, if only we can get a few more students!

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