Bolivia: Poor Farmers Find Way To Help Feed Local Children

A dairy processing plant set up with EU funding in the Bolivian highlands is helping fight hunger and malnutrition in two ways. By supplying cheese and yoghurt to local schools, it helps keep local kids well nourished. But it also means the farmers who run the plant are now economically better off, and therefore more 'food secure'.

LA PAZ -- Off the shores of Lake Titicaca – at more than 3,800 meters in the Bolivian cold highlands — dairy-farming families have found a way to start a business that means higher incomes and better quality of life. With the support of the Food Facility project, funded by the European Union, and a few NGOs, these farm families have developed a dairy processing plant and are producing yogurt, ice cream and cheese for to feed children at 16 schools in Taraco, near the capital city of La Paz.

In the Andean culture, the woman is responsible for taking care of the domestic animals. Esperanza Kantuta, who lives in the Taraco Chambi community, has three cows that produce at least six to eight liters of milk she delivers to the dairy processing plant for the production of yogurt.

Long before embarking on the dairy plant, each family produced cheese and milk, but marketing these products in the community was difficult and hazardous. Esperanza had to walk several kilometers to sell her cheeses on the road between the capital city of La Paz and the Tiwanaku tourist complex to buses and cars passengers. Neither the money nor long journey under the harsh sun of the Bolivian highlands made the job worth it to Esperanza and the other 48 families. 

Getting organized

That’s why they became organized and installed the dairy processing plant to improve their income, their products and maximize the use of their time, the latter a valuable asset in the lives of subsistence farmers.

“My income is more secure by bringing milk to the plant. With my daily income from the milk produce and the monthly income from the dairy plant, I can buy food for my five children, especially vegetables that cannot be produced due to highlands’ weather,” says Esperanza.

Bolivian woman with a baby on her back receiving a jug of milk The World Food Programme, through the EU’s Food Facility project, provided the dairy plant infrastructure and all the necessary equipment. The non-governmental organization CUNA helped the farmers’ association to develop a business plan, technical monitoring and to establish links with the municipal government of Taraco for the purchase of the dairy products. Another NGO, ALTAGRO trained the 48 farmers on production techniques and food safety. 

Today, the milk producers association, mostly women, sell more than 850 servings of dairy products for school breakfasts to the municipal government of Taraco. Pedro Rodriguez Quispe, an operator and partner of the plant is two times happy. On one hand, they sell their products to the school meals programme, and on the other his children and that of other farmers are eating their parents’ production. 

“In the future we want the plant to expand and become an industry that can provide products to the local and national markets,” says Pedro.