Inspired by the work of CAFOD in Bolivia, CAFOD Westminster Volunteers Michael Walsh and Sister Carmel Ring give an account of the Harvest Fast Day Briefing.
Harvest Fast Day is on the 7th October this year! Many Parishes will have talks about CAFOD’s work in Bolivia on the weekend of 2nd October, with the Fast Day donation envelopes being collected on the weekend of 9th October.
On the day we had visiting speaker Nikki Evans, CAFOD’s representative in Bolivia. Nikki has been in Bolivia for the last three years and intends to return in October. The first hand account Nikki gave at the briefing was a highly stimulating and informative account of her mission there. This included an account of how CAFOD is trying to make a difference to the lives of thousands of people who are fighting a continuous battle, due to the constraints imposed on them, because of continuous challenges in their efforts to grow crops and make a living in a very hostile environment.
Nikki described the regions in Bolivia in which CAFOD is working and in particular the Altiplano. The Altiplano is home to a population of 2.5 million people, divided into 36 different tribes. This is area is located high up in the Andes, which is over 12,000 feet above sea level, making oxygen levels very poor. For several years now, the indigenous population have been constantly challenged through lack of rainfall due to climate change, which renders the soil hard and dry and makes it a near impossibility to grow crops of any kind.
Malnutrition was rife and there was a shortage of clean water, though the Government had acted to give access to clean water to most families. Old remedies to combat new diseases affecting crops, were no longer working and the lack of income meant that farmers could not afford effective pesticides. Migration of family members to find work was common in the Altiplano, so families were split for months at a time, for some communities this meant they were without adults. The staple food, a humble potato, in the form of Chuño could be eaten up to three years after it had been prepared.
“Through the aid of clear maps, a video presentation and excellent photographs, Nikki made us keenly aware of the problem here and how we can help to alleviate the worst of the poverty in the Altiplano” (CAFOD Volunteer Sister Carmel Ring)
Through Nikki’s work we were able to hear the account of CAFOD’s work with Nicanora. A mother of four who was shy and had lacked confidence. Like many of the men in Altiplano, Nicanora’s husband was away much of the time in the cities, attempting to earn income from construction to supplement the meagre income the family earned from their land.
This income enabled the children to go to school. Nicanora has now grown in confidence and has drawn strength from a mentor who had transformed her own life with help from CAFOD and its partners in Bolivia. Through the cultivation of flowers for sale in the cities, much income have been brought to needy families as a result of CAFOD interventions.
The outcome of her perseverance has resulted in the making of a magnificent flower garden, where she produces beautiful gladioli and carnations for sale in the nearest towns. Although she lives in a remote area there is a regular bus service through the place which she avails of to get her blooms to market. Nicanora has four children and their grandparents to look after, but the hope is, if more like her are persuaded to alter their farming methods and produce good crops. With luck there will also be enough money to provide books and start schools for the children. The government will only provide a village school if at least 7 children can be persuaded to attend. Currently however, the children’s help is needed on their farms. Caritas Bolivia, with the support of CAFOD has been successful also in starting a vaccination scheme for their sheep, goats and pigs, and providing clean water which they cart to the villages in times of severe drought. Nikki has herself been involved in bringing about these improvements and hopes to continue doing this into the future.
Over the next two years, CAFOD in conjunction with other charities, in particular the local Caritas Bolivia is embarking on a programme called Hands On. The aim was to reach the most vulnerable families through projects. CAFOD and its partners were concerned that particularly vulnerable people such as the elderly should not be left behind, as the economic and social situation in the Altiplano bettered.
The aim of the two year project, is to improve: access to water by dealing with irrigation problems, sinking wells and piping water from Lake Titicaca. Developing accessible organic fertilisers, improving land use through terracing and introducing modern agricultural techniques. As well as, showing farmers how to grow more nutritious foods over and above the 1000 varieties of potato for which the area is famous for. In addition to, building greenhouses to protect vulnerable plants from the extreme weather conditions, which often destroy the painstaking work of a season. Lastly, CAFOD and its partners hope to improve the quality of the soil through introducing wormeries.
“Nikki conveyed the deep gratitude of Nicanora and indigenous people like her for the help they received from Nicanora” (CAFOD Volunteer Michael Walsh)
Please bring Nicanora’s story to life in your parish this Harvest Fast Day! Check out our Harvest Fast Day Resources and contact CAFOD Westminster Volunteer Centre for more information: