Farmer to Farmer Trip Report
Aug. 14 - Aug 27.
Steve Gibson, FTF Coordinator
NC Cochabamba, Bolivia Partnership
Partners of the Americas
The workshop in El Salvador was superb in presenting evaluation techniques for extensionists,
both in the US and developing countries. Mary Crave, University of Wisconsin Cooperative
Extension presented the philosophy and methodology of evaluation, giving us excellent ideas
especially on how to quantify results and impacts when monetary methods alone seem
insufficient. This is very important for our work in developing countries considering agriculture
is most of the time a blend of commercial production and subsistence production.
The field trip to a somewhat remote region to view a Peace Corps project for beekeeping
enterprises was very interesting. Farmer to Farmer (FTF) had provided technical assistance. Our
partnership has done this also with the Peace Corps specifically in a cottage industry for women
project. These are examples of how FTF can complement other US groups working in
developing countries that do not have adequate technical resources. This synergism greatly
increases the impact of US tax dollars devoted to international development and the efforts of the
volunteers as well.
US participants of the workshop were primarily University Staff. I was the only field faculty
participant. Our involvement from the University in the past has been approximately 50:50
(University based, Extension and non Extension: Extension field faculty). I feel that this needs
to remain true such that opportunities for professional development will remain for field faculty
in the area of international agricultural issues. Also field faculty are in the best position to
involve NC farmers, both as volunteer travelers and to become involved when we host Bolivian
In summary the workshop was very useful to me personally both for my evaluation efforts in NC
and for evaluation efforts in FTF.
As always the time in Bolivia was very busy with meetings with various producer groups, etc.
Also many field visits were made. Some farmers in the high valley or Caine Valley region were
not available since August is very dry and cold and they work in small plots in the tropical
Chapare region or work as laborers in this region for other larger producers. This did not greatly
hinder our evaluation efforts since in many cases these farmers were represented by other family
members, project leaders or ngo technicians. After planning our evaluation strategy and
schedule with my volunteer counterparts from Cochabamba, Mauricio Ramirez and Gino
Catacora the task began. A summary of our activities and partial findings is as follows for these
This project has excellent logistical support in the Cochabamba area, both in the higher valley
region and in the tropical Chapare. As a result of past visits by a total of 4 volunteers beekeeping
has come a long way in Cochabamba and a viable association has been formed by the area’s
beekeepers (ADAC). Also a buyer, manufacturer and vender of bee and beekeeping products
and the ADAC President, Airton Terrazes has used advice to make sure the products he sells are
the best possible for beekeepers. In addition, unlike some of the other projects, beekeeping has
an excellent and extension oriented professor at the UMSS Ag School, Julio Ledo.
Unfortunately Bolivia does not have an Extension service, something we in the US take for
granted. A person like Julio that tries to fill this void has really made a difference.
With Airton we visited two sites and witnessed him as he taught the wives of absent beekeepers
on how to manage hives. Specifically he showed one how to divide a strong hive and the other
some harvest techniques. Both of the farm family’s agricultural operations were very diverse
with the income from beekeeping becoming more and more important. One of the families had
increased the number of hives from 18 to 40 since the FTF Beekeeping project had begun. We
also visited with the ADAC secretary, Juan Carlos Gonzales. Juan Carlos had no hives until the
trip of beekeeping volunteer Don Hopkins. Juan is an unemployed resident of Cochabamba,
UMSS graduate and like many there are few prospects for employment. He has essentially no
resources but has begun an operation with 25 hives total in 3 locations, one in his urban
residence. Juan Carlos showed excellent skills as a handler and being a natural experimenter has
begun some excellent record keeping techniques. These will be useful for future work. For
example Juan Carlos has a few hives with Italian Queens verses the balance with the typical
Africanized genetics. Juan offered us an excellent testimony to the project’s value and success.
Julio Ledo has provided Mauricio with some detailed information showing the impact of the
beekeeping project. The recent Cochabamba Beekeeping Fair that coincided with a trip of Don
Hopkins was very successful with close to 50 vendors, most of who sold out only 2 to 3 hours
after opening. Fortunately many were able to obtain more items from their homes or business
places allowing them to remain open to the public. The success of the fair, a result of the project
is likewise a testimony to the project’s value and success. Income from beekeeping in the
Cochabamba area is mainstream agricultural, perhaps more so than in the US. No doubt the
value to society by providing pollinators is not recognized to the fullest extent in either country
and indeed putting a monetary figure to this will be difficult.
See appendix for Julio’s report.
Fruit and Vegetable Project
This project although not having the ongoing characteristics of some other others has made some
lasting impacts, primarily by the ability of the receptive farmers who with or without ngo
assistance took the information presented and applied it to their operations. An example is in the
Pocona community there are several families producing blackberries and selling in the local
market. Blackberries are a new crop introduced by NC Extension specialist Gina Fernandez
during a 1997 trip. Another introduction handled by the UMSS AG School was the bacterial
antagonist of the bacterial disease of peaches, crown gall. Since 1997 seven volunteers from NC
have traveled to the Cochabamba region and have worked in various remote regions. Since the
regions are so remote it was not possible to visit them all. We chose to visit a region in the Caine
River Valley area, itself an 8 hour round trip. To this region two NC greenhouse volunteers from
NC traveled in 1998. In general the area is very dry and because of the altitude cold. Typically
only cool season vegetables such as potatoes are grown. The volunteers, John Wilson and Ratus
Fischer gave seminars, etc. and made site visits and a very limited amount of demonstrational
materials was provided for the houses to be covered. The farmers made adobe bases for the
houses, orienting them in the direction advised by the volunteers. In addition low cost methods
of attaching and securing the plastic covering were taught. Bladimir Garcia, a classmate of
Mauricio’s showed us how his efforts with his ngo (Las Hermanas Ave Maria from Spain) were
augmented by the knowledge received from John and Ratus. We witnessed greenhouses in
operation made possible by a water source (UNICEF well). About 15 greenhouses were in
operation producing various warm season vegetables such as tomatoes and green beans. Due to
readily available materials for compost and low pest pressure the vegetable production is
Bladimir works in two communities, Matarani and Llulkuchani. However the greenhouse
development also had materialized in 4 of the 6 communities involved in the regional Hermanas
Ave Maria health project. No doubt the efforts of John and Ratus assisted farmers and ngos in
this region to correctly construct and maintain the greenhouses with economically and readily
available materials. As an example old tire materials were used as reinforcing strips to secure
the covering during the high windstorms typical of the region.
Production of vegetables such as green beans and tomatoes would not be possible in this general
region even during the growing season itself. Closer to the town of Anzaldo where the seminars
were given Mauricio showed me a greenhouse built by a farmer that had been in operation for 4
years. Mauricio remembered the farmer who came to all of the meetings and asked many
questions. Without a doubt the greenhouse project has made an impact by providing the income
to the farmers and by improving the food nutrition status for the people of the region.
John and Ratus also worked in another region. Pilapata. Demonstrational covering was provided
upon the family’s successful completion of the adobe bases. A Peace Corps volunteer followed
up and continued the project after John and Ratus returned to the US. Unfortunately due to the
10-hour drive to the region it was not possible to adequately evaluate our efforts. John and Ratus
also worked in the Department of La Paz.
Two other travelers also impacted Bladimir’s project, Christine Bredencamp in 2000 and
Richard Boylan in 2002. Unfortunately direct travel to the site was not possible for Christine
due to some civil unrest in Bolivia. However she did secure and bring seeds for variety
demonstrations that Mauricio was able to get to him. Richard was a little more fortunate and
visited the area. He likewise provided seeds for variety demonstrations and red worms for
vermicomposting trials. In addition he offered many suggestions for organic nutrient
management and pest control techniques. Bladimir when asked about the seeds for
demonstrations indicated that he was very pleased. He asked if we could get some seeds of
small-fruited tomato varieties indicating that they were hard to obtain in Bolivia.
For our partnership the dairy project has not been active since the trips of Greg Hoover and
Mario DeLuca in 2000. However due to the early impacts of the project such as the well
documented reduction in retained placentas due to selenium addition to the ration we would like
to begin recruiting and sending volunteers once again.
We met with Fernando Molina and Juan Agreda at the Bolivian Holstein Association
(ACRHOBOL) headquarters. Also present was a dairy farmer member. Mauricio told me later
that this farmer continues to thank him for providing FTF volunteers. ACRHOBOL is trying to
strengthen their extension program to include working with several Modulo Lecheros for whom
they provide artificial insemination. Modulos Lecheros are groups of campesino families who
milk only a few cows (as few as one or two) and take the milk to a common holding tank. The
modulos supply a significant portion of the region’s milk and the quality is as good as the milk
from the mid sized to large dairies. The next day we visited the farm of the “appreciative
farmer.” He told us that he bought all of his feed and roughage. Since 1992 he has grown from
4 cows to the present day level of 54. His herd average is 27 liters per day, nearly twice that of
the ACHROBOL average of 14 liters. ACHROBOL’s goal is to get the member’s production
close to the Bolivian average of 22 liters. I was amazed at the farmer’s skill in training his
employee, his attention to detail and receptiveness to suggestions. I recall that a NC dairy farmer
G. K. Davis visited his farm in 2000 while I was on a trip and the farmer and G. K. discussed the
possible need for a cover over the lounging area. G. K. felt that the covering would not be
necessary due to the dry area weather and that even allowing sunlight to dry the ground would
prevent foot problems. No cover had been provided. We also visited another larger farm in the
Recruiting volunteers for the dairy project recently has been difficult however I feel the past
success of the project warrants renewed efforts. Impacts and work have been made not only in
the Cochabamba region but also in the La Paz altiplano and the Tarija region. Past volunteers
have included 3 NC Extension field faculty and two dairy farmers, one who was accompanied by
This project is coordinated in Bolivia by Gino Catacora who has told me that the 5 trips by NC
volunteers have served to correct some of the erroneous things the trout producers were doing as
a result of some earlier incorrect information they had received from other groups. NC trout
producer Tom Ort, Extension Specialist Jeff Hinshaw and Area Specialized Agent Skip
Thompson has been involved with this project. The trout-producing region is primarily on the
Eastern slopes of the mountains as the altitude begins to decline toward the Chapare region.
Production is in spring fed raceways. Also there are some high altitude lagoons where trout
fingerlings are stocked and allowed to reach harvestable size. Gino showed Mauricio and I four
farms, three in the Eastern slope region and one in a high altitude lagoon. Typically the medium
size and large farmers operate the raceway system type farms and a rural farm family operates
the lagoon, sometimes with another off site individual as a partner.
One producer, Vitaliano Cordeva began as a producer only in the last several years, since the
FTF trout project begun. His farm produced nothing but fingerlings and a few larger fish for a
fee fishing/ecotourism operation. Vitaliano showed us several changes he made. One I call the
“famous shower,” a concrete device designed to indeed produce a shower effect, which reduces
the carbon dioxide in the spring water allowing the trout fry to survive. He constructed this after
the first trip of Tom and Jeff as per their suggestion and dramatically reduced his mortality. In
addition to lowering the carbon dioxide, oxygen is increased which is an important factor for
larger fish. Also it was suggested to use screen material in many critical stages of the flowing
water supply. This was done with readily available and inexpensive material. Vitaliano had it
installed everywhere it was needed. Part of the ecotourism portion of Vitaliano’s farm was a
restaurant. The success of this restaurant was so good that he had to buy trout from other
Next we visited the farm of Rene Prado who was expanding his operation. An excellent
testimony to the value of Tom Ort’s advice was received from Gino. Rene was having problems
with a dam leaking and had already arranged to have concrete poured. Tom suggested instead to
core the pond dam area with clay and also to raise the pond water level. Both were done with
success. In addition several new raceways were being built to allow a complete water turnover
every 30 minutes verses the 2 hours in the original design. Rene’s farm also catered to
ecotourism and had a small restaurant.
Our farm guide was Rene’s 9-year-old son. A common situation in Bolivia is the surprisingly
high degree of very young children already deeply involved in their family’s farm operations.
Next visit was to the man who got the trout industry started in the region, Jorge Fernandez Rios.
Jorge produces both fingerlings for sale to other farmers and trout for sale to families and
restaurants and in addition operates a restaurant. A remarkable man he asked if I knew anything
about mushrooms. Mauricio and I conveyed the partial success of the shitake demonstration we
did in 1999. Jorge was very interested and wanted to try production for his restaurant. Gino
likewise expressed an interest so I promised to send some info and Mauricio would likewise
provide what we had already learned. It is my hope that this renewed interest can serve to revive
our original intent to grow shitake on some of the tropical Chapare’s waste wood generated from
the forestry harvesting operations. Mushroom culture of any kind is very rare if non-existent in
Jorge had made some changes as a result of the visits, primarily greatly increasing his water
capacity. Since to me he sort of fit the stereotype of the set in his ways veteran I initiated a
discussion with Gino. Gino’s exact words were “for us to even be allowed on the place is
remarkable.” This indeed serves as a testimony to the value of what I jokingly refer to our 3
volunteers in the project from NC, the trout blitz trio. Furthermore Jorge had allowed the
University to use his farm to sponsor a student working on a feed conversion experiment for her
degree. Jeff made this suggestion.
The next visit was to a very high altitude region (12,000 ft.) and a natural lagoon operated as a
trout facility by Reynaldo Castro. He and a partner were visited also by the trout volunteers who
had suggested increasing the water volume by making a dam on the exit end of the lagoon. Also
they suggested increasing the water flow by diverting another spring into the lagoon. Both were
done. These farmer partners are typical of trout farmers that Gino says benefit from the trips
even though their sites are not visited as often. In this particular area they belong to the Columi
Association of small trout producers.
Jeff always contended that the trout industry in the region could grow and indeed it has in a
sustainable way, in spite of the recession in Bolivia.
For more detailed information see appendix, notes from Gino Catacora as well as Los Tiempos
Four volunteers from NC have been involved with the swine project. NC A&T Specialist Chuck
Talbot, NCSU Cooperative Extension Specialist Morgan Morrow, NCSU Veterinary School
Graduate student Javier Cisneros and agricultural advisor Leon Lucas have made one trip each.
Many suggestions have been made as per the trip reports from these travelers and a proposal to
gather data so we can learn more about the commercial pork industry in the region has been
made. Changes have been slow and step by step due to the depressed market for pork, partly due
to lack of consumer confidence in food safety. Morgan Morrow indeed saw enough evidence
that undercooked pork infested with the human tapeworm cysts could be a serious health
problem. In addition he identified the problem of poor human sanitation causing a significant
percentage of the area’s pigs to be infested with the human tapeworm cysts (see Cysticercosis
Basically the swine project will address the needs of the farmer who confines the pigs and the
cysticercosis project will in time provide the educational efforts to reduce the incidence of
cysticercosis, both in humans and in pigs (primarily non confined animals.)
Gino Catacora, the Cochabamba coordinator for the swine project took us to the Sacaba
community and to 2 confined swine operations. The first was the farm of Rodrigo Rivera. He is
a struggling farmer who is using feedstuffs such as poultry gullets from the Cochabamba
processing facility and chicha byproducts. Chicha is a traditional fermented corn drink. On the
day of our visit he had also brought some alfalfa. Very little purchased feed is used (about 10 %
of the total ration). Rodrigo’s farm had been visited by several of the volunteers and he had
made several changes as per their suggestions to the best of his ability. For example he had
relocated the section for the very youngest of the piglets such that the morning sun warmed this
area. Also advice on vaccinations was being used. Despite the progress, piglet mortality was
still a problem as was diarrhea.
Next we visited the farm of Eddy Pinto. This farm indeed was a contrast to the first farm. Eddy
had enclosed the entire facility and had brought in from Australia piglets which when grown
were to augment the genetics of the swine in the region. We were privileged since we observed
the very first resulting piglets from the new genetics. This by Bolivian standards was a large
expense, however it will benefit the entire industry in the region since Eddy’s farm will be
devoted to selling piglets to other producers. I observed that the piglets were not tail docked.
Gino after explaining the traditional reasons for not tail docking also expressed a concern that the
more vigorous feeding piglets due to the genetics might nip at each other’s tails. Also some
piglets actually climbed into the feeding troughs thereby not allowing others to feed freely. It
had already been decided to change the feeding setup to address this problem. Just as for the
trout project, graduate students were at the facility and doing research projects. In fact we
observed as they gathered data on a weaning time comparison.
Eddy’s facility was very impressive, did not even smell like a “hog house.” Gino only observed
one piglet with diarrhea. The facility will produce piglets with the improved genetics for sale to
other pork producers in the area. Bringing in new genetics was a suggestion from past FTF
volunteers as was improving the housing. Hopefully in time other pork producers will be able
financially to make similar much needed changes.
See appendix for Gino’s more detailed report of the project’s successes.
This project is sort of a spin-off of the swine project and involves human health as affected by
farm animal health, and oddly vice versa since the tapeworm itself is the human tapeworm, a
parasite that we have not had in the states for decades. Dr. Morgan Morrow has suggested all of
the volunteers. The first was Dr. Byron Burlingham formally with the NC Ag Med Institute.
After he left North Carolina, Dr. Maria Correa picked up the program and involved Dr. Mike
Levy. Maria and Mike are with the NCSU Veterinary School and specialize in farm animal
health and epidemiology. Maria is the North Carolina coordinator for the project and is planning
on continuing educational efforts in the Cochabamba area for both farmers and residents. She is
also planning to seek outside funding for the financing of the project. She not myself will recruit
other volunteers as needed. Already the efforts of Maria and Mike have made such an impact
that the Local Newspaper, Los Tiempos devoted a 5 page section with many color diagrams and
pictures explaining the problem. Gino Catacora is the Cochabamba coordinator for the project
and coordinates the volunteer’s activities. Even though I am on the “sidelines” for this project I
did have the opportunity to visit the UMSS Med School and meet several of the involved
workers who had attended a training session on diagnostic techniques that Mike conducted.
Gino told Mauricio and myself that 15 professionals received the training. We also visited
Viedma Hospital, a public facility recently modernized with the assistance of the Japanese
Government and met with an official there. We learned that as a result of the efforts of the NC
volunteers the Cochabamba area health care workers, etc. had formed a committee to address the
issue. The first meeting was held in early September and Gino was to attend to represent FTF.
Trip reports from Maria indicate that many farmers, campesinos and government workers have
been reached. The problem of cysticercosis was well known but FTF efforts no doubt have got
the different organizations starting to talk among themselves and an organized educational
campaign to reduce its incidence has already begun and will continue. Gino pointed out the
success the mal de chagas educational efforts have made through many collaborating
organizations. In fact during my trip to the Caine region I did observe projects specifically
designed to reduce this serious health problem. We hope that in time similar progress in remote
areas can be made by the cysticercosis project.
See detailed report from Gino and a copy of the Los Tiempos article.
Cottage Industry Project
This project was a result of a special request from the Peace Corps to collaborate with a project
in the Punata community. Alpaca Works sponsors and offers opportunities for women to make
sweaters and other items from alpaca yarn. The project was struggling since many of the sweater
designs were not popular for sale in the US. In 2000 NC FTF volunteer Susan Ingles traveled to
Punata and helped the women design 8 new products. Within a year’s time all were in
production. Even though logistical marketing problems still exist we feel that without her help
the sweaters and other items would not have been viable market items in the US.
Mauricio and I did visit the site and talked with Miguelina.
She admitted the project is still struggling but with some market development efforts the success
should increase. Also we were told that the women did use the assistance of NC Extension
Agent, Family and Consumer Science, Debbie Stroud. Debbie worked with the Punata group and
other groups teaching methods of making marmalades and yogurt. We were told the women
mostly made the marmalades for their own family’s use. I observed the recipes for the
marmalades still posted on the walls of the facility for the women to refer to as they came to knit
the sweaters and other items.
Mauricio and I both agreed that as in many situations with ag products, marketing skills will
greatly help and that a NC FTF volunteer in this area should be considered.
As always Mauricio, my Cochabamba counterpart and his family went out of their way to make
me feel at home and Mauricio and his fellow FTF volunteers did a super job of arranging our
activities. I had many other experiences not mentioned such as visiting a poultry processing
facility with Gino and with Mauricio visiting a center for handicapped youth and adults.
Mauricio is also the Cochabamba Partnership’s President and he and the director of the center
were working on a non ag project. I also got a treat by visiting Mauricio’s father’s farm in the
Anzaldo region and observed a typical farmer as he set up some new peach plantings (working
with some campesino help) and skillfully designing an irrigation system supplied by a hand dug
well. A new experience for me was witnessing the ceremony in a Cochabamba Cathedral
dedicating Sergio, Mauricio’s youngest brother as Godfather to a less advantaged young man in
town. I also met a campesino Goddaughter of Sergio as she visited town for Sergio’s birthday
bringing a goat carcass which we cooked and ate the next day and a container of chicha.
Summing it up it was a most rewarding trip even though evaluation is typically something I have
not enjoyed doing over the years. Many specific details are to be gathered by Maurico and Gino
and can later be added to this report.