An Amazonian people in Peru improve their lives with great ingenuity

An Amazonian people in Peru improve their lives with great ingenuity

By Milagros Salazar

Jepelacio, one of the largest districts in the province of Mayobomba, has more than 20,000 inhabitants and 70 hamlets. Most live from agriculture, mostly from coffee cultivation.

The district has a great and exuberant biodiversity, but it also suffers from severe deforestation.

Although between 2006 and 2011, the deforested areas in San Martín decreased by 36 percent on average, the level of deforestation in the Gera Valley, one of the main in Jepelacio, still has a deforestation level of 65 percent, according to the non-governmental organization Amazonian Association for the Amazon (AMPA).

In addition, half of the population lives in poverty and 26 percent of children under five years of age suffered from chronic malnutrition in 2009, according to official figures.

When Bárdalez took office at the end of 2010, he decided to turn the deficiencies into an opportunity for change, with a monthly budget of only about 93,000 dollars, about four dollars per inhabitant.

To do this, it began to involve the residents in the collection of garbage to transform it into compost for agriculture, economically. The families keep the streets clean and separate the organic and inorganic material, and then deposit it in plastic buckets, sacks, bags or any other deposit that works for the task.

In the dusty and unpaved streets of Jepelacio, you can see those small deposits outside the houses that are then emptied by municipal personnel to process the garbage with the help of efficient microorganisms, such as a mixture of yeast, molasses, whey or rumen of cow. One liter of this ferment is capable of decomposing 100 tons of organic material, explains the mayor. In five days, these residues can be raised to a temperature of 70 degrees Celsius, and then what remains goes through a sieve until the final product is the “Jepe compost”. The process takes just over two weeks.

Every month the municipality decomposes 30 tons. It costs about $ 3,500 to do so, which finances the sale of the compost at $ 143 a ton. For Bardález, it is a profitable formula no matter where you look at it, because building a sanitary landfill would cost almost a million dollars, which the municipality could only finance by allocating its entire budget for one year, without the possibility of undertaking any other work.

"Best of all, the microorganisms do not generate bad odors, there is zero contamination and people are taught to process the garbage so that they have an income from the sale of the compost," he said.

In order for the experience to be replicated, the municipality is promoting a mini-compost plant contest for 10 of its hamlets. "With that I have already won 10 clean towns," said the mayor.

In addition, a course begins to be taught in the upper grades of secondary education in the district so that students learn how to compost and have notions of running a family business, to help improve the management of their families' farms.

“This compost has a value. You do not have to give things to people, if it doesn't cost you, you don't value it, "said Bardález after explaining that there are government programs that deliver sacks of fertilizer to farmers and these, instead of using them, sell them at half price to obtain cash.

"It is good that they make that fertilizer so that they sell it to the population at a lower price," said Martina Díaz Vásquez, a 39-year-old woman with seven children. She told Tierramérica that she arrived at Jepelacio from Cajamarca at age 11.

More than 80 percent of the district's inhabitants come from other departments, mainly from the Andean regions of Cajamarca and Piura, which implies the challenge of involving them in a project in a place where they were not born, the director of AMPA, Karina, explained to Tierramérica. Pinasco.

“It is innovative that an authority has transformed a problem (garbage) into an opportunity. I have not seen another similar experience in San Martín, ”said Pinasco.

The Bardález mill appears in other municipal works, associated with the district's natural resources.

The mayor saw in the clear water of a spring the possibility of making it suitable for human consumption and thus solve the problem of diarrheal diseases in the district. Now that water is filtered and processed with thin rods of silver, a metal that works as a powerful bacteria killer.

For two years, residents have been able to access 20-liter drums of water for less than 50 cents. “It's good to drink, we no longer need to boil it. We save time and money, "the mother of three Margarita Delbado told Tierramérica.

Currently, these eye-catching blue cans of “Jepe water” are given free to schools and 100 “healthy families” by keeping their houses and surroundings clean and properly processing the garbage. In April 2013, the municipality of Jepelacio received recognition from the departmental government of San Martín as a partner in the implementation of a special program to improve child nutrition.

In December, the Ministry of Health recognized it with one of the municipalities that contributes to face social problems that affect the health of the population.

In addition to waste management and water treatment, the creation of a pool made in the waterfall of the Rumi Yacu stream is added. It was enough to pool the water and surround it with stones to create a playful outdoor space for the children and their families.

“You can innovate with little things. The next step is for there to be more 'Jepe water' for the entire district, for waste treatment to be improved and to keep moving forward, "said Bardález, who decided to jump into politics because in his job as a technician he couldn't make things go come true.

When in the first days of his administration he asked for a loan to buy heavy machinery, he was criticized. Why buy an excavator, a tractor truck, a motor grader or a dump truck? Asked several.

But the voices fell silent when they saw the opening of roads or the movement of stones. Bardález is convinced that you have to take risks. And he risked.


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