Semiarid Regions of Latin America Cooperate to Adapt to Climate

Civil Society, Combating Desertification and Drought, Development & Aid, Economy & Trade, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Food & Agriculture, Green Economy, Headlines, Integration and Development Brazilian-style, Latin America & the Caribbean, Projects, Regional Categories, South-South, TerraViva United Nations, Water & Sanitation

Combating Desertification and Drought

A rural settlement in the state of Pernambuco, in Brazil's semiarid ecoregion. Tanks that collect rainwater from rooftops for drinking water and household usage have changed life in this parched land, where 1.1 million 16,000-litre tanks have been installed so far. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

A rural settlement in the state of Pernambuco, in Brazil’s semiarid ecoregion. Tanks that collect rainwater from rooftops for drinking water and household usage have changed life in this parched land, where 1.1 million 16,000-litre tanks have been installed so far. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 27 2020 (IPS) – After centuries of poverty, marginalisation from national development policies and a lack of support for positive local practices and projects, the semiarid regions of Latin America are preparing to forge their own agricultural paths by sharing knowledge, in a new and unprecedented initiative.


In Brazil’s semiarid Northeast, the Gran Chaco Americano, which is shared by Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay, and the Central American Dry Corridor (CADC), successful local practices will be identified, evaluated and documented to support the design of policies that promote climate change-resilient agriculture in the three ecoregions.

This is the objective of DAKI-Semiárido Vivo, an initiative financed by the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and implemented by the Brazilian Semiarid Articulation (ASA), the Argentinean Foundation for Development in Justice and Peace (Fundapaz) and the National Development Foundation (Funde) of El Salvador.

DAKI stands for Dryland Adaptation Knowledge Initiative.

The project, launched on Aug. 18 in a special webinar where some of its creators were speakers, will last four years and involve 2,000 people, including public officials, rural extension agents, researchers and small farmers. Indirectly, 6,000 people will benefit from the training.

“The aim is to incorporate public officials from this field with the intention to influence the government’s actions,” said Antonio Barbosa, coordinator of DAKI-Semiárido Vivo and one of the leaders of the Brazilian organisation ASA.

The idea is to promote programmes that could benefit the three semiarid regions, which are home to at least 37 million people – more than the total populations of Chile, Ecuador and Peru combined.

The residents of semiarid regions, especially those who live in rural areas, face water scarcity aggravated by climate change, which affects their food security and quality of life.

Zulema Burneo, International Land Coalition coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean and moderator of the webinar that launched the project, stressed that the initiative was aimed at “amplifying and strengthening” isolated efforts and a few longstanding collectives working on practices to improve life in semiarid areas.

Abel Manto, an inventor of technologies that he uses on his small farm in the state of Bahia, in Brazil's semiarid ecoregion, holds up a watermelon while standing among the bean crop he is growing on top of an underground dam. The soil is on a waterproof plastic tarp that keeps near the surface the water that is retained by an underground dam. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Abel Manto, an inventor of technologies that he uses on his small farm in the state of Bahia, in Brazil’s semiarid ecoregion, holds up a watermelon while standing among the bean crop he is growing on top of an underground dam. The soil is on a waterproof plastic tarp that keeps near the surface the water that is retained by an underground dam. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

The practices that represent the best knowledge of living in the drylands will be selected not so much for their technical aspects, but for the results achieved in terms of economic, ecological and social development, Barbosa explained to IPS in a telephone interview from the northeastern Brazilian city of Recife, where the headquarters of ASA are located.

After the process of systematisation of the best practices in each region is completed, harnessing traditional knowledge through exchanges between technicians and farmers, the next step will be “to build a methodology and the pedagogical content to be used in the training,” he said.

One result will be a platform for distance learning. The Federal Rural University of Pernambuco, also in Recife, will help with this.

Decentralised family or community water supply infrastructure, developed and disseminated by ASA, a network of 3,000 social organisations scattered throughout the Brazilian Northeast, is a key experience in this process.

In the 1.03 million square kilometres of drylands where 22 million Brazilians live, 38 percent in rural areas according to the 2010 census, 1.1 million rainwater harvesting tanks have been built so far for human consumption.

An estimated 350,000 more are needed to bring water to the entire rural population in the semiarid Northeast, said Barbosa.

But the most important aspect for agricultural development involves eight “technologies” for obtaining and storing water for crops and livestock. ASA, created in 1999, has helped install this infrastructure on 205,000 farms for this purpose and estimates that another 800 peasant families still need it.

There are farms that are too small to install the infrastructure, or that have other limitations, said Barbosa, who coordinates ASA’s One Land and Two Waters and native seed programmes.

The “calçadão” technique, where water runs down a sloping concrete terrace or even a road into a tank that has a capacity to hold 52,000 litres, is the most widely used system for irrigating vegetables.

A group of peasant farmers from El Salvador stand in front of one of the two rainwater tanks built in their village, La Colmena, in the municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera. The pond is part of a climate change adaptation project in the Central American Dry Corridor. Central American farmers like these and others from Brazil's semiarid Northeast have exchanged experiences on solutions for living with lengthy droughts. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

A group of peasant farmers from El Salvador stand in front of one of the two rainwater tanks built in their village, La Colmena, in the municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera. The pond is part of a climate change adaptation project in the Central American Dry Corridor. Central American farmers like these and others from Brazil’s semiarid Northeast have exchanged experiences on solutions for living with lengthy droughts. CREDIT: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

And in Argentina’s Chaco region, 16,000-litre drinking water tanks are mushrooming.

But tanks for intensive and small farming irrigation are not suitable for the dry Chaco, where livestock is raised on large estates of hundreds of hectares, said Gabriel Seghezzo, executive director of Fundapaz, in an interview by phone with IPS from the city of Salta, capital of the province of the same name, one of those that make up Argentina’s Gran Chaco region.

“Here we need dams in the natural shallows and very deep wells; we have a serious water problem,” he said. “The groundwater is generally of poor quality, very salty or very deep.”

First, peasants and indigenous people face the problem of formalising ownership of their land, due to the lack of land titles. Then comes the challenge of access to water, both for household consumption and agricultural production.

“In some cases there is the possibility of diverting rivers. The Bermejo River overflows up to 60 km from its bed,” he said.

Currently there is an intense local drought, which seems to indicate a deterioration of the climate, urgently requiring adaptation and mitigation responses.

Reforestation and silvopastoral systems are good alternatives, in an area where deforestation is “the main conflict, due to the pressure of the advance of soy and corn monoculture and corporate cattle farming,” he said.

Mariano Barraza of the Wichí indigenous community (L) and Enzo Romero, a technician from the Fundapaz organisation, stand next to the tank built to store rainwater in an indigenous community in the province of Salta, in the Chaco ecoregion of northern Argentina, where there are six months of drought every year. CREDIT: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Mariano Barraza of the Wichí indigenous community (L) and Enzo Romero, a technician from the Fundapaz organisation, stand next to the tank built to store rainwater in an indigenous community in the province of Salta, in the Chaco ecoregion of northern Argentina, where there are six months of drought every year. CREDIT: Daniel Gutman/IPS

More forests would be beneficial for the water, reducing evaporation that is intense due to the heat and hot wind, he added.

Of the “technologies” developed in Brazil, one of the most useful for other semiarid regions is the “underground dam,” Claus Reiner, manager of IFAD programmes in Brazil, told IPS by phone from Brasilia.

The underground dam keeps the surrounding soil moist. It requires a certain amount of work to dig a long, deep trench along the drainage route of rainwater, where a plastic tarp is placed vertically, causing the water to pool during rainy periods. A location is chosen where the natural layer makes the dam impermeable from below.

This principle is important for the Central American Dry Corridor, where “the great challenge is how to infiltrate rainwater into the soil, in addition to collecting it for irrigation and human consumption,” said Ismael Merlos of El Salvador, founder of Funde and director of its Territorial Development Area.

The CADC, which cuts north to south through Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, is defined not as semiarid, but as a sub-humid region, because it rains slightly more there, although in an increasingly irregular manner.

Some solutions are not viable because “75 percent of the farming areas in the Corridor are sloping land, unprotected by organic material, which makes the water run off more quickly into the rivers,” Merlos told IPS by phone from San Salvador.

“In addition, the large irrigation systems that we’re familiar with are not accessible for the poor because of their high cost and the expensive energy for the extraction and pumping of water, from declining sources,” he said.

The most viable alternative, he added, is making better use of rainwater, by building tanks, or through techniques to retain moisture in the soil, such as reforestation and leaving straw and other harvest waste on the ground rather than burning it as peasant farmers continue to do.

“Harmful weather events, which four decades ago occurred one to three times a year, now happen 10 or more times a year, and their effects are more severe in the Dry Zone,” Merlos pointed out.

Funde is a Salvadoran centre for development research and policy formulation that together with Fundapaz, four Brazilian organisations forming part of the ASA network and seven other Latin American groups had been cooperating since 2013, when they created the Latin American Semiarid Platform.

The Platform paved the way for the DAKI-Semiárido Vivo which, using 78 percent of its two million dollar budget, opened up new horizons for synergy among Latin America’s semiarid ecoregions. To this end, said Burneo, it should create a virtuous alliance of “good practices and public policies.”

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Young People Bring Solar Energy to Schools in the Argentine Capital

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Education, Energy, Environment, Featured, Headlines, Integration and Development Brazilian-style, Latin America & the Caribbean, Population, Projects, Regional Categories, Special Report, TerraViva United Nations

Energy

Sebastián Ieraci (L), a member of the group of students who in 2014 pushed for the switch to solar energy at the Antonio Devoto High School, stands next to the school's principal Marcelo Mazzeo on the rooftop of the educational institution located in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Villa Devoto. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Sebastián Ieraci (L), a member of the group of students who in 2014 pushed for the switch to solar energy at the Antonio Devoto High School, stands next to the school’s principal Marcelo Mazzeo on the rooftop of the educational institution located in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Villa Devoto. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

BUENOS AIRES , Mar 19 2020 (IPS) – “The idea came to a group of schoolmates and me in 2014, but we never thought it could become a reality,” says Sebastián Ieraci, 23, as he points to a multitude of photovoltaic solar panels shining on the roof of the Antonio Devoto High School in the Argentine capital.


The secondary school is one of the first public centres in Buenos Aires that has managed, since last November, to cover 100 percent of its electricity needs from renewable energy generated in the building itself.

Although today only seven of the city’s public schools have solar panels, the authorities have identified another 140 school buildings with the conditions to generate solar energy, and the plan is to gradually equip all of them with solar panels.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this case is that it was the students’ own enthusiasm for clean energy and community involvement that allowed the school to be chosen for an experiment that is new to Buenos Aires.

“Now they come to see us from schools in different parts of the country, to see what we have done and to try to replicate it.” — Marcelo Mazzeo

Ieraci, who arrives in a hurry at his former school after his workday at a paint factory, was in his last year of high school in 2014, when law teachers suggested to him and his classmates that they come up with a project for the programme The Legislature and Schools.

The programme, carried out for over 20 years, invites final-year high school students to submit proposals to the Buenos Aires city legislature, in the areas of environment, public spaces, traffic and transport and security.

Once they do so, the students sit on the city legislature for an afternoon to discuss their proposals with students from other schools.

“We came up with the idea of installing solar panels because we knew that the school’s rooftop was not being used for anything and that doing so could be doubly beneficial, both environmentally and economically, since the school could generate its own energy,” says Ieraci during IPS’s visit to his former school.

Aerial view of the rooftops of the primary and secondary schools located across from the main square in Villa Devoto, a residential neighborhood in the Argentine capital. The adjacent schools now have 200 solar panels with an installed capacity of 70 kilowatts, and the surplus is injected into the Buenos Aires electricity grid. Credit: Courtesy of Buenos Aires city government

Aerial view of the rooftops of the primary and secondary schools located across from the main square in Villa Devoto, a residential neighborhood in the Argentine capital. The adjacent schools now have 200 solar panels with an installed capacity of 70 kilowatts, and the surplus is injected into the Buenos Aires electricity grid. Credit: Courtesy of Buenos Aires city government

“Then we started looking for information, and after a month we presented the project. Back then it was a utopia and today seeing these panels makes me very proud, because this is a school that generates a sense of belonging,” he explains.

The school is located in a large two-storey building that preserves the style of the old manor house that Italian immigrant Antonio Devoto had built there at the beginning of the 20th century. Devoto is considered the founder of the middle-class residential neighbourhood that today bears his name.

The school is located across from the main square of Devoto, in an area with many old trees and few tall buildings, full of bars and restaurants, and bursting with vitality far from the centre of Buenos Aires.

The Devoto teenagers’ solar panel project was the winner among more than 70 initiatives that students presented in 2014 to the local legislature, and in 2016 the Buenos Aires city government launched it. The first step was to start feasibility studies in more than 600 school buildings.

But it was in 2017 that the school received the definitive push to move towards solar energy, when it once again presented the project in a competition, this time in BA Elige (Buenos Aires Chooses), a citizen participation programme in which the more than three million inhabitants of Buenos Aires proper vote on the projects they want to see carried out.

On that occasion, the residents of Devoto expressed their opinions online, supporting the installation of solar panels in the neighbourhood schools and thus enabling the authorities to allocate budget funds.

The installation of the solar panels began in August 2019 and took three months. Since November, 87 two-by-one meter solar panels have been in operation on the rooftop of the Antonio Devoto High School.

The primary school next door was soon incorporated into the programme, and since January 113 solar panels have been operating, bringing the total to 200 panels on the adjacent rooftops of the two schools that serve a combined total of 500 students.

Solar panels nearly cover the entire rooftop of the Antonio Devoto High School in Buenos Aires. Until last year the rooftop area was not put to any use. The idea of using that space to generate renewable energy came from students in their final year in 2014, who presented a project to the Buenos Aires city legislature. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Solar panels nearly cover the entire rooftop of the Antonio Devoto High School in Buenos Aires. Until last year the rooftop area was not put to any use. The idea of using that space to generate renewable energy came from students in their final year in 2014, who presented a project to the Buenos Aires city legislature. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

“In secondary schools, the panels have 30 kilowatts (kW) of installed capacity, and in primary schools, 40. But the most interesting thing is that the primary school injects its surplus energy into the city’s electricity grid, generating credit with the power company,” engineer Andrés Valdivia, head of climate action in the city government’s Ministry of Education, told IPS.

The Ministry reports that the 140 school rooftops declared suitable for the installation of solar panels – because there are few high buildings surrounding them and they receive good solar radiation – have a combined surface area of 145,000 square meters and could have a total installed capacity of 13 megawatts (MW).

Renewable energies – basically, solar and wind – have experienced major growth in Argentina since a fund was created by law in September 2015 to finance the construction of facilities and to guarantee the purchase of the energy generated.

By late 2019, nearly eight percent of the electricity produced in the country came from renewable sources, up from just 2.2 percent in early 2016, according to official statistics.

However, that growth will not continue because the recession and the devaluation of the local currency in Argentina mean that almost no new projects will be launched, say industry analysts.

View of the front of the Antonio Devoto High School, which was built in an old manor house belonging to the Italian immigrant recognised as the founder of the Villa Devoto neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. Credit: Courtesy of Marcelo Mazzeo

View of the front of the Antonio Devoto High School, which was built in an old manor house belonging to the Italian immigrant recognised as the founder of the Villa Devoto neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. Credit: Courtesy of Marcelo Mazzeo

“Ours is not a technical school; we have an orientation in economics and administration. But the kids’ interest in the energy transition surprised us and led us to gather a lot of information together about the subject,” said Marcelo Mazzeo, the principal of the Antonio Devoto High School.

“Now they come to see us from schools in different parts of the country, to see what we have done and to try to replicate it,” he told IPS.

Félix Aban, one of the law teachers who worked with the students on the project and is now the school’s vice-principal, said that “one of the most interesting things was that in 2014 the kids suggested that the surplus energy generated by their schools could be injected into the power grid, when that possibility was not even being discussed in Argentina.”

In fact, the law on distributed (or decentralised) energy was not approved by Congress until 2017, under the official name “Regime to foment distributed renewable energy generation integrated into the public electricity grid”.

“They investigated and found that in other countries individual generators fed power into the grid. So we can say that the kids at this school were really ahead of the game,” said Aban.

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Rock Glaciers Supply Water to Highlands Communities in Argentina

Civil Society, Combating Desertification and Drought, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Environment, Featured, Food & Agriculture, Human Rights, Indigenous Rights, Integration and Development Brazilian-style, Latin America & the Caribbean, Projects, Regional Categories, Water & Sanitation

Water & Sanitation

Long months of community work to install pipes to bring water from rock glaciers to indigenous villages in the Puna region in northwest Argentina served to strengthen collective organisation and community ties in an inhospitable ecoregion, where solidarity and joint efforts are essential to daily survival. Credit: Courtesy of Julio Sardina

Long months of community work to install pipes to bring water from rock glaciers to indigenous villages in the Puna region in northwest Argentina served to strengthen collective organisation and community ties in an inhospitable ecoregion, where solidarity and joint efforts are essential to daily survival. Credit: Courtesy of Julio Sardina

EL CÓNDOR, Argentina, Nov 14 2019 (IPS) – In Argentina’s Puna region, at 4,000 metres above sea level, the color green is rare in the arid landscape, which is dominated by different shades of brown and yellow. In this inhospitable environment, daily life has improved thanks to a system of piping water downhill from rock glaciers to local communities.


“When I was a girl we would walk an hour or two to fetch water from the hills. Since we didn’t have jerry cans or buckets, we carried it in sheepskin bags,” Viviana Gerónimo, a 50-year-old Kolla indigenous woman, tells IPS.

“We also built dams, to retain rainwater. We used it for ourselves and for our animals,” she adds. Gerónimo, a married mother of five, lives in Hornaditas de la Cordillera, an indigenous hamlet of just 15 families in the province of Jujuy in northwest Argentina, a few kilometres from the Bolivian border.

The Puna highlands region is a desert where only a few shrubs grow to less than half a metre in height and where it hardly ever rains – the average is around 200 millimetres a year, almost all of which falls in the southern hemisphere summer: December to March.

These high plateaus located above 3,000 metres altitude in the Andes mountains cover not only northwest Argentina but also northern Chile and southern Bolivia and Peru.

Local inhabitants in the Puna region depend mainly on livestock, although they cannot raise cows due to the poor quality of the pastures.

Geronimo’s family has 80 llamas and 120 sheep – the domestic species that best adapt to the climate of the Puna, although the profit margins are slim. In fact, the local indigenous people rarely shear them anymore because the wool fetches such low prices. They raise them for their own consumption and to sell the surplus meat.

Viviana Gerónimo adds color to the yellow and brown arid landscape of Hornaditas de la Cordillera, one of the Kolla indigenous communities that now have water for the consumption of the 15 local families and for their sheep, llamas and vicuñas, as well as subsistence crops, in this Andean highlands region in the northwest Argentine province of Jujuy. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Viviana Gerónimo adds color to the yellow and brown arid landscape of Hornaditas de la Cordillera, one of the Kolla indigenous communities that now have water for the consumption of the 15 local families and for their sheep, llamas and vicuñas, as well as subsistence crops, in this Andean highlands region in the northwest Argentine province of Jujuy. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

The Kolla are the largest of the dozen or so indigenous peoples in Jujuy, where 7.8 percent of the population was recognised as native in the last national census in 2010 – more than three times the national figure of only 2.4 percent. Officially, there are 27,631 members of the Kolla people, although the real number is probably much higher, as there are more than 100 Kolla communities in the Puna.

Water brings change

The water collection system benefits the indigenous communities of Hornaditas de la Cordillera, Escobar Tres Cerritos and Cholacor, and the town of El Condor, the municipal seat, which has a primary and secondary school and first aid clinic.

El Cóndor is an hour’s drive from La Quiaca, the main Argentine city on the border with Bolivia. It has about 400 inhabitants, while the communities of the rest of the municipality number less than 100 people in all.

Climate change also seems to be playing its part in exacerbating the scarcity of water. “Although the biggest problem here has always been water, our grandparents said it used to rain more,” says 53-year-old Ricardo Tolaba, another resident of Hornaditas.

“In the past, the ponds, where underground water comes to the surface, dried up in June or July, after the summer rains. Now they dry up in March or April,” he told IPS.

The most important resource are the so-called rock glaciers: moving ice in the mountains covered in rocks and debris which keep them from melting; invisible but strategic water reserves.

The province of Jujuy has 255 rock glaciers, according to the National Glacier Inventory published by the Argentine government in 2018.

With government support, the local communities built a system of underground pipes that run down the slopes for 33 kilometres, using the force of gravity to pipe water to different villages.

“Back in 2007 we began to talk to the communities about how we could build a solution to the lack of water,” says agronomist Julio Sardina, a technician with the Secretariat of Family Agriculture who has worked with the indigenous settlements of Jujuy for more than 20 years.

Long months of community work to install pipes to bring water from rock glaciers to indigenous villages in the Puna region in northwest Argentina served to strengthen collective organisation and community ties in an inhospitable ecoregion, where solidarity and joint efforts are essential to daily survival. Credit: Courtesy of Julio Sardina

Long months of community work to install pipes to bring water from rock glaciers to indigenous villages in the Puna region in northwest Argentina served to strengthen collective organisation and community ties in an inhospitable ecoregion, where solidarity and joint efforts are essential to daily survival. Credit: Courtesy of Julio Sardina

“The problem was that people in the lower-lying areas didn’t have water for their animals. And some wanted to plant crops but couldn’t because of the lack of water,” he adds during his tour with IPS through the different communities participating in the project, which are precariously connected by dirt roads in poor condition.

Sardina explains that the Secretariat of Family Agriculture provided the materials to build the system, thanks to funding from the Socioeconomic Inclusion in Rural Areas Project (Pisear), a national government programme.

From the outset, it was stipulated that the work had to be carried out by the members of the beneficiary communities.

“The project, besides bringing water to the villages, helped the communities organise and forge closer ties, since the families were isolated from each other,” says Sardina.

The system benefits some 600 people in an area where families are often nomadic, moving around to find the best pastures. Many Kolla Indians have communal land titles, which is not common among native peoples in Argentina.

When it reaches the communities, the water is stored in a tank. It is also piped to some of the houses and to water troughs for livestock.

But the greatest impact of the project was on agriculture, which has always been limited in the Puna region by the lack of water.

In the high Andean plateau of the Puna, in northwest Argentina, the biggest need was always water, says Ricardo Tolaba. People walked for hours to find it and carry it back in small containers, for human and animal consumption. With the new community-built system that pipes it from rock glaciers, "things began to change," he adds. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

In the high Andean plateau of the Puna, in northwest Argentina, the biggest need was always water, says Ricardo Tolaba. People walked for hours to find it and carry it back in small containers, for human and animal consumption. With the new community-built system that pipes it from rock glaciers, “things began to change,” he adds. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

David Quiquinte, also from Hornaditas, proudly relates that “a 40-centimetre-deep ditch was dug, where the pipe was buried to prevent freezing,” since in the wintertime temperatures in the Puna region can drop to 25 degrees Celsius below zero.

“For nearly six months, the entire community threw its effort into this work… except for one or two people,” the 40-year-old local resident told IPS, without concealing his irritation with those who didn’t help out.

During meetings with technicians from the Secretariat of Family Agriculture, the indigenous communities in Jujuy’s Puna region raised their concern about the growth of the population of vicuñas, a wild South American camelid native to the Andean highlands.

The vicuña came close to extinction in the 1960s, but recovered thanks to protection measures agreed by the countries of the Puna ecoregion.

“We needed water, especially because there wasn’t enough for the animals. And in the meetings about the water system project, many people complained that the vicuñas were eating the grass needed by the llamas and sheep,” Luis Gerónimo, 30, who lives in the community of Escobar Tres Cerritos, told IPS.

That is how the idea arose for training for the “chaccu”, an ancestral practice that the Kolla Indians have taken up again, as have other indigenous communities in Bolivia and Peru, which consists of capturing, shearing and releasing wild vicuñas.

“We’ve been practicing the chaccu for five years and people no longer see vicuñas as a problem. Today they are taken care of. The llamas and sheep graze in the lowlands and the hills are left to the vicuñas,” says Luis Gerónimo.

The chaccu and the water project pursue the same ultimate goal: to enable people from the communities to stay in Jujuy’s Puna region instead of migrating to the cities.

“I am one of the people who went to work in different parts of Argentina and came back. And I’m convinced that we have the resources to keep young people in the Puna,” says Tolaba.

He points out that “the main need in the Puna has always been water. Walking for hours to fetch water or to take the animals to drink are things we’ve been used to since we were kids here.”

But “with this project, things have begun to change,” he adds.

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