24 October 2006

Field Based Training #2, Day 5

On our final day of FBT #2, we visited a tea cooperative, one of the most successful cooperatives in the country. Roughly 80 families are members. It is a former finca ran by Germans until WWII, and after the not-defunct government helped organize and train the cooperative. There are two types of land here: land owned by the cooperative and rented cheaply to members to maintain for a year, and private land of the farmers who may also bring their tea crops to the cooperative. Tea requires a lot of care, however, and no single farmer could own the necessary means of processing the tea. Therefore, the cooperative owns the machines to dry, curl, and package the tea. The cooperative maintains elected committees of internal affairs, various committees for operations and administration, a committee for teaching farmers improved methods, a committee for microcredit, and a committee for women's issues and rights. The cooperative had a hand also in convincing the government to put a school in -- a rare amenity for a country town of indigenous people. The mix of community involvement and a democratic business model (many would say communist) has helped this community and its members greatly improve their quality of life, their capacity to live inependently, not to mention their lifespan.We also visited some local caves that are still used today for various indigenous ceremonies. I feel very honored by anyone willing to share such a personal part of their lives with me for no reason but hospitality.

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