Sunday, 6 November 2005

Crop Science

Going out in Tarapoto on Monday night, I met Rocio and her friends. Rocio is an agronomy specialist. She works all week in a small vilage called Chazuta, 2 hours away from Tarapoto, on the river Huallaga. As Tarapoto is a small place where you keep bumping into people you know, I saw her again on the Tuesday and, after discussing the waterfall I would see on the Wednesday morning, she suggested I go to Chazuta where she could show me a better waterfall. Chazuta is in no tourist guide I've seen, nor is it advertised by any local tour agency so I thought it'd be a good way to see a real Peruvian village and I agreed to it.

So on thursday morning I took a collectivo to Chazuta. There, I met Rocio, her sister, her boss and a few of her colleagues and we set up for the waterfall. The walk is steep along an earth path. But the worst is not the path, it is the merciless sun, as we had set up a bit later than we should have. So it was difficult to get there but it was definitely worth it. The waterfall was just amazing and it was a great spot to swim. Just what we needed to cool down from the sun.

On the Friday, we took a boat along the river to stop at a small island. There I could get a better understanding of what Rocio and her colleagues do. They are specialists in crop growing and their job is to explain to villagers what to grow and how to grow it so that they can live decently and get enough spare money to send their children to school. For instance, on the small island where we stopped, they were growing cocoa. But cocoa on its own is not viable because the plants need 3 years before they start producing. They also need shade. So they complement it with corn and use banana trees to provide the shade. The bananas, in addition to shade, provide food and extra revenue while the cocoa plants mature. On the other side, the agronomists put the farmers in contact with companies that will buy the crops for a decent price. This is the easy part of their job. However, in some districts, the job quite often consists in giving farmers an alternative to growing coca so they are less than welcome by the drug lords and it can get dangerous. The day on the island was very relaxing. For lunch, we had fish caught in the river the same morning, with locally produced rice; avocado, bananas, oranges and guava picked directly from the trees; corn picked directly from the stalk. It can't get healthier than this!

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