Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A journey to the Bolivian Amazon – Who are the real farmers behind the successful cooperative El Ceibo?

Virginia, from our regional office in Uruguay will join me in this trip. None of us have visited El Ceibo before, so we had many expectations. We left the hotel very early for a two day trip to Sapecho, in the Alto Beni area. Getting there and coming back would be a challenge. To make sure our photos turned out well, Antonio Suárez, a local photographer, was engaged as part of the team. He deserves all the credit for the beautiful pictures he took in Bolivia that feature in this blog. Felipe Sandoval, El Ceibo’s financial manager, will accompany us too. As Felipe is the son of a cooperative member, El Ceibo supported his studies at university and later offered him a job at the cooperative offices in El Alto. In a country as Bolivia where unemployment is rife, a well-paid job after finalizing his studies is a one in a million opportunity. When he told me about how El Ceibo supports the development of its members and their families, it was obvious that he was very grateful for everything the cooperative has done for him.
The shortage of gasoline in the capital city obligated us to go from gas station to gas station to fill up the tank. Two hours later than planned, we left La Paz for our eight hour journey to Sapecho. The first views of the Andes, with llamas and alpacas crossing the road are impressive. It feels as of you could touch the sky by raising your hand. As one starts descending, the landscape changes and the empty mountains become greener and greener while trees become higher. This beautiful view takes your attention off the very dangerous road ahead, which makes me experience first-hand the difficulty El Ceibo farmers have when taking their cacao to their chocolate factory in El Alto.

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