Quechua Benefit recognizes that without economic empowerment—particularly for women, single mothers and highland families—the cycle of poverty cannot be broken. Several programs address this issue, but it remains the central challenge for our NGO mission. The scope of the problem is immense and our attempts to find scalable solutions have been humbling.
In 2016 Quechua Benefit conducted a tour through 10 Andean communities to hear what the most pressing economic issues were for the poorest populations in all of Peru.
Our Economic Empowerment plan took root as we listened
Quechua Benefit’s team crowded into the mayor’s office, a 15′ x 20’ room that doubled as a community center in the town of Aymana, located thousands of feet above sea level and hundreds of miles from the nearest city. The team sat in white plastic chairs along the far wall and across from local men who had come seemingly out of curiosity. Women then filed in and sat on the cold, grey floor in the back of the room, their wide, vividly colored skirts billowing around them. Children darted in and out. In a show of respect for cultural norms, women from our team joined the other women on the floor.
Dr. Jose Mosquera, a surgeon and an international public health expert, was there to lead a focus group to identify what issues were most important to the community. Dr. Mosquera – credited with substantially reducing parasitic anemia in Ecuador – began by inquiring about the general health of the community.
“What is the most important health issue you face?” he asked. One of the men immediately responded, “The health of our alpacas.”
The team, taken by surprise, asked, “But what about your children’s health?”
A young woman cradling a baby wrapped in a crimson blanket, with two small children at her feet whispered, “If the alpaca die, our children will not eat.”
This simple fact lies at the core of any effort to break the cycle of poverty in the highlands of Peru. An average family of four owns a small herd of about 150 alpacas. From these animals, they make 85% of all their annual income, which amounts to about $100 per month.
Quechua Benefit identified animal health as the most important driver of family income in the highlands, and therefore provides the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.
- Economic empowerment in the highlands depends on healthy livestock, primarily alpacas, to eat and raise for fleece, which is their primary source of nutrition and cash income.
- Quechua Benefit discovered there were no veterinarian services available to the communities,and the farmers had no technical training or resources for livestock husbandry.
As a result of its experiences in 2016–2019, Quechua Benefit proposes the following outcomes for 2021–2025:
- To assist with livestock husbandry initiatives that are relatively inexpensive and for which the farmers are willing to help pay.
- To deworm herd dogs and prevent livestock from becoming infected with the parasite Saracocystis, which makes the meat unfit for consumption or sale and can result in human death.
- To vaccinate female alpacas and baby alpacas (“cria”) to prevent enterotoxaemia, which kills many of the cria born in any given year.
- To establish a strategic partnership with an Andean veterinarian school to educate and train community leaders in animal husbandry practices and vaccination protocols.
- To scale the economic empowerment program for the Department of Puno (population 1,415,608) in 2022.