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Special Report

3rd EUAV mission

«They ate everything...», Eliezer Franco, PM

A huge plague is attacking the quinoa cultivations of the native indigenous community living in Chipaya, Oruro Dept., Bolivia. It seems to be the first time in many years, and it's already declared emergency. Sure enough, this village has always based its own subsistence on these traditional grain crops, primarily but for exclusively self-consumption. Therefore, the plague could seriously weaken Chipayas' outliving. During my third EUAV mission in the field, with the help of Eliezer Franco, Production Area's Manager, I visited Ayparavi and Wistrullani districts to document the gravity of the situation.

A storytelling (photos, video and text reportage) created by Michele Pasquale, GVC Communication Officer. Instagram ID: ntwari_mickey . This story has been published on chipaya.org and related Qnas Soñi Project's/Chipaya official FB page.


This video introduces the plague attack and its devastating effects on quinoa's farm. Franco, shocked by realizing the compelling situation, is showing the camera how the parasitics ("gusanos") devoured the edible seeds, compulsively repeating «They've already eaten everything» ("¡ya han comido todo!"). Shaking the flowering plant, he later counts the average number of 'gusanos' hidden between the leaves: from 12 to 15 bugs, of 3 different type specimen.

YT: https://youtu.be/wpbAWo7DOLE (external link)


«There's almost nothing to pick», Eliezer Franco, PM

«My only concern is...what people is going to eat during the next months?», Eliezer Franco, PM

Instantly clear, the priority was to inform local population and authorities, making them aware of the seriousness of this on-going issue, trying to find - or, at any rate - propose a solution to restrict the outbreak. As soon as possible, we needed to document the situation, think about a strategic plan involving the local population, implement a first action.

Collaborating with the population, respecting the age-old traditional worship to "La Pachamama" (Mother Earth/Nature), an early preventive, simply repellent and totally natural measure has been acted to tackle the scourge.

We decided to follow a totally natural precautionary resolution: pepper ("locotos" in Bolivia and Argentina; "rocoto" in Perù; "rukutu" in Quechua language; "luqutu" in Aymara language; scientific classification: Capsicum Pubescens) and garlic ("ajo"), boiled together to give off their genuine, repellent active principle. No chemical products have been used in this process.

The entire community, no exception, contributes in different ways to solve the problem. It is the ancient, unwritten, social rule of "trabajo comunitario" (shared community work).

The local authorities took an active part in the natural repellent preparation: in the photo, Chipaya's and Oruro's Alcaldes (Mayors).

GVC Bolivia/Cebem team working together to trasport barrels filled up with the preparation.

The "trabajo comunitario" begins with a role assignment chasing experience, age, gender, skills, based on a familial, informal and community level.

The repellent preparation is ready to be smoked out on quinoa plantations.

The antique worship to "La Pachamama" is performed every time a potential or authentic risk distresses the village. It basically consists of repeated offerings to the Mother Earth (coca leaves, so-called "artisanal local whisky", food, meat cuts and animal blood poured on the ground to attract wild animals) in order to counterbalance the "negative energy" producing dissenting, unpleasant effects within the community.

The "Pachamama" ritual is also an opportunity of sharing time, ideas, discussions, in front of a consecrated altar placed in the open air, or inside the most important communal "cabaña" (cabana, indigenous hut). We shared this important meeting at the presence of the local authorities, eating black lamb meat (the head is offered to the altar), and a vegetable soup. All the ritual involves chewing coca leaves and drinking handmade alcohol. Participants always have to pour their first bite and sip on the ground to the "Mother". Right now, sharing is really caring: it means being and acting together to tackle the plague.

At the end of my fifth day of mission, I had the rare and prestigious occasion to document and directly participate to a special Pachamama ritual, crowning glory of a reportage creation process in the field. Nearby the Coipasa salt flat, surrounded by the great "Altiplano Andino" (The Andes Region), the ritual offerings were aimed to summon a certain type of bird greedy for insects, especially "gusanos" (the plague's parasitic). The emotional, strong bond with "The Mother Earth" has been humbly reaffirmed, with a visible sign, presumed evidence from the sky: a flock appeared, moving closer to the horizon line. "La Pachamama" granted Chipayas' community wish to receive help, meeting their worship. Despite that, the emergency's still open and requires urgent, immediate intervention to prevent a worsening of the already critical situation.

«Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see»

The Beatles, "Strawberry Fields Forever", Magical Mystery Tour, 1967

For more information:

Gvc Onlus

CEBEM (Centro Boliviano de Estudios Multidisciplinarios)


Unión Europea en Bolivia / European Union in Bolivia

European Commission - Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid Operations - ECHO

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