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Tilbage til Coroico, Bolivia

Rikke og Mads rejste til Coroico d. 21 november (til d. 7 december). Formålet med rejsen er at få dannet et detaljeret overblik over fremgangen i projektet der har som fokus at lave en miljøhandlingsplan der inddrager og repræsenterer alle borgere i kommunen. Derfor vil der i perioden være særligt fokus på hvordan workshops i landsbyerne foregår og hvad de får ud af dem. Afslutningsvis skal der i samarbejde med Caritas indledes formulering af 2. Fase af miljøhandlingsplan projektet.

Rejsebrevene er på engelsk.


Day 1 & 2: Going to Coroico
Day 3:   First day of work
Day 4: Planning the environmental Rally
Day 7: Workshop on environmental legislation
Day 8 & 9: Rally, Workshop and Tourist time
Day 10: Method
Day 12: Presentation from JUBILEO
Day 13: Meeting with the City Council
Day 14: QGIS and evaluation


Day 1:

Going to Coroico

The first report is just a short note to tell you all that we have now arrived in Coroico and found our hotel, the sun is shining and everything is good. The trip went well though we had a long travel, entering Kastrup airport 6:20 in Denmark and landing in La Paz about 30 hours later. The security in Miami was interesting, we had to do finger scans, check passport and have a photo taken three different places before continuing our trip to La Paz.

Finally we arrive in El Alto and Fernando was there to pick us up, what a relief to see him, knowing the long travel was finished =). From La Paz to Coroico we travelled through the most fantastic landscape, which was changing along with the altitude. Near La Paz there are only few plants as low grasses and some lamas later on small bushes and tall grasses appear and when you enter Coroico there is a broad variety of plants from grasses to palms.

The view from our hotel.


Day 3:

First day of work

After sleeping about 11 hours this night we are nearly over the jetlag and waked up fresh and exited for a new day. The morning started with a view of the clouds hugging the mountains, but cleared up fast and we got a hot day. We started the day having a breakfast meeting with Fernando. At the meeting the progress of the project were discussed especially in relation to the coordinator of the project, which we mentioned before leaving Denmark, he seemed like he was not as administrative as his assignment required. Fernando confirmed this with what he had experienced doing his internship in Caritas, which we wanted to investigate this before meeting with Dolly at lunch.

Shortly after the meeting with Fernando we went to the Caritas office, for showing me (Mads) around in the facilities, and explaining some of the work done by Caritas. Caritas is hosting their own radio channel, which has different interesting programs. The most interesting is the program where they speak of the environmental issues in Coroico and the Environmental Action Plan. This program have resulted in more people getting interested in both this project and the environment, it also seem like a very good way of increasing environmental awareness within the local communities. We talked about possibilities in supporting this radio program as part of the budget of this project for the environmental action plan in Coroico.

Fernando showed us some of the maps they have been drawing in the communities and they look very good. They show the different small communities and the issues they experience, divided by the type of issue and the level of the issue. These maps gives a very good overview of where e.g. god test sites for water quality can be taken, to differ between what is expected issues and what is tested/proven issues. This way the areas where e.g. water quality is expected to be good we can check if the perception right.

When we were looking at the maps we spoke of the issues the citizens experience, and it seems like they are getting more aware of the issues and willing to seek ways of preventing environmental contamination. A big and very visible issues is the waste in both rural and urban areas, a lot of the waste is plastic bottles and plastic wrappings. It might be an idea to speak with the waste workgroup in EWB-DK, as they might have some good solutions for the issues in the area. The plastic bottles can be sold as plastic material in La Paz, but the gains for selling the plastic cannot cover the expenses of the transportation of the plastic from Coroico.

The meeting with Dolly went great, we told her about our worries with capability of the project coordinator in the administration of this project, which Dolly also had realized. Dolly decided to change the responsibilities of the different employees of Caritas Coroico, to reach a better match between responsibilities and capabilities.

Day 4:

Planning the environmental Rally

We thought the jet-lag was over, but we both still wake up at 8-9 o’clock Danish time, which means 3-4 o’clock in the morning local time. The good thing is that you know that you can just go back to sleep for a few more hours before the yellow tailed birds starts screaming like a bunch of crows fighting.

Today Rikke was talking with Dolly and Willy about budget and progress in the project while Fernando and Mads were working with Francy, Freddy and Marcelo on the environmental rally that takes place Saturday. The conditions of the game were determined, and the different test and games within the rally were planned. The rally is for the local people to compete and have fun, while learning important facts and legislation about the environment. A goal in the rally is for the participants to convince non-participants that an environmental action plan is necessary, and there by gaining points.

After lunch Dolly, Richard, Gabriel, Francy, Fernando, Marcelo, Rikke and I (Mads) went through the last few months of work on the environmental plan done in Coroico, with MENG and workshops with local representatives from the subcentrales and communities. We talked some about the methodology of the workshops with the subcentrales which has been improved in the last month with the help of Fernando and the experience from the Caritas team. In the first workshops Caritas had stay with the methodology as they learned to train it, but in the field they discovered some weakness. The environmental network is not really working well, therefore we will discuss the next days how they want it to work and how we can reach that. 

At 16:30 Rikke, Fernando and I had a meeting with Sister Daisy from an institution, she wishes assistance with building a new building for their mentally and physically disabled children. In the pictures you can see some of the kids, and they were very sweet.

As you see Blanca in the green shirt is my best friend now, even though we have trouble communicating she tried to teach me the Spanish alphabet. 


Day 7: 

Workshop on environmental legislation

Today I (Mads) am back at the writings, and feeling fresh after sleeping most of yesterday.

Today we started with a workshop about the legislation in relation to environment, therefore community representatives from “Cruz Loma” and “Vila Nilo” were visiting Caritas in Coroico today. We had breakfast with two representatives from the ministry of mother earth and of environment, which had to talk to the participants.

The meeting were supposed to start at 9am but according to the culture we started at 10am and not even everyone had arrived yet, this also results in people leaving before the meeting is over. However the meeting went fine, but unfortunately “Cruz Loma” only had one person representing their community, because most of the community had to help dig sewer infrastructures.

From the presentation, it was clear that Bolivia has some quite impressive and strict environmental rules; the downside of it is that it can be difficult to follow in practise. When anyone wants to start up a project, a construction or an activity, they have to fill out a protocol evaluating the environmental impact. This protocol should be handed in to the municipality and the ministry’s office at the department level, which in practise does not work as it can be very difficult for some of the small communities to go to the ministrie’s office every time they do a project. In some case, it can be necessary to do a full study of the impact this procedure of evaluation can be compared to the Danish EIA (environmental impact assessment).
The national level is obliged to protect the environment, which means that in local communities the municipality should insure the environment is protected in the development. If the municipality or the project owner does not live up to these restrictions there will be financial sanctions, and if these are not paid you risk being sent to prison.

Furthermore, if there is an environmental accident doing a project the nearest authority has to report this within 48 hours. If this is not reported, there will be either financial sanctions or even withdrawal of the environmental approval of the project, which means that the project closes.

To give an example of the political mind set in Bolivia, the presentation from the ministry of mother earth put great effort in to saying that we should not focus on capitalism but on the good life. They mentioned that in this time of climate change the economical view of the world is outdated as if we keep putting economy first the forest will disappear by time. Instead of the economical focus we should look back as the ancient indigenes did and se life of human, animals and plants (the whole earth) as something interdependent and representing life, therefore life should be first priority in the actions we take. However they did also explain that they have been working on this vision for society for ten years and have not yet succeeded.

The ministry of forrest had a long description of some new planing tools tht they want to implement and which can be quite interessering for the communities after the elaboration of their environmental action planes. Somehow It is a bit dificult to se all those planing tools put in to practice in a society which is not used to planning.

After the workshop a traditional lunch was served starting with a chicken soup followed by a plate of roasted chicken with rice. After just after lunch around 2pm and we were both glad to have a short day after a week with very long days. ☺


Day 8 & 9:      

Rally, Workshop and Tourist time

As Saturday ended really late this report will cover both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday started with me and Rikke getting up early for talking a walk through the market before meeting up with the people from Caritas and the start of the Rally. In the market we see how easy it is to get pesticides, as they are sold in line with vegetables, fruits and all the other interesting things you can find in the market.

The environmental rally which Caritas had put lots of effort into seemed to be very successful, many people were there to see and plenty wanted to participate. “Unfortunately” this was a perfect sunny day and maybe the warmest day we have had, which was making it difficult for the participants in the rally that had to run. Both I and Rikke got slightly sunburned and poor Fernando felt sick in the evening for getting to much sun and heat.

Out of the 8 participating team there were only gifts for the three best, first price was a weekend at a hotel with an animal park second price was a lunch for five at hotel Gloria (the best hotel in Coroico) and the third price were a basket of gifts. When the rally finished we found a lovely place with some shadow and lunch, and then we had time for a short nab before going to the community “San Gerónimo” for a workshop.

At half past four we went to “San Gerónimo” were the workshop started one and a half hour later due to culture =). The workshop started with divided the 58 participants into four group each Working on their topic, Soil, Water, Biodiversity and waste. This means that the different thetechnicians from caritas with help from two community representatives, drew up four maps of San Gerónimo and then the participants in the group discussed where to draw problems and where to draw areas with non problems.

The groups where very different in the way they approach, some groups nearly all were very active in the drawing, some were a few people were active and then some that had one person drawing and the rest discussing what the person should draw (see the pictures). After about one hour of drawing we shifted topic so every group went to a different topic that the one they just did, so they could ad in stuff they felt left out on the drawings the other groups did. At the end we gathered up and talked a bit about what they felt the main issues were (water and waste).

Sunday morning were our first whole day of, which we had been looking forward to, meaning we first met with Fernando at 10 for a lovely breakfast. At the breakfast we talked about what to do in this day of, Fernando had talked a lot about going to the “zip-line” in coiroico, and we thought I could be a good idea. Unfortunately it was very cloudy Sunday so we ended up deciding that the zip-line was not a good idea and instead we wanted tio visit an animal park. When we arrived at the hotel they would not let us in even though they had a sign just by the dor sayng tours at 10am, 11am, 12am and 3pm and we were there at 11:50. Instead we were told to wait until 3pm, which we did not want to and therefore had to walk back to the main road to try hitchhike a taxi (not as easy as it seems).

Back in Coroico we were now wondering what else to do, and decided to go for a ride wth the driver from Caritas to see some of the nive places in Coroico. So I and Fernando went with Juan on a lovely trip, unfortunately Rikke felt a little ill and decided to stay in the hotel instead.

The trip was not as easy at it might seem because it had been raining all night quite heavily the road were in one place covered in mud and big stones from a recent landslide. Therefore we had to get out to move the stones as shown in the picture.

First we went to a very good viewpoint and where they places the antennas for mobile signal as it is one of the highest points in the area. Thereafter we went to the big river going through Coroico, were it should be possible to see the trademark of Coroico a red parrot, but we didn’t see it only a bunch of red fronted macaws. But even though I am no photographer I think pictures say more than words.

Day 10:


Monday morning is starting and it seems very cloudy and not very warm, which is nice for a change not to have more than 30+ degrees Celsius. We are a little worried that nobody will meet up today, because Monday normally is a day off and neither Dolly nor Richard will be here today. We meet with Fernando for breakfast and are excited to see who will meet up, we are only about to settle around the breakfast table when both Francy and Freddy turn up. We all eat a lovely breakfast together with freshly juiced pineapple, toast and scrambled eggs. Shortly after breakfast, we went to the Caritas meeting room for discussing the methods for the workshops in the community and subcentrals. The principal topic was to make a protocol for the methods used in the project and the workshops as such.

The idea for the protocol is both to have a similar process every time, and to remember what to do in the next phase. As well, as write down good ideas for when people are very active and when people are not so active, when there are many people or small groups. Furthermore a protocol will insure that the methods will stay in Caritas and not just with the people leading the workshops right now.

Another problem discussed today was that after second workshop about the legalisation the participants tend to fall out for the next workshop in the sub-centrals. In relation to this an idea is that Caritas could create some kind of school or course for training environmental leaders so they will be simulated to participate more active.

After lunch, we looked into QGIS and the data they are working with, but it was only me, Francy, Fernando and Rikke. We worked through how to draw with lines and polygons to do community borders, and then how to copy features and attributes into another shapefile and joining different shapes in one layer, along with calculating area and perimeters of different shapes. Some of the processes coursed a bit of trouble but we found ways to work around. It was clear from these exercises that Francy had very good map awareness and were mastering simple functions as drawing necessary shapes. My feeling is that she can easily become good in QGIS, now I am just very curious about the rest of the team.


Day 12:  

Presentation from JUBILEO

Today started with nearly clear weather and the rest of the clouds cleared up fast and it became a warm start of the day but around lunch it started raining again and the temperature fell. Today we were going to see a presentation by the NGO Fundación Jubileo. Fundación Jubileo is a NGO that is trying to fight corruption in the institutions and therefore are focused on being open about the accounting in the institutions. Furthermore they inform citizens of their legal rights and how to get their project through the system, by advocacy. Fundación Jubileo is in general focused on the institutions being open and to have dialogue with the citizens to make processes and institutions more transparent.

On the way to Caritas we saw Freddy who was out to get the last local citizens to participate in the presentation and workshop – better late than sorry =)

The presentation this morning was about advocacy and Juan Carlos started by going through some things the local citizens should be aware of when working together with institutions or local leaders in Bolivia. The higher level institutions are sometimes signing nearly everything to avoid conflicts, but this also means that this signature does not mean much and not much will happen in relation to the signed agreement. Sometimes some of the leaders are supporting one specific politician and this will affect their judgment and which projects they like.

It is important in trying to reach a goal that you try to influence all the people around the person taking the decision. There firstly you need to analyse your problem and be very specific about it, then you need to research who is responsible in the decisions influencing the goal. When you know all this make a great effort in reaching every person around this powerholder and try to influence them to like your goal and make contact to newspapers etc. before going to the person in charge. The idea is that this person have heard and met the idea of your goal many times before he/she is going to take a decision about it. Another important fact is that you need to get your idea into the budget then it can happen, otherwise it might be very difficult.

After this presentation, we had a small exercise where firstly all wrote down one problem, these problems were divided into three categories: the elder, Environment awareness and the use of pesticides. All the participants were divided into these three theme groups and had to do a problem tree in relation to one of the problems in their category, explaining problem cause and effect. After the workshop we had a big traditional lunch with all the participants and Farther Freddy said grace before we started.

After lunch, we had a small meeting with some community representatives from the two subcentrals of the pilot project, but unfortunately, only three showed up. We talked with them about the workshops where they have been participating if the workshops had been good or bad and what excises did they like etc. We talked about what would be the easiest way to get people to participate in the second phase of the project, and they said we should pay attention to what kind of crops they had in the community. The type of crops they are cultivating will say a lot about when they are busy e.g. harvesting and when they have time of. Furthermore, they suggested that January and February could be good because they have a lot of rain in this period, which makes it difficult to work in the fields.

Late in the evening me, Rikke, Freddy, Fernando and Francy looked into QGIS, Freddy pointed out on a map were the borders of the communities were, and Francy drew them up in QGIS – good job! I took a comfortable chair and gave out orders or helped in how to make the drawings easiest and how and what tool to correct mistakes with, and Rikke translated =) 


Day 13:

Meeting with the City Council

Today we got a warm day after three days of cloudy rainy weather which is nice for a change though the temperature probably were more comfortable the last three days. We started the day with a big breakfast meeting at Caritas with the members of the city council, it was discussed what could be done with the environment and what this environmental plan could do for Coroico.

At the meeting a group with a compost facility presented their work in the hope to get financed due to their important work =). The project seemed quite interesting as they recycled plastic bottles (from soda and water), other plastics, glass and the organic waste was composted. Unfortunately this facility is about 400km from coroico, so collaboration about the waste in Coroico might not be obvious.

After the breakfast meeting we had time for some QGIS with Francy by the computer and Freddy on the side explaining borders and helping with were the rivers run etc. At the moment we focus a lot on increasing Francy’s skills in QGIS as she is the person who has showed the most interest. The idea that they in this project will have at least one person capeable of using most basic QGIS tools for the Environmental plan. Later on Francy might be able to help teach QGIS as an assistant teacher. The rest of the Caritas group is a little more difficult to get to spend time with QGIS. However tomorrow we will have a small QGIS workshop and we will there have the possibilities of getting an overview of the level of skill in QGIS amongst the rest of the group.

Today there was a lovely smell all over Caritas Coroico’s office building as they were toasting coffee beans in the basement. Rikke and I both went down to see how they did it and to buy home some of this lovely coffee =).

After lunch Rikke, the Caritas Coroico group and I looked into the LFA which Fernando, Rikke and I filled out after our last meeting. Therefore this meeting will be to discuss how we filled the LFA out and if it correspond to their expectations. With only a few changes they moved on to making a stakeholder analysis, while I took a ride with Johnny in a car to see Carmen Pampa and the waterfall in Sankt Felix.

This evening all of us down here will have a small party as it is the last evening Rikke and I have in Coroico, so Fernando is going to prepare a Spanish tortilla and we are going to have some traditional food from Coroico (beef with peanut butter sauce, and some kind of potato rod) along with some beer =).



Day 14:

QGIS and evaluation

Today is our last day in Coroico and we will go to La Paz in the afternoon, we started the day with a breakfast with all of caritas eating some of the left over Spanish tortilla from last night. Tomorrow we will spend the day as tourists in La Paz and have dinner with Dolly in the evening, therefore this is also our last report so we hope that you enjoyed reading.

After breakfast we tried out some QGIS and most of the technicians from Caritas Coroico tried to draw in landslides as polygons. Our impression is that they will all be able to do the drawings necessary but we need to keep them aware of the understanding of layers in QGIS and how they build up the maps.

After the QGIS walkthrough we talked about the week and what was good, interesting and bad. Thereafter we went to a place by the river to have lunch, it was so warm that it was difficult not to sweat even without doing anything =). It therefore seemed crazy when we was about to enter La Paz we had snow and the mountains were all white, La Paz is a little lower than this point with snow, so we do not have snow here.

By the way we took the road of death on the way La Paz, yeah we felt like some badass tourist risking our lives on this small road with mountains on one side and an abyssal canyon “of death” on the other. Actually the road was not that scary but in fact a very beautiful way to La Paz =)

Rikke and I have now checked into our hotel room and are both looking forward to try our bathtub =)

Miljøprojekt i Bolivia