Dairy production empowers women in rural Bolivia
Women outside the Milk Transformation Centre in Colquencha, Bolivia. Before the organisation came, people here didnt know anything, [about dairy production] says Malik Aymara, a community member.Anita Makri
A girl collects cheese produced in the centre. Local women say they would like to learn about new tools and techniques to further improve productivity.Anita Makri
Livestock grazing on the plateau. As part of the project, Practical Action bought dairy cows and trained locals to keep them healthy in order to increase milk yield and quality.Anita Makri
Monica Cuba of Practical Action-Bolivia. The project finished in 2013, but she explains that the NGO still monitors the activity of the association. We are glad to see that the local communities really took the lead on the business, she says.Anita Makri
The milk is heated to make cheese. The project started in a house, says Malik Amara. Now they have this centre, all the machines and equipment to transform milk into cheese and yoghurt.Anita Makri
Severina Chirino is the associations president and works at the centre full time. She says the association empowers the community to partner with NGOs and others to further grow their business.Anita Makri
Chirino says that women now adopt practices that ensure a good quality product, such as better hygiene. Because of this, she says, people in the community see them differently. They are now seen as more knowledgeable and authoritative.Anita Makri
While the men tend the cows and collect the milk, the women process it in the centre with the help of simple machines. They are also learning how to produce different types of cheese.Anita Makri
The power supply is not always stable and machines cannot run without electricity. But the women are determined to make their business flourish, and despite technical hurdles their small business thrives.Anita Makri
Chirino says that the women also learned how to manage their money. Initially they just sold the product not knowing how much they should charge to make a profit. Now they know what factors increase the value of their product, she says.Anita Makri
Colquencha’s rural economy was traditionally based on agriculture, with potatoes and quinoa as staples, providing food as well as limited source of income. But five years ago, the NGO Practical Action rolled out a project to improve food security. Project staff taught people in the community how to keep dairy cows, and taught local women to run their own dairy plant using simple techniques to process milk into cheese and yoghurt. Over time, the business has grown steadily.
Today, following the trial period directly supported by the Practical Action’s staff, the Association of Milk Producers of Machacamarca, is continuing to run the business, in Colquencha and other nearby municipalities, with ever increasing success.
This photo gallery visits the dairy production centre in Colquencha, and shares the words of the local women who run it.