December 11, 2017
In Quechua, the indigenous language spoken in the territory of the former Inca empire, Allin Kawsay means “the good life.” Until today, this concept has been kept alive by the indigenous population of the Peruvian Andes. It reflects their appreciation of a community-oriented way of life in simplicity and in respect for nature. Despite being content with little, many inhabitants of the “Sierra,” Peru's central highland, struggle to make ends meet: a large part of the Andean population lives and works as smallholding potato farmers. Some of the farmers produce their crop at altitudes up to 4,000 meters above sea level where almost nothing else prospers. Striving for “Allin Kawsay” is not an easy undertaking since periods of drought, hail, frost, snow and erosion often cause difficulties for the farmers.
Crop failures have devastating impacts on the smallholders’ livelihoods since potatoes are not only their major source of income but also serve as an important staple food crop. High-quality seeds and effective crop protection products can help the farmers improve their harvest – but such materials are barely accessible for most farmers. In addition, a large part of the population lacks knowledge on the safe handling and proper use of these products. Yet, without the use of crop protection products, yields fluctuate from one year to the next which also causes potato prices to go up and down. To the people living in Peru’s highlands, the future consequently looks volatile and unpredictable.
In order to empower people to proactively change their lives for the better, BASF has initiated a project that helps the people help themselves: smallholders receive training on good farming practices and learn to enhance their entrepreneurial skills. In addition, they are provided with financial aid and other measures that help them close the gap between the production and marketing of their crops. These measures have the potential to raise crop yields by 50 percent or more and generate positive spillover effects resulting in a strengthened regional economy, better access to health and education or improved quality of life. Since the project enables Andean farmers to achieve a good life, it has been named after their life motto, “Allin Kawsay.”
The project is part of “BASF Starting Ventures”, a program through which BASF develops business solutions that empower people with low incomes around the world to reach a better quality of life. Comprehensive arrangements for the project have been made since 2015, so that a first pilot run could be started this year. As part of the pilot, some fields were treated with BASF products to demonstrate the achievable improvements. Following the success of these trials, 600 farmers have already started using BASF products to improve the quality of their crops and will begin harvesting their potatoes in March or April next year. Furthermore, 3,500 potato producers have meanwhile been trained by local professionals called “Amautas” which in Quechua means “masters” or “wise.” The official launch of the project took place in Lima, Peru’s capital city, on November 16. Networking and idea exchange was at the forefront of the agenda for the day and a roundtable presented an opportunity for key stakeholders to talk about shared value in Peruvian agriculture.
“So far, the project has been very successful. We have not only managed to win the farmers’ trust, but have also convinced important partners to become part of the ‘Allin Kawsay project.’ Cooperating with local organizations is crucial to guarantee the long-term viability of our efforts,” says Cristhian Saldaña, key account consultant at BASF and Allin Kawsay project leader. One of these partners is “CampoLimpio,” an organization that campaigns for the professional and safe disposal of empty crop protection containers. “Aside from teaching the farmers about the correct application of our products, it is essential to ensure that empty containers are effectively recycled. If we don’t educate farmers about responsible disposal, the containers could get refilled with low-quality imitations of our products – or some people might even re-use them to store water and foodstuffs. It is our aim to avoid the unsafe handling of our products at all costs since our goal is to improve the quality of people’s lives in a lasting and sustainable way,” explains Cristhian Saldaña. The training that the farmers receive includes creating awareness on the responsible disposal of packaging materials. Although it is still in its infant stage, the project has already been recognized as a “best practice example” of packaging recycling by CampoLimpio.
Alongside CampoLimpio, BASF has managed to recruit further partners to provide assistance with crop marketing or support with microfinance loans so that the farmers can afford high-quality seeds and crop protection products. “Our goal is not only to be seen as a producer and provider of chemical products,” says Luis Fernando Martínez, crop protection director for the Latin America North region at BASF. “Instead, we want to be regarded as a reliable partner, enabling the people to improve their quality of life and to keep the principles of ‘Allin Kawsay’ alive. This is part of our commitment and contribution to reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”