Lately, I have had much time on my hands as there are two weeks of vacation from school, and my days have returned to the unstructured nature in which I began this experience. This, combined with a broken computer has afforded me much time to contemplate, and to rethink some things that I had begun to take for granted, and to read...a lot.
Recently, I stumbled upon an article in an old edition of the Peace Corps magazine, which focused on the re-emergence of an agricultural focus in international develoment. During the 1980's, with the Reagan administration, there was a push towards more technical and business assistance in the Peace Corps, and away from agricultural and environmental programs. While technological and business programs are still encouraged, environmental programs are going strong, and agro-forestry is making a comeback.
In rural Peru, the life of the small scale farmer is becoming increasingly precarious. Prices are generally low, the work is hard, access to water is sometimes scarce and the use of pesticides and fertilizers drives up the costs of producing a decent crop, not to mention contamination. All these issues have driven people out of the villages and to cities, both near and far, breaking up families, and causing the growth of the urban poor. Fewer and fewer of the upcoming generations are committed to working the family land, and are in search of something "better."
Currently, I am reading the Grapes of Wrath, a wonderful American classic. Reading this book while living in Peru is giving me an insight to the thoughts and emotions faced by the community. While this isn't the dust bowl of the early 1900's, the sense of insecurity, and of injustice thrives under the surface of everyday life. I mentioned this story to my host mom and how the earth became dry and inhospitable. She responded by saying this was what may come one day to this area, a fight for water, unforgiving soil, mass exodus. I hope she's wrong.
Nevertheless, this has opened my eyes. While committed to my work with youth, the realization has set in that this aspect of life cannot be ignored in my work with the community. Everyone contributes to the cycles of harvest and planting, growing and watering. Perhaps the next step is to find my place in this daily cycle. I believe that while committing to learn about living off of land, I can come to understand more about my neighbors, the country, and the direction we are going globally.