|Introduction: These proposals are the result of a lifelong desire to solve the
multiple miseries afflicting the inhabitants of one of the most impoverished
indigenous groups of peoples existing on the planet.
The author draws on his experience as a volunteer and organizer of many relief
programs in Asia, Peru, Bolivia and the USA.
It is generally accepted that it is better to teach people how to grow their own food
than to feed them through relief agencies, but the concept of self-sustainable
communities go one step further than most conceptual agricultural training
institutes. The dimension of visualizing man understanding his integral oneness with
nature and developing higher sensibilities to launch himself as a real agent of
change will create leaders capable of giving proper direction to our confused
Our proposal takes the view that agriculture is the basis of the real wealth of
nations. Agriculture, if properly directed as an integral and organic part of nature,
is an endless provider of man’s single most important need, food and deserves to
be also cited as the number one element in character formation.
You cannot teach philosophy to a man who is hungry and a man who learns how to
grow his own food understands best the philosophy of our oneness with Nature.
Bolivia’s current President Evo Morales, himself an indigenous leader who rose to
power from a peasant background, proclaims that he learned his best lessons
from his father who cultivated the arid altiplano region and eventually moved out of
necessity to the Chapare region.
There have been many interesting instances of agricultural- related education
leading to the development of individuals with outstanding leadership traits that
have taken their social responsibility beyond their productive capacity and become
veritable icons in society.
The Gross Breesen experience during the Holocaust was one of the finest
examples of this model in the West. (www.grosbreesen.com)
There is the currently enormously successful model of Working Villages
International in Congo (www.workingvillages.org)
In the case of the inhabitants of the Altiplano, their Holocaust has lasted 500 years
and resulted in a reduction of the population from 80 million to a mere 7 million;
that at that, puts this region in the lowest echelons of per capita income with the
highest infant mortality and levels of malnutrition that are off the charts of most
We are hoping that under the present government our efforts to establish a
didactic model and the correct agricultural methods for the area will find the
necessary support to allow the situation to change.
Climatic conditions: The region consists of one of the highest plateaus of the
planet, with the consequent rapid changes of temperature between the sun-filled
days and the frigid nights (due to the high altitude). This results in a very short
growing season for western traditional methods of agriculture.
Water resources: The region is very arid except for the areas immediately
adjacent to the few rivers and lakes. Lake Titicaca is one of the largest bodies of
unpolluted sweet water in the planet and the potential exists for the
reestablishment of vast and renewable agriculture as will be explained later
because there are many subterranean waterways that can be seen through
mysterious water holes (ojos de agua) that occur throughout the region.
Fertility of the soil: the introduction of European methods of agriculture that were
not suitable for the area resulted in the erosion of the topsoil and therefore the
whole high plateau itself is now a cold and arid desert; however experiments have
proved that the fertility of the soil can easily and organically be restored by the
application of ancient pre-colonial methods as will be seen later in this paper.
As can be seen by the living example of the family of President Evo Morales,
necessity has pushed the original inhabitants of this region to migrate to the tropics
or to the urban centers. Migration to the tropics has caused large scale
deforestation of the Amazon Basin because, in the attempt to maintain their
families, the migrant peasants use a methodology called “chaqueo” which consists
of clearing an area of about four acres, burning the forest and planting tropical
produce such as corn and yucca to survive. The shallow topsoil of the Amazon is
quickly depleted in this way and the migrant family has to move after a few years
to another four- acre plot, and burn and clear again.
The more resilient of the inhabitants like those of the Lipez province of the
Department of Potosi stayed on and have taken to coming into the cities to beg
during the periods that their meager agricultural efforts cannot sustain them on the
In general the region shows a trend of decreasing population and increasingly
Land Tenancy: After the agrarian reform of 1952, land was reverted to the
agricultural farm workers of the altiplano, however the correct agricultural
educational guidance was absent and the area lost productivity. At the moment the
political tensions in Bolivia arise from the present government’s attempts to
encroach on the land held by landed gentry of the valleys and tropics.
The proposal of the Abya Yala Anthropological Institute consists basically of
enacting a unique educational effort coupled with a vision of recovering from
various sources the technologies that were in place pre-colonially, which historically
enabled this high plateau to produce food for a population in excess of 80 million.
The work of Dr. Allen Collata and Charles Spanish of the University of Chicago as
well as on the work on the Sucacollo systems performed by Dr. Binford in
conjunction with the Washington Smithsonian Institution from 1980 – 1990 discover
a solution to these problems.
Practical demonstration of these systems was functioning in the regions adjacent
to the Titicaca Lake thanks to the efforts of Bolivian Archeologist Carlos
Ostermann in the years 1991-1995. I personally visited and saw the wonderful
results and their efficacy. Unfortunately political interests put a stop to these
developments after 1995.
Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Michel Bergeron and the Bolivian Ambassador to the
Organization of American States, Mr. Reynaldo Cuadros Anaya, we are having the
opportunity to present to the Bolivian Government and the world in general a
proposal that would radically change the fate of this region and benefit the planet
with a nutritious organic produce, a regulating effect of global warming, a massive
decrease in the burning of the Amazon basin, the great challenge of the discovery
of the amazing archaeological truths about the civilizations that once occupied this
mystical high plateau and an educational model that promises to evolve a more
conscious generation of leaders.
Alfonso Ugarte New York, January 2009
|Proposals for the establishment of an Agriculturally Based
Institute of Indigenous Anthropology in Bolivia
|One project that deserves
careful study and emulation
in many ways is the
Ecotruly Park north of Lima,
Peru an area that was
considered a desert and
has been revived into an
oasis of agriculture and