By Ali Alford, Marketing and Education Volunteer

In April and June, Awamaki welcomed two groups of high school students, each led by a teacher who was a former Awamaki volunteer, to build greenhouses in the village of Patacancha, the home of one of the weaving cooperatives with which we work. With a total of nineteen students from Barbourville, Kentucky and Chicago, Illinois, and greenhouse funding assistance from a generous donor, the groups built an impressive five greenhouses for weavers and their families.

Greenhouses help families improve their nutrition and earn supplemental income. Patacancha’s altitude of 12,600 feet makes it difficult to grow anything other than potatoes; as a result, access to affordable fruits and vegetables is incredibly limited, and the traditional diet lacks essential nutrients. Malnutrition is a major health issue in rural Andean communities; children in Patacancha are underweight and life expecancy in similar communities is 20 years shorter than that in Lima.

A greenhouse allows a family to access inexpensive fresh vegetables to supplement their traditional diet. Additionally, they can sell excess produce for additional income, benefitting others in the community.

The visiting students stayed in homestays with the weavers and worked alongside the recipient families, providing them insight into Andean culture and the needs of the community. Funds raised for the project also helped Awamaki train the women to cultivate and prepare the vegetables, as well as to utilize the greenhouses to improve the health of their families. Our aim is to eventually build a greenhouse in the home of every cooperative member. With these greenhouses, we hope to fulfill our mission of creating economic opportunities and improving social well-being for the women of Patacancha and the greater Ollantaytambo area.