Saturday, 20 November 2010

Life in Lima

It proves to be quite a bit harder to post regularly as the pace of life in Peru is vastly different from Bangladesh. For one I was in Bangladesh for a period of five weeks, during which I was cramming in a large amount of field visits on which I could post on a regular basis. I am in Peru for almost three months so the field visit pace ~ and the tales attached to them ~ are much more spread out.

Life in Lima is like many a big city. No potholes the size of canyons to report here, no need to cover my eyes every time I get on the road. I'd almost think myself in Melbourne were it not for the lingo and multitude of street vendors haranguing you on every corner. They range from young women with babies on their backs to older folk selling everything from fruit to nuts. Near the Ministry of Women I even spot a woman sitting on the pavement with a scale in front of her, although so far I have not seen anyone get on it.

After a bit of googling I discover there is an organic market every Saturday morning in Parque Reducto in Miraflores, which is within reasonable walking distance. I am keen to check it out and start walking up Avenida Benevides but soon am encouraged to jump on one of the numerous little local buses that loudly advertise their route and carry you long distances for a mere 1 or 2 solas. Ok, so that's not so Melbourne.

Nearly a block long, the weekly Bioferia ~ or organic market ~ is largely made up of local organic farmers and environmental, education and natural health organizations, along with NGOs. There are presentations on ecology and organic food production. The locals flock here to buy fresh organic produce and to taste an assortment of organic breads, jams, fresh  guanĂ¡bana juice or sip organic coffee. With a wide selection of fruits and veg, the Bioferia is cheap, delicious and definitely is worth my visit. I watch at a stall where they grind fresh wheat grass and buy myself a shot.

Lugging a backpack full of goodies, I get on another little bus, which decides not to charge me as it is turning off rather that going all the way down the avenue. When I am almost home, I  realise I have been so engrossed in my shopping, that I have entirely forgotten to take pictures ~bugger! But this is worth a repeat, so pix in due course.

This very pleasant Saturday is topped off by a stroll to the water and a lovely sunset...ah, life in Lima!

Soon I will be on the road again to get a picture of 'the other Peru'. Peru has long been a country of extreme centralisation ~ with power and wealth centralised in Lima vs. extreme poverty in the rural areas. Centralisation has been compounded by migration and demographics: one in three Peruvians is now resident in the capital, outweighing Lima's voting power over rural areas. So far attempts to reverse the trend by decentralising power and decision-making have been disappointing, since the powers that be in Lima apparently have little real interest in devolving power and distributing it more equally.

Sunday, 14 November 2010


I am interested to hear that a model called 'Targeting the Ultra Poor' ~ developed by the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) ~ is being adopted and tested in Peru. I learnt about this model when I visited northern Bangladesh.

The program is offering subsidies to the ultra poor to build human capacity that will allow households to acquire sustainable livelihoods ~ although it is said that in reality these types of handouts often create dependency.  Generally micro finance does not reach the ultra poor, who tend to have unstable livelihoods and suffer from malnutrition and social limitations. A study is being undertaken ~ by the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, known as the J-PAL), which is part of MIT ~ as part of the larger “Targeting the Ultra-Poor” project to determine whether the model pioneered in Bangladesh is effective in other contexts, in this case the Peruvian Andes. 

The local partner is an NGO called Arariwa, which is committed to rural development in Cusco and I am keen to go to Cusco to see for myself, but the meeting Arariwa doesn't materialise. Pity, as I would liked to have gotten my head around how the program is being administered in this country and to what degree it is replicable across developing economies. I will have to wait for J-PAL's study findings. But I am not too heartbroken. Cusco is stunning and the gateway to the famous Inca ruins of Machupichu and the Secret Valley, so I take advantage and spend the weekend investigating the rural culture from a different perspective.  



The region thrives on tourism and employs a lot of people.  I do not encounter any obvious ultra poor. Perhaps they are the children that run along the train and make 'hand to mouth' motions to indicate they are hungry. But even where I do, they are entrepreneurial to the core. I am being flogged everything from 'take a photo of me and my llama' to plastic ponchos and baby (maybe) alpaca products.

train stop
regional herbs
Nap time