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Interview: German Hilares

One of the focuses of the Kellogg Foundation’s activities is the establishment of agrotechnology centers in rural areas. These outfits, also known as Learning and Knowledge Exchange Centers, have been set up to enable families to produce more diversified foods both for themselves and for sale. The Foundation supports 14 such projects. The most recent, inaugurated on February 20, is located in Huancayo, Peru, and is run by the Center for the Advancement of Women (Ceprom). To learn more about this program, we interviewed German Hilares, food engineer and director of Ceprom.

What are the main activities at the new agrotechnology center?
Training in several crafts, such as processing grains, preparation of dairy products, raising livestock, treatment of solid waste, agriculture, cultivating local foods (such as native potatoes, tarwi, quinua) and pasture grasses, drip irrigation, construction using lime, drying foods, among other things. Aside from these classes, the youngsters learn to develop their leadership skills, overcome stress, and they receive basic training in carpentry, electricity, handicrafts, mechanics and foreign languages etc.

What is the objective of the center?
To develop the skills and abilities of the youngsters so they can intensify the development of local communities in central Peru.

Who participates in the activities?
The center can accommodate, at any one time, up to 150 people. It can sleep 60 and the refectory can hold 80 people. The participants are men and women between the age of 16 and 29, although adults and the elderly also take part. They come from 85 rural communities in Valle del Mantaro region.

What is the physical structure of the center like?
The constructed area is 16,000 square meters. The different environments are divided into areas for recreation, green areas, land for cultivation, meeting rooms and classrooms. The center is surrounded by eucalyptus forests, miradors and archeological sites.

What do you hope to achieve with this program?
This center has the potential to drive productive activities in communities from central Peru. It could become a reference in the debate on development projects, hosting international conferences on the subject, and it could also become a model of food security, gender equality, sustainable human development and for improving the local quality of life. In the future, the center could offer specialization courses, masters degrees in alliances, networks and integration of projects.

How important is a project like this for the country?
Peru has a complexity of structural problems that require integrated solutions before achieving development. There are some partial solutions, but we need to act in a strategic and creative manner and, above all, include the rural and native population, which is excluded from this development process. From this point of view, the center plays an important role.

What would the ideal Peru be like?
It would be a country united by its spiritual wealth, in which everyone works towards common goals, selflessly, without resentment, in peace and tranquility, with politicians that work for the good of the people; a Peru with more values and less delinquency, with resources and equality. I realize that I’m a bit of a dreamer, but I do believe that this is possible by building collective leadership, a sense of identity and by paying more respect to culture. I feel that I am a part of the movement that is working towards this ideal. I am very satisfied with my life and I am pleased with, and grateful for all the support that enables me to work for socially excluded people.

How long has the Kellogg Foundation supported Ceprom?
Since 1996, when it supported a project to conserve and process foods. Afterwards, it sponsored a project to promote ecological practices and increase food processing and, in 2002, we received assistance setting up our agrotechnology center. Meanwhile, the Foundation is also supporting our youth leadership project in the countryside until 2005. As a result of the WKKF, I have also been able to improve my education. I took my masters degree in systematization of experiences, participated in the Leadership Capacity Building Program, I was a consultant on a job in Bolivia and I am a member of the Latin American Human Nutrition and Sustainable Development Network, where my job title is “Andean liaison”. In other words, I am the coordinator of these projects in the Andean region.

Have these initiatives produced any concrete results yet?
Yes. Our goals are being reached efficiently. The quality of life for families is being transformed; the population notices this improvement in their rising incomes. We also have more access to new technology and there are fewer family conflicts.

Read more:Center for the Advancement of Women (Ceprom) 

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