2012 is our pilot year! A walking tractor has been received to pioneer the farm equipment and seed loan program. Five families will participate in the first year.
After launching Conectados in the Andes, we began to understand the responsibility that these children had to their family and farms. Rather than going home to study and play, they were needed to help with farming duties. Some students are entirely responsible for several animals and have daily chores to care for them. This, combined with a very basic, hand powered farming method, forces the majority of a child's day to revolve around the farm.
It doesn't have to be this way; available machinery and technology can drastically reduce labor time. Seeing such a need coupled with opportunity, Blue Sparrow was compelled to get involved. The Andean way of life was closely links school, family, and farming--we can't touch only one of those areas. As we improve the livelihood of the entire family, we are impacting the children. While their farm responsibilities will not disappear, they can be more balanced with education. Increased farming efficiency enables the family to focus on the 'next steps': consistent school attendance, higher education, and job training.
During planting, the most difficult task is plowing the field. With the new walking tractor, not only is labour dramatically reduced but the field is left in better condition than ever before. The walking tractor rental is controlled by a public community association with Blue Sparrow's guidance, ensuring quick and fair decisions.
At harvest time, the walking tractor changes its plow for a potato digging implement. Rather than digging potatoes with a pickaxe, the tractor can quickly pull the potatoes up to the surface, where they are collected into sacks and either stored at home or sold at the market.
The combination of greater crop yield per hectare and fewer hours in the field means more money and more time for the entire family. School supplies, clothes, and medicine are far more affordable. Parents can consider diversifying into new income sources, and students are able to focus entirely on their education for the first time.
We're working to identify farm plots with year-round irrigation, allowing the family to plant earlier and later than others. In this way, even more families will have access and the busy planting season is less hectic. Next year, we hope to expand our capacity to even more families, both in seed loans and equipment rental.support page. Families are anxious to participate, and as we expand our financial base, we will be able to offer loans and equipment to even more families.