Living almost exclusively off the bounty of the land, the Mushuk are quite familiar with hard work. In fact, work ethic seems to be the greatest attribute they value in individuals they select to lead their community as Apu. This project spanned two Apus. First, Lizardo who was chief when Twende first approached the Mushuk Lamas community over two years ago about potentially going solar. Currently, Miguel is the leader that saw the completion of the installation and will help guide the community in how to best use this newly harnessed resource.
In what proved to be one of my favorite parts of the trip, I had a great conversation with Llorvin, a community leader, and learned that the community grows the following and then some: beets, bananas, beans; cilantro, corn, cacao, coconuts, coffee; plantains, potatoes, pineapples, peanuts; rice, zucchini, yucca, many local fruits and veggies- some we’ve never seen or heard of in our life. They raise dogs, chickens, ducks, pigs, horses and cattle. They also have access to timber, sandstone, palms to weave their roofs, and clay to make pottery. Not only that, but they have a high spring from which they access their “ agua cristalina” and boy, does it taste heavenly!
We learned that the community doesn’t eat meat very frequently. For example, they only eat pork a few times per year on special occasions. The cattle are not raised for eating, but rather function more like insurance or a savings account and are sold only when a major or unexpected expense comes up.
Llorvin talked with me about how thoughtful they are about how they use and protect the land they live on. Conservation is always their first thought. They grow their food organically. They are careful not to pollute the soil, the water, the air. For every tree they cut down, they plant ten more to ensure they have what they need in the future. We learned that the community protects the forest from timber miners but are allowed to use the timber for their community. Additionally, there is a local waterfall that the state has entrusted to the Mushuk Lamas community to run tours and protect the falls from misuse and further development.
They take their responsibility to protect the Cordillera Escalera region seriously and in turn the land provides for the Mushuk. With the richness of the land, their hard work and resourcefulness, they are able to make or grow almost everything they need for daily life.
“The people here may be poor in money and possessions, but they are incredibly rich in so many other ways: community, environment and their relationship with it, physical and mental health. They seem to be a very happy and content group of people … like we rarely find in our ‘advanced’ society. It has been a great honor to be allowed to live in their midst for this past week.” -Claudia, Volunteer
Now that the community is able to harvest the sun’s resources for more than growing and drying crops, we hope it will help them continue to further the sustainable development of their community. There is much to be learned from their way of life.
- Marissa Johnson, ED - Twende Solar