Nick Ballón - El Choro, Cochabamba - Bolivia - #3
Four thousand metres high in the Andean mountains, the small community of El Choro are returning to a system of farming and food production which looked after them for thousands of years. It is based on the ancestral philosophy of Sumak Kawsay, which permeated indigenous Quechuan life for thousands of years and promotes the coexistence of all living entities.
Now embedded in the constitutions of several South American countries, Sumak Kawsay, taught generation after generation to live in harmony with themselves, with their community and above all, with Mother Nature. It is now, once again, at the centre of all community decision-making and helping to bring the families back to a way of life that promotes a diverse and healthy diet as well as financial independence.
As part of this way of life, El Choro work communally to take care of their lands. Here, private property does not exist, as it does in the West. Each family has their own plot, which they spend time cultivating, but they mainly work in the communal fields to provide for everyone. Communally, they have restored 150 ancestral varieties of potatoes as well as quinoa and other grains. They have also brought back traditional medicines, started beekeeping, breeding fish and even cultivating fruit trees high up in their mountains.
Another of the central pillars of Sumak Kawsay philosophy is Ayni or ‘reciprocity’. Through this, it is understood that you must give if you wish to receive. So the community work together to look after Nature or Pachamama (Mother Earth), and in turn Mother Nature takes care of them. This philosophy has now been embedded in the constitutions of Bolivia and Ecuador as well. The people of El Choro believe that everything in life is interconnected. They say, ‘Everything that the individual does has direct and indirect consequences for all living beings. People everywhere must work together to change the models of modern societies to healthier ones. Not only for humans, but for our Mother Nature, Pachamama.’