Friday, March 8, 2013
Wrapping up the harvest, preparing for our final promotion event
We have finally gotten through the harvest, agronomic measurements, and starch processing of the last few days. I've had to manage workers, students, and threatening weather to get everything done.
Now the different starch samples are safely drying on their respective little patches of cloth, and we have time to think about some other things. Namely our final event this Sunday.
In order to share our results with local people and spread excitement about achira in our zone, we have scheduled a special event to mark the end of our experiment. There will be a brief presentation on why and how we did the experiment, followed by a taste test of different achira varieties. This taste test is so we can see which varieties would lend themselves best to fresh eating as opposed to just starch extraction. Eating cooked achira rhizomes used to be a fairly common practice in the Tenza Valley where we're doing our experiment, but now it's only the older folks who remember eating them in their youth. We would like to bring back this use of achira, since it has the potential to improve people's food security by partially replacing staples like potatoes and rice (which do not grow much in the zone and thus must be purchased with cash) with a yummy home-grown product. Even if each family saved $10 or $20 US by replacing a few bushels of their yearly potato consumption, that savings would add up across the region, and would mean more money staying put in savings and local purchases as opposed to going outside the area to import food.
We cooked a trial run of achira a few months ago to make sure we weren't going to be giving people something yucky to try, thus totally defeating our purpose! It turned out really good.
In preparation for this big final event, I have spent weeks sending out invitations to peasant groups, mayors' offices, and researchers across central Colombia. I've arranged for our university's media department to come out and film the event. I have designed a taste test format that I hope will be statistically sound (group surveys are not a forte for an agronomist like me), and I've even scheduled a priest to come out and close our ceremony with a Mass. This is common practice for this type of event, and rural people really appreciate it, because priests often don't come out to the remote areas.