What do children in Cuncani eat every day?

Food is essential for our everyday life and it reflects a local culture. I have lived in Japan, Germany (although I do not remember much), Canada, and Peru and it is quite amazing to see how plates served on a dining table vary among the countries. At the same time, food is a crucial determinant of a healthy life. Because malnutrition is a problem in Cuncani, it is important to continue our effort to gain a better understanding of what children in Cuncani eat every day. Thus, in 2017,  Nexos Comunitarios, adopted the Photovoice (one of the methodologies of Participatory Action Research)  to work with 8 children in Cuncani to answer this simple question.

Instead of applying a traditional research method, where researchers visit the families to conduct interviews/surveys in relation to their food consumption, the Photovoice methodology allows us to seek the same result by engaging student through the activity of capturing their daily meals using cameras. The outcome is much more meaningful as it exhibits physical images of the meals served in their homes (and as researchers, we are not simply give the answers gained through interviews which we then write down). In addition, the design of Photovoice constructs a horizontal relationship between the facilitator and the participants (the children) through the process. Furthermore, the methodology provides the freedom for the participants to take photos and enjoy the use of cameras.

Of 8 children in the school, 7 children have completed their food journals with the photos of their meals. Each journal illustrates a variety of photos showing the children’s daily food intake and their life in Cuncani. Let’s take a look at some of the pictures taken by them.

People in the community consume milk tea and potatoes with bread, canchas (known as Andean toasted chullpi corn) or fruits. Due to lack of access to the potable water in the community, the families boil the water and drink tea or milk tea every day.

IMG_3610In the afternoon, soups made with potatoes, rice, meats and some vegetables were most commonly prepared by the families. This is one of Andres’s favorite dishes served at his house. He explains: “this is a soup made of potatoes, rice meat, and vegetables. The potatoes are from our land. Also, the meat is from the sheep that we raise.”


Veronica helps her mother every day to prepare food for her family. In Cuncani it is very common for the girls to help their parents by cooking on a daily basis. “This is potatoes and fried pasta. I made this at home. It is easy to make but it tastes good.”

Potatoes are eaten the most as it is the predominant crops that community grows in their field (other vegetables, rice, and fruits are purchased from the market next town). Livestock is also very common in Cuncani. According to the children, although they like all type of meats, they prefer the Guinea pig the most (families also raise pigs, chicken, alpaca, llama, and sheep). Guinea pigs are reserved for special occasions such as birthday, wedding, or celebration.
In general, the photos taken by students demonstrate that potatoes and rice are the daily staples. A variety of vegetables is limited and less frequently on the dining table.

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Children not only took photos of their food, they also captured scenery, friends, and animals in the community.


This is a photo of Francis with his father. He says, “I am helping my father cultivating the land. We are doing this to help grow potatoes. My little sister took the photo for me.” Every house in the community cultivates their land during October to November and harvest potatoes in the next season.

Throughout the process of Photovoice (see the previous article “[Work in Progress] Adjusting project design“), children have been excited about taking photos as well as creating their own food journals. As a facilitator, I would say it was not an easy methodology to adopt. It requires much time, resources, planning and commitment to carry out the project working hand in hand with the children. The plan needed some adjustments in its process. Two of our four cameras stopped working. Some of the children were so excited to use the cameras but forgot to take the pictures of their food on a regular basis, or even lost the photos they had taken. Also, the remoteness of the community and lack of access to communication tools (no internet or phone service) made it possible to coordinate with the class only once a week.

Despite these challenges, the accomplishment of the food journals, purely made by the hands of children, is significant for us as it reflects working with our values of freedom and reciprocity. Nexos Comunitarios values participation and horizontal relationship with the community as an indispensable element to promote responsible human development. We are not there to act as a mere researcher or helper for the community. We are there to promote development together with the community members every step of the way.
This is just a first step of our application of the Photovoice methodology. We now see a greater possibility for Nexos Comunitarios to further use this methodology in order to learn more about the community while empowering the children at the same time.

[Testimonials] Connecting

Ronny Bao, Western University

Tourism, similar to a coin, has two sides. One of its faces showcases beautifully alluring imagery of a foreign destination that attracts travellers from all over the globe whereas its second face hides a darker side of tourism that is rarely seen by tourists on vacation. While travelling can be enjoyable, enlightening, and life changing, it can also have a huge negative impact on the residents of the host country where vacationers travel to. Therefore, I have always been cynical towards travelling without a beneficial cause to others; however, this year I came across the opportunity of a lifetime when I applied to the Alternative Spring Break program at my university. My school had a pre-established partnership with Nexos Comunitarios, a Peruvian non-governmental organization (NGO) that focuses on assisting isolated populations in Cusco, Peru. Our week-long trip was spent through engaged learning while working with the NGO in one of the projects. The focused population of our trip were the residents of the high altitude community of Cuncani.

Traveling to Cuncani to build chicken coops with Cuncani residents while learning from them and building connections has opened my eyes in ways that I could have never expected. The residents of Cuncani live in a harsh but stunningly beautiful environment amongst the mountains at 4,000 meters in the air. To reach the homes of our hosts we were required to hike up part of a mountain after a bus ride that took us to the end of the highest paved roads in that region. Our entire group took three times as long as it would have taken our host  to make the climb; furthermore we all had sturdily manufactured shoes whereas she wore simple, open-toed, leather sandals with poor grip. Despite her footwear, our host and guide nimbly navigated her way up the mountains while pausing frequently so that we could both catch up to her and our breaths. Although the hike was hard, it was certainly worth it. The view outside the home of our hosts were absolutely captivating, the majestic peaks of the mountains were starkly contrasted against their precipitous sides that plummeted to the base of the mountains. Cuncani was truly a hidden gem that was masked by the poverty in its region, as a matter of fact it was even on the way to the world renown tourist destination Machu Picchu.

One of the short and long term goals of Nexos Comunitarios is to stimulate tourism in Cuncani. Given the depths of poverty and exclusion that many of its residents live in any amount of economic stimulation can vastly improve their standard of living. The biggest barrier in the way of tourism growth in Cuncani is its isolation and misinformation and lack thereof. Many people have never heard of Cuncani, therefore increasing traffic through those mountains require travellers who have experienced the beauty of Cuncani to spread the word. This is where my team and myself come in, we are energetic and curious young adults who seek to travel the world in an ethically appropriate manner. After travelling to Cuncani we are keen to introduce others to its charm and elegance.

Creating international information links to Cuncani and Peru to help its excluded citizens is only one of the various projects that Nexos Communitaros is working on. The NGO brilliantly combines tourism and programs such as #BeTheChange and InternLink and work into a perfect consolidation that appeals to post-secondary students such as myself. My trip to Peru has certainly changed my life by opening my eyes to the power that small actions have in the lives others. If given the opportunity I truly implore you to visit Cuncani under the guidance of Nexos Communitaros.



[Trabajo en Marcha] Primer Grupo Oficial a Cuncani

Si colocan en Google: Cuncani – Perú, encontrarán que la comunidad es conocida como un buen destino para acampar y hacer caminata en las zonas alto-andinas de Cusco. De hecho, Cuncani es un destino hermoso para ello. Sin embargo, la comunidad no necesariamente recibí los beneficios que merece. Esta es la razón por la cual, por el plazo de un año, hemos venido conversando con la comunidad acerca de empezar un circuido de Turismo Vivencial. A pesar que empezamos a planear en enero de este año, el circuito finalmente está listo.

Este 23 y 24 de octubre, esperamos el primer grupo de turistas en la comunidad. A pesar del hecho que turistas de manera individual ya han hecho el circuito, esta es la primera vez que hemos organizado un grupo. Además de todas las actividades interesantes incluidas en el circuito, estas fechas son especiales por la celebración de la siembra de la papa. Este evento importante se llama: Yapuy. La tradición del Yapuy ha sido mantenida desde el tiempo de los Incas y una oportunidad perfecta para apreciar la fortaleza física de los hombres de los Andes.

Saturnina mostrando papas por Miguel Arreátegui
Créditos: Miguel Arreátegui
Señores trabajando en Yapuy, uno saltando por Jorge Carrillo
Créditos: Jorge Carrillo

Pueden encontrar información de este primer grupo, aquí. Si están visitando Cusco en estos días o si tienen amigas y amigos/familiares que van a hacerlo, por favor, comparte esta información.

Este es el inicio de lo que esperamos pueda ser una genuina oportunidad para mejorar la economía de la comunidad y una buena oportunidad de probar que el turismo puede combatir la pobreza siempre y cuando se incluya verdaderamente a la comunidad.

[Trabajo en Marcha] Ajustando el diseño del proyecto

Cada falla es un hito que nos lleva al éxito.

A pesar que estamos contentos con el progreso del proyecto, no todo ha ido como lo habíamos planeado. Es importante ser flexibles en ajustar el diseño del proyecto y eso lo hemos aprendido a través de las lecciones del trabajo de campo. Nuestro proyecto de FotoVoz* con niños y niñas de Cuncani es un ejemplo perfecto. En este blog, quisiera compartir con ustedes algunas lecciones que hemos aprendido con el proyecto FotoVoz.

Lección Nº1: Buscando un horario ideal para enseñar a las niñas y niños cómo usar el equipo. 

Photovoice Nexos

Es necesario encontrar un tiempo y espacio ideales para enseñarles a los niños cómo usar la cámara. El plan original consistía en que el coordinador debía visitar la escuela una vez a la semana y enseñarles a los niños y niñas. Sin embargo, debido a la huelga de profesores en la región de Cusco, que duró más de dos meses, no pudimos llevar a cabo nuestro plan original. Bajo estas circunstancias, fue difícil programa nuevamente el horario porque la comunidad tiene formas muy limitadas para comunicarse (Cuncani no tiene teléfono o servicio de internet). Para arreglar este problema, y asegurar el avance del proyecto, coordinamos un horario en base a la disponibilidad de cada alumno/a para hacer los talleres. También, con ayuda de la comunidad, decidimos llevar a cabo el taller de una hora en el Centro Comunitario.

Lección Nº2: Mayor énfasis en el propósito del proyecto 

Durante los talleres,  hemos enseñado a las niñas y niños a tomar fotografías de sus comidas durante un periodo de una semana. A pesar que los/las estudiantes han puesto en práctica lo aprendido, no han podido tomar fotos de todo lo que comen cada día. Analizando la situación hemos visto que es necesario explicar el proyecto de manera más extendida a las madres y padres de familia para que ellos puedan, si están interesados/as, aportar al éxito del proyecto. Fue claro que necesitamos explicar con más detalles y pedir su ayuda. Dedicaremos más tiempo a este aspecto.

Lección Nº3: Proceso de selección de los/as participantes

Empezar un proyecto requiere también flexibilidad, pero nos dimos cuenta que quizá hemos sido demasiado flexibles.  Hemos trabajado con niñas y niños de 7 a 11 años. Cada uno de ellos ha estado interest en el uso de la cámara pero en la práctica, no todos podían hacerlo cómo se debía.  Por ello, hemos decidido enfocarnos en 5to grado, quienes tienen algunas habilidades más desarrolladas para poder usar la cámara. Al mismo tiempo, trabajar con un pequeño número de niños y niñas ( hay 9 niñas y niños en el 5to grado) nos permite completar el proyecto de manera menos difícil en el tiempo planificado, involucrando de manera correcta a las niñas y niños interesados.

Basado en los retos del diseño original del proyecto, hemos podido ajustar su diseño. Es un proceso de aprendizaje, pero una parte muy buena como Gerente de Proyectos de NC, es que tengo la posibilidad de hacer las modificaciones que son necesarias. Con la responsabilidad de llevar a cabo el proyecto, y tengo la experiencia de primera mano desde el trabajo de campo. Pienso que un buen trabajado de campo es alguien que aprende de sus errores, para poder mejorar la situación que muchas veces cambia constantemente. Nuestro proyecto de FotoVoz es un Proceso En Marcha y estamos realizando los ajustes necesarios para encontrar el mejor método que puede ser ajustado en Cuncani. A pesar de todos los restos, creemos que este proyecto tiene el potencial de ayudar a medir el nivel de nutrición de la comunidad, mientras establece una mejor relación de trabajo con las personas involucradas.


* NC usa FotoVoz como un indicador adicional para conocer el nivel de nutrición de la comunidad. El objetivo de este proyecto es capturar a través de una fotografía que come cada familia diariamente.

[Trabajo En Marcha] Nueva iniciativa: El jabón viajero

Hace unas semanas, tuve una conversación muy interesante con nuestra ex-pasante noruega, Madeline Moe, acerca de su simple pero buena iniciativa llamada:  El jabón viajero. El objetivo es conectar a los niños de Cuncani con los niños de Oslo (Noruega) mediante un intercambio internacional de jabones hechos a mano. Entre los beneficios de este iniciativa, me gustaría compartir cuatro ventajas en esta publicación:

1: Aumenta el nivel de higiene en la comunidad

 Kenji lavándose las manos con niñosEl gran beneficio de esta iniciativa es que permite que los niños y niñas usen jabones para lavar sus manos, lo cual es muy importante para la mejora de la higiene. En nuestra sociedad actual, tomamos el jabón como un producto básico sin prestar mucha atención. Sin embargo, el uso del jabón tiene un efecto significativo en mejorar la higiene, especialmente en Cuncani. Por ejemplo, de acuerdo con la “Water and Sanitation Indicators Measurements Guide (Guía de Medidas de Indicadores de Agua y Saneaminto)” de USAID, un mejor comportamiento de higiene puede disminuir la exposición de patógenos, lo que conduce a la reducción de enfermedades diarreicas y parásitos intestinales. Al mismo tiempo, puede aumentar la absorción de nutrientes y mejorar la resistencia a las enfermedades. Uno de los indicadores en la medición del nivel de higiene en la guía es  ‘el porcentaje del comportamiento adecuado de lavado de manos’. Por lo tanto, esta iniciativa tiene potencial para estimular a los niños en el hábito de lavarse sus manos y asignar el tiempo suficiente para enseñar técnicas adecuadas de lavado de manos para niños en Cuncani y en Oslo, a través de actividades de aprendizaje-acción que pueden tener un impacto determinante en mejorar la salud general. entre ellos.

2: Promueve el intercambio intercultural entre los niños y niñas.

Esta actividad también facilita las interacciones internacionales entre los niños de Oslo y los niños de Cuncani. Dos grupos de niños tendrán la misma oportunidad de aprender sobre la otra cultura a través de una actividad divertida. Este tipo de interacción cultural es mutuamente beneficioso para ambos grupos, ya que les permite entender y respetar las similitudes y diferencias entre ellos, y ampliar sus conocimientos y perspectivas. Los niños  y niñas de Oslo pueden aprender acerca de la comunidad en una remota comunidad andina, mientras que los estudiantes de Cuncani tendrán la oportunidad de ver la vida de los niños y niñas en el norte de Europa, algo que nunca antes habían visto. Su abundante curiosidad puede orientarse hacia el aprendizaje de diferentes razas, prácticas, historia, geografía o alimentos a través de las interacciones con otros niños de su misma edad.

3: Demostrar la comunidad a través de su propia voz

Esta iniciativa no es solo viaje a través del jabón, sino también un viaje a través de la voz de los niños. Hemos acordado crear jabones que son únicos para su comunidad. Por ejemplo, una de las ideas era hacer un jabón con la mezcla de las plantas locales disponibles, hierbas o flores. También estamos pensando en hacer un video de niños y niñas explicando su producto hecho a mano y la relación con su comunidad. Esto es especialmente importante para los niños en Cuncani porque las niñas y niños a menudo carecen de las oportunidades de presentar o expresar su comunidad a otros debido a su severo aislamiento. ¿Cómo es tu comunidad? Que haces todos los dias ¿Cuáles son las cosas que te gustan de tu comunidad? Estas preguntas sencillas pueden ser muy importantes para que los niños  y niñas peruanas y noruegas reflexionen sobre su comunidad y reevalúen sus valores en su vida.

4: Diversión y emoción a través del arte y actividad artesanal

Children in Cuncani

Por último, pero no menos importante, a los niños y niñas les encanta trabajar en proyectos artísticos y manuales. Tiene el beneficio de mejorar la imaginación y habilidades artísticas de los niños y niñas mientras pueden pasar tiempo divertido. Dependiendo de sus formas, ingredientes o colores, una simple fabricación de jabón puede ser un gran proceso de fabricación artesanal para las niñas y niños para fortalecer su creatividad. Además, al intercambiar el jabón hecho a mano, los niños y niñas no sólo ganan el logro de hacer su jabón original, sino también, pueden disfrutar de la emoción de recibir un regalo de otros de diferentes culturas. Desde mi punto de vista, uno de los elementos más importantes de la iniciativa con los niños y niñas es apelar a que ellos se comprometan con la actividad. Creo que este ‘jabón viajero’ ha satisfecho claramente este requisito.

Este es solo un primer paso de planificación de esta nueva iniciativa. Todavía hay muchos pasos que necesitamos definir para organizar más en detalle los procesos de logística, el horario, los indicadores, etc. Esperamos poder desarrollar la iniciativa de una manera atractiva que contribuya a que los niños y niñas tengan un mejor comportamiento de higiene, mientras aprenden acerca de una cultura diferente.

[Visitors] Community Life at 4000 Metres: a Sociologist’s Experience.

By Dave Holmes

The village of Cuncani, which is four hours to the north-east of Cusco, was once the centre of the Incan Empire. We were here to support the NGO Nexos Comunitarios (NC) and understand how remote Cuncani is by hiking the paths linking it to larger towns. First impressions are of a rustic settlement with several houses dotted along the floor of a beautiful highland valley. A school, which is one of the most recently-built buildings, is found right at the beginning of the village where the road ends. The inhabitants of the community wear brightly coloured hats and tunics. We were greeted by Saturnina who is the local coordinator for NC.

NC has been operating in Cuncani since 2013, working alongside locals on various projects to support the community. Currently as part of the Sustainable Homes project, they are implementing composting toilets, a greenhouse and a chicken coop. As well as these projects, the village has become more connected to the national network, with partial electricity in the last decade, telecommunication services and the previously mentioned school are all key examples of development in the region.

Despite these changes, Cuncani is still very isolated. There is only one track connecting it to the nearest settlement Lares, which has a medical post, hot springs and other amenities. Many children who attend secondary school have to walk to and stay in other towns from Monday to Friday and return to Cuncani over rough and mountainous terrain for the weekends. It is not only the students who have arduous days, any kind of health or municipal issues have to be done elsewhere too. When the only regular transport is once a week on market day, opportunities to use regional services are severely limited and walking is the most common way to get from A to B.

This is where our trip’s goal becomes clearer. Our aim was to hike to Urubamba, the nearest moderately sized town, and thus truly understand the effort involved and experience what locals have to do many times a year. Our journey on foot began from the end of the road to Cuncani, going over a 4800 metres pass on the way. We had the help of pack llamas and planned to stay the night after crossing the highest point.

The route is a delight to the eyes, the variety of fauna and flora is truly incredible and this is without even mentioning the sweeping views of the Andes. From rivers winding down valleys where llamas and alpaca graze on the lush grass to lofty glacial mountains with huge birds circling the peaks, the experience is truly a feast for the senses. We passed beautiful mountain lakes, high wooded slopes and stunning valley meadows with trout filled rivers meandering through boulder fields and trees. However, all this beauty did not distract us from the effort involved.

Climbing up and over a pass is always strenuous. When the air gets thinner, it becomes very hard work due to shortness of breath, headaches and nausea. Even with the help of llamas and not carrying full packs, our progress was slow and cumbersome. This was partly to be expected as we were not as acclimatized as the locals but it still surprised me that what took us 2 days, the locals could do in just a few hours of fast walking. They were extremely agile over the ground and carried heavy loads with no modern rucksacks or footwear, just a cloth tied over their shoulders and sandals on their feet.

During the walk I had some time to get to know the residents of Cuncani and I was impressed with their friendliness. They were quick to help and understood our needs for breaks, photos and questions. One person I spoke to helped me understand how the community operates and gave me a little insight into their lives. I learnt about issues facing the community, its form of governance and family customs. The time I shared with them has left a strong memory and I know I will return to build upon this connection and experience their home and lives once more.

If you want to support NC efforts, please consider making a donation to the Sustainable Homes Project and follow their work on social media.

[Work in Progress] First Official Group Trip to Cuncani!

Credits: Kenji Misawa

If you google Cuncani-Peru, you will find out that the community is recognized as a good destination for camp and to do trails in the High-Andes in Cusco. Indeed, Cuncani is a beautiful destination for it. However, Cuncani does not receive the benefits they deserve. This is the reason that for a year, we have been talking to some families of the community on whether or not to start an Experiential Tourist Circuit . Although, we were began the planning in January we decided to work with them and support them in the implementation of their own Experiential Tourism circuit and it is finally ready!

This October 23rd and 24th, we expect to have a small group of tourists visiting the community. Despite the fact, that individual tourists have done the tour already, this is the first time we are organizing a group trip to the community. Besides all the interesting activities included in the circuit, these dates are special as well, as it will be the celebration of the “Siembra” season of the potato! This important event is called: Yapuy. The tradition of Yapuy has been maintained since the time of the Incas . Yapuy is an opportunity to appreciate the physical strength of the Andean men.

Saturnina mostrando papas por Miguel Arreátegui
Credits: Miguel Arreátegui
Señores trabajando en Yapuy, uno saltando por Jorge Carrillo
Credits: Jorge Carrillo

You can find information of this first group trip to Cuncani, here (in Spanish). If you are visiting Cusco these days or if you have friends/family that are, feel free to share it.

This is the beginning of what we expect to be a genuine opportunity for the economy of the community of Cuncani and a good opportunity to prove that tourism is good to combat poverty only when local communities are really included.