[Work In Progress] Adjusting project design

Every failure is a stepping stone that leads to success.

Although we are pleased with the progress of the project, not everything goes as planned. It is important for us to be flexible in designing the project from lessons we learn while doing the field work. Our photovoice project* with children in Cuncani is a perfect example of this. In this blog, I would like to share some lessons we have learned with the photovoice project.

Lesson 1: Planning a time to teach the children how to use the equipmentPhotovoice Nexos

We found it necessary to schedule a time and place to meet with the children and show them how to use the equipment. The original plan was for the coordinator to visit the school every week and show the children at that time. However, the teachers strike in the Cusco region, which lasted for more than two months, prevented us from carrying out this plan. Under these circumstances, it was difficult to reschedule the workshops, since the community has limited communication methods (Cuncani does not have phone service or internet). To fix this problem, and ensure the progression of the project, we coordinated with the students to create a schedule of training workshops based on their availability. Also, with the help of the community, we decided to carry out an hour-long after-school workshop in the community centre.


Lesson 2: Greater emphasis explaining the purpose of the project

During the workshops, we had instructed the kids to take pictures of all of their meals for 7 days. Even though the students have followed the guideline to take the photos of their meals, they did not take pictures of everything they ate. Our local coordinator, Saturnina, has indicated the need of NC to focus on explaining the project to the parents in order to have their cooperation. It was clear that we needed to explain in greater detail the importance of the project and enlist help from the parents. I will be sure in the future to allocate time in explaining to the children the purpose of the project and provide appropriate guidelines on how to make a food journal so that they will not miss a single meal of the week.

Lesson 3: Process of selecting participants

Embarking on a project as this requires flexibility, but we learned our original method of selecting participants was too flexible. We have worked with children ranging from 7 to 11 years old. Each one is curious about the use of camera and wants to be involved in the project. However, a 7-year-old boy, who was competent with the camera during the workshop, but could not take the pictures while at his home. Therefore, we decided to focus on students in grade 5, who are old enough to understand the project’s purpose, and be capable of using a camera to take pictures of their meals. At the same time, working with a small number of kids (there are 9 students in grade 5 at Cuncani’s primary school) allows us to complete the project more easily in the planned timeframe versus involving all children who are interested.

Based on the challenges from the original project design, we were able to adjust it easily. It’s a learning process, but the great part of working as a project coordinator for NC is that I have the ability to make these modifications. With the responsibility to carry out the project, and I have experienced the first-hand issues at the ground level. I believe a good field-worker is a someone who makes the most out of their mistakes and uses them to improve the situation. Our photovoice project is still a work in the process of finding a method that works best in Cuncani. Despite all the challenges, we believe this project has the potential to help measure the nutrition level of the community, while establishing a working relationship with all people involved.


* NC uses the photovoice as one indicator to measure the nutrition level of the community. The objective of the project is to capture with photography what family’s daily meals are really like in the community.

Applying the SDGs in a remote Andean community

Kenji Misawa, NC Project Coordinator

During my undergraduate studies in international development, our classes often focused upon understanding the approaches used in the international community to confront the problem of on-going global poverty. In 2015, world leaders assembled at the United Nations and executed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDG’s represent a global commitment by the international community to end poverty and to improve the lives of people in a sustainable manner for future generations. But how does this universal call to action fit into the context of a small community like Cuncani?

The SDG consists of 17 goals and 169 targets. Although the SDGs capture problems on a global scale, civil societies such as NC have a role to play in meeting the targets of the SDGs. Without the work of civil societies in promoting development at the community level, SDGs will never be realized. In the case of Cuncani, we see rampant malnutrition amongst children despite its abundant beauty and natural wonder.

If malnutrition rates in Cuncani do not improve by 2030, it implies that the SDGs failed to achieve their target of ending all forms of malnutrition in the world. Therefore, despite the small act of addressing malnutrition rates in Cuncani, our efforts to improve the health status of such a small community is contributing to the international community’s goals. In this article, I will discuss NC’s current project in Cuncani and its relationship with SDG targets.

Credits: Miguel Arreátegui Rodríguez

Since 2017, NC has initiated the Sustainable Homes in Cuncani (SHC) project which provides each household with a 1) greenhouse 2) chicken coop and 3) ecological toilet in an attempt to better nutrition, sanitation, and environmental health. First, the implementation of a greenhouse and a chicken coop significantly helps the community to achieve SDG2: zero hunger. Due to its exceedingly high altitude (4000m), the variation of the available vegetables in the community is limited. Its isolated location makes it difficult for families to purchase food from other communities. A lack of regular intake of various nutrients causes vulnerable children in Cuncani to suffer from health problems such as malnutrition, stunting and anemia. The construction of a greenhouse and chicken coop will ultimately allow indigenous families to have greater access to different types of vegetables and animal proteins. This increase in access to a variety of foods will help the community to reach the SDG target of ending all forms of malnutrition and stunting in children under the age of five. At the same time, such efforts also support the UN’s target, outlined in the SDG’s to further resilient agriculture practices that increase food productivity.

The construction of an ecological toilet is related to SDG6: clean water and sanitation of the community. By replacing the current latrine, which pollutes the ground water and the land of the community, the ecological toilet would decrease the level of water contamination. At the same time, the new toilet has the capacity to properly compost human waste, eliminating any pathogens and viruses, converting it to nutrient-rich fertilizers for farming, keeping the local land intact. This approach corresponds with SDG6’s target of improving water quality, reducing pollution, and increasing the level of sanitation and hygiene.

Furthermore, unlike the former NC Lunch Program, this new initiative of  SHC project helps to achieve SDG11: sustainable cities and communities. Until 2016, NC visited the community every Monday to provide enough food for the week to feed the children at school. Although local families appreciated this initiative and it had a positive impact upon the health status of the children, the community was dependent on NC and lacked sustainability. In other words, without the financial support of NC, the community was not able to continue the program. To overcome this challenge, NC developed the SHC project which aims to raise the level of nutrition for future generations in a way that is self-reliant. Unlike the former Lunch Program, the creation of the SHC will improve the health standards of households while allowing families to enjoy such benefits without NC involvement in the future.

It is amazing to think that a single project of an NGO in a small community still counts as a step in achieving SDG2, SDG6, and SDG11. A big accomplishment is an aggregation of the small successes. Meanwhile, there are other important targets of SDGs in Cuncani that have been left out, for now, from NC projects. In the next series of blog posts, I look forward to discussing the relationships between Cuncani, NC and other SDGs in more detail (particularly SDG13: Climate Action, SDG9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, and SDG17: Partnerships for the goals).

¿Por qué caminamos desde Cuncani hasta Urubamba?

Visitar y caminar desde Cuncani nos brindará un mejor conocimiento sobre nuestro Perú, nuestro país de residencia. 

No solo su diversidad natural, sino también su gente, sus tradiciones y costumbres. Además de ser una experiencia personal, ayudaría a poner en el map global una comunidad pequeña y podría construir puentes entre diversas culturas y personas, con el fin de tener un mundo que se preocupe más, que se conozca más y que sea más respetuoso hacia los demás.

Wendy and Dave Holmes (amig@s de NC)

Este setiember caminaremos 15 km desde la comunidad de Cuncani hasta nuestro hogar en Urubamba. Realizamos esta actividad por dos razones:

  • Para generar mayor conciencia del impacto del aislamiento de comunidades como Cuncani en sus procesos de desarrollo;
  • Para recaudar los fondos necesarios que nos permitan alcanzar nuestra meta de este año para nuestro proyecto de Hogares Sostenibles.

Si quieres hacer una donación, visita este link.

Why hike From Cuncani to Urubamba?

Visiting and walking to Cuncani will give us a greater understanding about the country Peru which we call home.

This will be not only in its natural diversity but also in its people with their varied traditions and lifestyles. Besides this personal experience, it will help to put a small community on the global map and could lead to building bridges between diverse cultures and people, ultimately with the goal of having a more caring, knowledgeable and respectful world. 

Wendy and Dave Holmes (NC friends)


This September we will be walking 15 km from the community of Cuncani to our home in Urubamba. We are doing this activity for two reasons:

  • To raise awareness about the fact that isolation has an impact on the development of communities like Cuncani;
  • To raise money that can allow us to accomplish the goal of this year for our Sustainable Homes Project

If you would like to make a donation, please visit this link.




Overcoming the First Challenges of the Greenhouses

By Madeline Greenwood (McGill University)

Credits: Miguel Ángel Arreátegui Rodríguez

I arrived in Cuncani for the first time just four weeks ago, and was immediately in awe of the scenery, and the way of life. Life isn’t easy in the high Andes, and I admire the way in which people go about their days, hiking for hours just to get home from school, or bring their Alpacas to graze. At over 4,000m above sea level, the climate is cold, the soil is thin and the only crop that will survive outside is potato. I was impressed to learn that there are hundreds of types of potatoes being grown in each chakra, or plot of land, and the people of Cuncani have definitely mastered the art of growing, storing and cooking them. But, in reality, no matter the quantity or type, the nutritional value of this starchy vegetable is not enough to sustain a family. This is where the agriculture portion of Nexos Comunitarios’ Sustainable Homes project comes in.

My first glimpse of a Cuncani greenhouse was at Señor Martin’s house. We walked uphill from the community centre and found ourselves giving an out of breath introduction to the first patron of the sustainable homes project. He showed us around his property, and finally to the greenhouse and chicken coop which had been built earlier that month. The greenhouses in the project are simple adobe/rock structures, like any house in the region but with industrial white plastic for the roof and windows, which traps the heat from the sun, and moisture from the plants inside. The temperature is dramatically different between the inside and outside of the building, and I was fascinated at how easy it seemed to create a climate suitable for a wide variety of vegetables including lettuce, cauliflower, beets, chard and cabbage.

During my first visit, the plants were small and mostly unrecognizable green sprouts but, just two weeks later the mini versions of each plant were full-fledged. It’s exciting in itself to witness a feat of nature like growing plants where they shouldn’t naturally survive, but the greenhouses do not come without challenges. Without proper care, and foresight of potential problems, the plants inside don’t stand a chance, but at the same time we’re hoping that people will be able to complete extra work on top of all their other tasks.

Right now, it’s potato-harvesting season in Cuncani, and everyone has something to do. After school the children rush home to help their parents in the fields, and soon they will be busy preparing Chuño and Moraya. These traditional methods of preserving potatoes continue to be the main resource for surviving the winter in this community, and can feed families for months. With this in mind, it is easy to understand how the supplemental vegetables in the greenhouses could fall by the wayside and in this environment, even a small mistake like leaving the door open or watering the garden improperly could be detrimental. This winter will be an interesting learning experience for families to figure out what works for them in terms of delegating tasks between family members, and incorporating this new responsibility into their lives.

Although this project is still in its beginning phases, it’s looking very promising. Each week we return to Cuncani, the families seem increasingly comfortable using and maintaining their gardens and as a result, the veggies are healthy and growing consistently. For the families in Cuncani, the greenhouses mean subsistence agriculture that will actually serve its purpose of nourishment. It’s the newfound access to a wider variety of foods in their own backyards, and for free that will make a real difference to their nutrition everyday, but survival will always come first. The challenges they face within the project may not be over, but as a community and an organization, we can all learn from each experience, failure or success we encounter in the first months of the Sustainable Homes Project.

The Landscape of Global Nutrition Governance 

Carly Hayes, University of Waterloo (Nexos Comunitarios intern)

Global governance is a term that is not well-defined by academics or practitioners – is there any way that we can really govern a world that consists of a vast multitude of different contexts and histories, especially in something as personal and cultural as the foods we eat? However, the idea that global governance only exists at the level of countries negotiating with each other at forums such as the United Nations does not capture the fluid and multi-directional nature of global governance. In the world of nutrition, the governance landscape is immense and has a long history, and it is important to understand how what happens at the global level of decision-making in efforts against malnutrition influences actions taken at the local level, where it can have its greatest impact. It would be impossible to cover all of the landmark moments in nutrition governance in a single blog post, but we can examine trends in the governance of nutrition, and how they aligns with the efforts taken in Peru.

Modern global food and nutrition governance began in 1944 with the establishment of the FAO, as a response to inequalities in the global food regime and the oversupply of food in parts of the world, compared to famines and malnourishment running rampant in others (McKeon, 2015). This watershed moment set the stage for the neoliberal, technology, and supply-side interventions that would characterize food governance for the next 60 years. However, it has been acknowledged now by governments that simply increasing the amount of food we produce will not solve problems of malnutrition, as we already produce more than enough food to provide every person on earth with 2800 calories per day (Food Tank, 2014).  Barriers to accessing food, such as isolation, inequality, varying climates, and poverty, need to be addressed as well in order to make any meaningful impact. Peru’s governance of malnutrition has mirrored these fluctuations in the paradigm of global governance, with efforts in the early 1970s being concentrated on the inflow and management of official development assistance coming from Western countries through the National Nutritional Support Office.

In recent years, however, particularly in light of the global food price crisis in 2007-2008, nutrition governance has shifted. This is reflected in the sustainable development goals, discussed in a previous blog post, which take a more “food systems” approach, rather than a “food aid” approach, including targets such as “ensuring sustainable food production,” “maintaining biodiversity,” and “increasing investments in rural infrastructure”(Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, 2015). One of the most widely recognized mechanisms in the global governance of nutrition presently is the World Health Assembly’s 2025 Global Targets for Maternal, Infant, and Child Nutrition, which has set inclusive targets and indicators that have been widely endorsed and have laid the foundation for the development of other multilateral nutrition agreements (World Health Assembly, 2015). The aim was to support the creation of an enabling environment for comprehensive food and nutrition policies that engage policymakers at the national level across sectors to recognize the multi-causality of malnutrition. This has shown a dramatic shift from historic government programming that focused on the simplistic need for more food.


Forty years from the establishment of the National Nutritional Support Office, Peru has participated in consultations about the Sustainable Development Goals and has designed decentralized programming that at least seeks to target the most vulnerable populations to overcome nutrition barriers related to equity (Benavides et al., 2016). It is yet to be seen whether Peru will shift their current “food aid” programming to align more closely with values of sustainability in terms of community empowerment and environmental protection in production under the new government. However, with shifts in governance changing towards global trends in non-communicable diseases and improving commodity markets, Peru must resist the urge to follow governance trends entirely and continue to “leave behind” the vulnerable populations that have not yet been beneficiaries of the country’s fast-paced economic and social development. While participation in agenda-setting at the global level is important, Peru must focus on translating the values and ambition of global targets to eradicate malnutrition into tangible actions to address the contextual needs of local communities in achieving sustainable food security.

Acosta, Andres Mejia (2011). “Analyzing Success in the Fight against Malnutrition in Peru.” IDS Working Papers. Volume 2011 , Number 367. Accessed Online: http://www.ids.ac.uk/files/dmfile/Wp367.pdf
Benavides, Martin et al. (2016). “Measuring the Sustainable Development Agenda in Peru.” Post-2015  Data Test: Country Level Experiences. Lima: GRADE. Accessed Online:  http://www.post2015datatest.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Final-Peru-Data-Test_April.pdf
Food Tank (2014). “What We Need to Know About Hunger.” Food Tank. Accessed Online:  http://foodtank.com/news/2014/07/what-we-need-to-know-about-hunge
International Food Policy Research Institute (2016). From Promise to Impact: Ending Malnutrition by 2030. Washington: International Food Policy Research Institute.
McKeon, Nora (2015). Food Security Governance: Empowering communities, regulating corporations. New York: Routledge.
Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform (2015). “Sustainable Development Goal 2: End Hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” United Nation Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Accessed Online: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg2
World Health Organization (2014). “Indicators for the Global Monitoring Framework on Maternal, Infant    and Young Child Nutrition.” Geneva: World Health Organization. Accessed Online:     http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/indicators_monitoringframework_miycn_background.pdf


Untangling the web of malnutrition

Carly Hayes (University of Waterloo)

Malnutrition is a problem that spans multiple sectors: social, biological, environmental, and economic, just to name a few. What we have learned from interviews with community members, photos taken by school-aged children, speaking with experts, spending time with our family partners and gathering data from ministries, is that all of the causes are inherently connected and cannot be disentangled from the complex web of malnutrition.

El pase de diapositivas requiere JavaScript.

This pictures show the preparation of K’ispiño.  A typical dish made with alpaca blood, moraya flour, cilantro and salt. The meal was served with potatoes and uchucuta.

Malnutrition is the state of lacking adequate access to necessary macro and micronutrients in the daily diet that are required for the biological and cellular processes our bodies use to function. But malnutrition also encompasses a number of other factors, including sanitation, education, social structures, and culture. My colleague Kennedy recently wrote an article about it, and you can access it here.

The Peruvian government has sought to remedy malnutrition in the same way that it is structured – by providing programs that are multi-sectoral and address multiple problems. Through QaliWarma, the government has endeavoured to improve school attendance rates by providing school meals. Through CunaMas, mothers receive education on early childhood stimulation to improve cognitive development. In Chispitas, targeted families receive supplementation to combat anaemia in children aged from 6 to 36 months old. And finally, in Juntos, a cash transfer program, the Peruvian government has incentivized health care access and school attendance by providing conditional cash transfers of 100 soles per month.

While the Peruvian government has been praised for commitment and multi-sectoral approach to reducing malnutrition by the World Bank, this data masks regional inequalities. Last week we had an interview with the doctor of Lares Health Center (Lares was the poorest district in Peru until 2013), a centre who is in charge of 11 different communities. Cuncani is part of these communities, which are all between 40 minutes and five hours away from Lares. What came to light through this conversation is that despite this dedication to improving overall welfare, malnutrition has gotten worse in a number of ways. The statistics from this year, that were released few days ago, indicate that 37% of the children are malnourished, 22% more than a year ago.

Why is this happening? While we are still trying to answer this question, one possible answer is that no program exists to combat malnutrition, in its multiple forms, as an end goal in itself. These programs are often coupled with goals about achieving universal education, improving healthcare access, and increasing household incomes. Without a program to address malnutrition directly, the complexity of this problem gets lost among a number of other worthwhile goals. And without a direct focus on eliminating malnutrition in the most vulnerable communities, the malnutrition web will only become more tangled.

After finishing with this research, we will continue to improve our efforts and keep working on local solutions for local problems. With our work with the Lares Health Centre, and into the future, we are hoping to reinforce monitoring and evaluation efforts in order to prove that malnutrition and poverty can only be finished when reality, culture, and complexity are taken into account. We hope that the new government of Peru knows this and will take action with this in mind.