[Work in Progress] New Initiative! The Travelling Soap!

TBy Kenji Misawa (NC Project Coordinator)

This Monday, I had a very interesting conversation with our former Norwegian intern, Madeline Moe about a simple but great initiative ‘travelling soap’, which she has come up with. It aims to connect children in Cuncani and children in Oslo (Norway) by a pure international exchanging of handmade soaps. Amongst many benefits of this ‘travelling soap’, I would like to share four advantages of this plan in this blog post.

1: Increase the level of sanitation and hygiene in the community

The greatest benefit of this initiative is that it allows for the children to be engaged with the use of soaps, which plays a pivotal role in hygiene. In our current society, we pay little attention to soap as we take it for granted. However, the use of soap has a significant effect in improving the sanitation and hygiene situation, especially in a community such as Cuncani where people regularly eat food with their hands. For example, according to the USAID ‘Water and Sanitation Indicators Measurements Guide’, improved hygiene behaviour can decrease the exposure to pathogens, which leads to the reduction of diarrheal diseases and intestinal parasites. At the same time, it can increase the nutrient absorption and improve disease resistance. One of the indicators in measuring hygiene levels in the guide was “the percentage of the appropriate handwashing behavior”. Therefore, this traveling soap has significant potential in prompting children to wash their hands while simultaneously teaching kids in Cuncani and Oslo proper handwashing techniques through action-based learning. Such activities can ultimately have a positive impact on improving the overall health status amongst students.

2: Promotes the interculturality amongst the children.

This activity also facilitates international interactions between children in Oslo and the children in Cuncani. Two groups of children will have the opportunity to learn about one another’s culture through fun activities. This type of cultural interaction is mutually beneficial for both groups as it allows them to understand and respect the similarities and differences between them, and to expand their knowledge and perspectives. Children in Oslo can learn about the community in a remote Andean community, while students in Cuncani will have the chance to observe the lives of children in Northern Europe, which they have never seen before. Their abundant curiosity can be geared towards learning about a different race, practices, history, geography, or food by interactions with children that are the same age.

3: Demonstrate the community through their own voice

This initiative does not only include travel soap but also travel children’s voice. During my discussion with Madeline, we have agreed to create soaps that are unique to their local community. For example, one of the ideas was to make a soap by mixing the available local plants, herbs, or flowers. We are also thinking about making a video of children explaining their handmade products and its relationship to their community. This is especially important for the children in Cuncani because the kids often lack the opportunities to present their community to others due to its severe isolation. By making a video, children can provide answers to questions like; what does your community look like? What do you do every day? What are the things you like about your community? These simple questions can be very important for the Peruvian and Norwegian children to reflect on, perhaps encouraging them to broaden their own perspective and view of the world.

4: Fun and exciting art and craft activity

Last but not least, children love to do a variety of arts and crafts. These types of activities are a useful tool for enhancing kid’s imagination and artistic abilities. Depending on the shape, ingredients, or color, a simple soap making activity can be a great opportunity for the children to express themselves and to develop their creativity skills. An additional benefit exists through the joy the children get from being involved in the production of soaps while also receiving a gift from that of another culture. From my point of view, one of the most important elements of the kind of initiative that it be appealing to the kids.  I believe this ‘travelling soap’ has clearly satisfied this requirement.

Such efforts represent the first planning phase of this new initiative. There are still many steps to go such as logistical processes, framework, timeline, indicators, evaluation methods and etc. We look forward to developing this initiative in an engaging way that contributes to the betterment of the children’s hygiene habits, while also learning about a different culture.



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).

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.




Strengthening ties within Cuncani

Marjorie Díaz Redolfo, IDEHPUCP

Hi Everyone!

We are a group of 17 young students from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP) in Lima and are on different programs of study. We’re looking forward to arriving to Cuncani in Cusco in order to work with the community on a project named ‘Strengthening Ties within Cuncani’, that will contribute to forging a stronger sense of community and their intra-community relationships.

We believe that, in this way, we will help the community in identifying what they want to achieve for their future and that they feel they can propose their own solutions to the problems they face nowadays. All this is possible thanks to the partnership with Nexos Comunitarios.

 Credits: Miguel Arreátegui Rodríguez

Why is important to work with Cuncani?

Cuncani is a rural community located in the Andes of Peru, that has to face many difficulties within many areas of their everyday life:

  • According to official government statistics, they are one of the poorest communities in Peru.
  • The children are more likely to suffer malnutrition because families are not able to afford vegetables or fruit and provide a nutritious diet for their children.
  • They don´t have access to proper health services due to the distance between the community and the closest health centre.
  • The community has their own internal governing body and structure but community members do not actively participate fully in this structure.

What are we going to do with the community?

First, we are going to collect up-to-date information from the community so we are able to know more about the families with whom NC has been working. We will conduct research about basic topics like health, education, and the local economy. In addition, we want to know their perspective of development and community; the intricacies of their daily life and the ways they participate in their community.

After this, we want to organize some activities with the families of Cuncani. For example, workshops that will focus on strengthening the sense of community identity and the relationships between them and encourage them to think about what kind of development they envisage for the future. Furthermore, we want to help the members of the community recognize their  own inherent abilities so they can exercise their rights in different aspects of their daily life. Finally, we will work with the children of Cuncani, using playful interactive methods to learn how they identify with their community.

If you want to support our initiative, please visit this page and make your contribution. All the money donated will go towards supporting our trip from Lima to the community of Cuncani.

Thank you!

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.

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.

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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.

+3.5 m….2017


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[Versión en Español / English Version]

¡Sólo tenemos 3.5 meses más, antes de empezar el 2017! Como es usual, aún tenemos pendientes varias metas que queremos cumplir, actividades que realizar y MUCHO, MUCHO por aprender. Como les hemos contado antes, hemos dedicado el 2016 a aprender sobre desnutrición en los Andes, específicamente en Cuncani. 

Nos encontramos en la última etapa de nuestra investigación y antes que la terminemos, estaremos publicando artículos sobre  lo que estamos aprendiendo, los retos que encontramos y todo lo que estamos planeando para los siguientes años.

Esperamos que puedan disfrutar de nuestras publicaciones y acompañarnos en este proceso. Nos ENCANTA seguir aprendiendo para así, realizar un mejor trabajo y hacerlo de una manera más eficiente con nuestros socios en la comunidad.


We just have 3.5 more months before we start 2017! As usual, there are still so many goals to accomplish, activities to do and LOTS AND LOTS of things to learn! As we have told you before, we have dedicated 2016 to learn about malnutrition in the Andes, specifically in Cuncani.

We are in the last phase of our research and before we finish it, we will be posting different articles about all we are learning, the challenges we encounter and all we are planning for the future.

We hope you enjoy our posts and join us in this process! We LOVE to keep learning in order for us to do better work and work with our community partners in a more efficient way.