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.




+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.


Malnutrition Facts

Kennedy Clark, Purdue University

(NC Intern)

To many people, malnutrition presents itself as an image of emaciated children with protruding bellies. However, malnutrition has many realities besides this one. It also includes the growing population of children suffering from obesity in western regions, and children in the Andes, who seem otherwise healthy, but are a bit short in nature. Malnutrition, to put it simply, is a deficiency of nutrients. This can be a deficiency of macronutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, or fats; or a deficiency of micronutrients which are vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, iron, zinc, and iodine. In either situation, this deficiency can have devastating and sometimes lasting consequences for those affected.

Malnutrition mainly stems from issues falling under one of the two categories or primary and secondary malnutrition. Insufficient intake, for example, is considered primary malnutrition, in which adequate nutrients are not actually provided in the diet. On the other hand, diseases, such as diarrheal conditions, are an example of secondary malnutrition in which, though adequate nutrients may be provided in the diet, the body cannot correctly absorb them.

Malnutrition is extremely threatening to the body’s ability to maintain life. This is because nutrients provide the necessary fuel to drive metabolism, the collection of processes that keep us alive. Metabolism is divided in to two types of processes: catabolism and anabolism. In catabolism, the body breaks down matter in order to obtain energy. In anabolism, energy is consumed in order to synthesize material needed by the cells such as proteins and nucleic acids. Both of these aspects of metabolism involve complex systems of interaction between proteins already present in the body, and external nutrients introduced into the body through the diet. Thus, without adequate nutrients, the body cannot carry out these necessary processes.

Upon consumption, macronutrients are broken down from their more complex states of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins, to create the small molecules of simple sugar, fatty acids, and amino acids, which serve as fuel or building blocks for various structures in the body. For example, the simple sugar, glucose is the brains sole source of energy. The phospholipid formed from fatty acids, makes up the outermost layer of most human cells, protecting it from being too permeable to outside pathogens. Furthermore, the amino acids come together to make proteins such as cortisol receptors that allow our bodies to react when faced with danger.

Micronutrients play a different, yet equally vital role in the process. They are often key players necessary for carrying out cellular processes. For example, iron serves as an important component in maintaining the structure of heme groups which are part of proteins found in the red blood cells that help with oxygen transport throughout the body. Iodine, another micronutrient, is similarly important in metabolic processes. It plays a role in the processes in the thyroid. Without the presence of iodine, the thyroid cannot produce its hormones, a number of which are responsible for growth and development throughout the body.

Be it insufficient intake of macronutrients, or of micronutrients, malnutrition can prove to be incredibly, and sometimes irreversibly harmful for those suffering from it. Adequate nutrition is essential for our existence, as without it, we do not have the ability to carry out the number of metabolic processes that take place in our bodies as efficiently as possible; and therefore, cannot function to our fullest potential. This is especially important when it comes to discussing developing regions, such as Andean communities like Cuncani. For them, the gravity of the effects of malnutrition is more complicated than it seems. With poor health outcomes in physical and mental development, the community can be set back in their ability to sustain themselves in their development process.


Getting professional and personal growth

By Alice Ebeyer (NC Intern 2016 – McGill University)


“Spending two months in Peru with Nexos Comunitarios has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. Being immersed in a different culture and being able to witness particular traditions and customs was stirring. The organization offers an amazing context to achieve efficient work, but also personal growth. The job itself allows us to further open our minds by seeing, discovering, learning so many new things. Peru is a unique place and working with local people is the best way to experience the country. This internship was the occasion to learn more about primary research and more particularly Participatory Action Research methods. Thus, it has been enriching on a personal and professional level but also on an academic perspective.

International development and development in general is a long and complex process; it needs patience and persistence and this is what I learned at NC by trying to help and making a social impact.

What this internship also taught me is to never give up, because only small groups of people who attempted to change the world actually reached their goals.”

Expanding Knowledge and Making Societal Impact with Nexos Comunitarios

By Mackenzie Vozza , Western University – Alternative Spring Break 2016

#BeTheChange – NC Learning Program

Mackenzie Vozza.jpg

“If I could recommend anything to a university student looking to expand their cultural knowledge and make a significant societal impact, it would be working with Nexos Communitarios. The Nexos staffs not only ensured we had everything we needed pre-departure, but were also constantly in contact with us during our trip to ensure a flawless execution and unforgettable experience.

The project I had the privilege of working on, PhotoVoice, was an amazing initiative designed to change the mindset of children in impoverished areas in order to help them believe they can do anything they set their mind to. Partaking in this project was an eye-opening and wonderful experience as I made friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.”