IdeaMe is an online platform, which helps creators, be they inventors, artists, or designers, among others, to finance their projects through crowd funding. The Indy features and promotes one project every week, with the aim of helping the creators finance and achieve their dreams. This week: The Andean Greenhouse.Adriana Celli wants to renovate a greenhouse; a project that aims to create a stable farming season in the inhospitable province of Jujuy. Geographically isolated in the extreme northwest of Argentina, the land is arid and almost a desert. It lies on the Puna grasslands; a vast eco-region in the Andes Mountains that extends from southern Peru into northern Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.
When Celli studied at the Faculty of Agronomy in the University of Buenos Aires, she focused on the organic vegetal productions that do not use harmful chemicals and pesticides. “The main goal for my studies was to find a natural and organic way to develop produce, especially in the case of Puna, where there are serious problems in terms of the climate, the temperature and the lack of water,” she says.
The climate in Puna is unforgiving, with scare rainfall (an average annual of 300 mm), which usually only falls during Spring and Summer. Winters are tough too as minimum temperatures creep to minus 20 degrees (celsius) creating severe frosts. For the communities that live there, growing food is a challenge.
Celli explains: “the gravest problem for the community is that they are not able to produce anything for the most part of the year. They can only produce in roughly two or three months of the year, and this is what they must depend on for their annual food supply, as there is little else in the neighbourhood.”
Speaking of her time in Pura, Celli recounts that “it was six years ago when I first visited Machu Picchu and from there I toured Bolivia and Argentina; that was my first contact with the Incan culture and also the first time I encountered the problems of producing basic food because of the climate. It was three years later that I discovered the Brother Sun Sister Moon Asís foundation working in school in Jujuy near the border with Bolivia, who were carrying out a schooling project. They took me in and told me of their situation, and asked if I would be able to help with organic production there.”
The Brother Sun Sister Moon Asís foundation was formed by Jose Antonio, Roberto and Alberto, who have set up more than 70 schools and educational institutions in the highlands. The school that Celli is working with is Escuela No.250, in the small town of Abra Pampa, 76km from the border town, La Quiaca. It is the only one in the area, and the life-blood of the community where children stay five days of the week for education as well as food, as it is too far to commute daily to and from their respective homes. That is why Adriana hopes that the new greenhouse will cultivate a self-sustaining food supply for all year round.The project is very much a co-operative, with the bricks of the greenhouse being made by local residents. Many of the families are agriculturally savvy, with a depth of local knowledge about the land and how to cultivate it; they simply need the tools to do so. The greenhouse project aims to capitalise on their ancient wisdom by providing the necessary tools for an organic garden, such as spades, shovels, seeds and a hose.
Celli is keen to stress that this is a sustainable project. “I was searching for a natural way to use the technological systems already in place and to help these vulnerable people who are prisoners of their own purchases. They buy all these chemicals and fertilisers to use, which they think will better their produce, but they end up captive, stuck in a cycle, constantly relying on them.”
The greenhouse works in a more unobtrusive way. Its features have been carefully designed to work with the natural conditions, using additional UV filters and corrugated roofing to lock in sunlight. It also has partial strips to avoid scorching sunlight, alongside a fresh air chamber to regulate the high temperatures inside.
Adriana and her group of volunteers hope to begin work on its construction by February of next year when the climate is most conductive to working. However, they need to raise a total of $58,150 to complete the greenhouse project. The first 10% will enable them to buy all the adobe materials necessary to start construction of the walls, the next 25% purchasing the roofing materials and 50% with the addition of organic horticultural equipment needed inside the greenhouse, and the rest for manual labour.
If you would like to donate towards this outstanding cause, visit the project’s Ideame page.