Student Fishfarmers: Fishfarming in a school of the Bolivian Amazon

Project location: BOLIVIA
Project start date: January 2003 - Project end date: January 2005
Project number: 2003-16
Beneficiary: Centro de Estudios Amazònicos

Establishment of a productive farm to supply food for the Hogar Javier boarding school at San Francisco de Moxos, Bolivia


The majority of the inhabitants of San Francisco de Moxos (pop. 700) and the communities of the area (pop .1,200 ) are indigenous Mojeño people who live in conditions of extreme poverty. The food security status is characterized by an insufficient production of food in an area where 91% of the rural population is poor with an economy based on subsistence farming and working on ranches where they earn 1 Euro/day. According to the results of the 2001 National Statistics Census, 87,27% of the population of the province of San Ignacio is poor and 44,8% live in a situation of total poverty and exclusion.


General Context

One of the objectives of HOYAM and CEAM is to give support to education in the province of Moxos because education is a basic element for real development of the indigenous communities of Moxos. However in the whole province of Moxos, the education sector is very deficient, and especially in San Francisco de Moxos which is an isolated and badly connected canton.

At present, the village has one group of schools which consists of one main school and various small schools in outlaying villages. There is a teaching staff of 32 teachers, 20 of which teach at the main site where they give primary and secondary education The remaining 12 teachers work in the outlaying communities where they only teach primary education, and even this is incomplete.

The education given by the group of schools is deficient, the students academic achievements are low and classes are irregular as most of the teachers in the staff are improvised, with only just High School graduation and little or no teacher training. This logically causes complaints from the parents and guardians of the pupils.


The Hogar Javier Boarding School

Thanks to the initiative of Father Estaban Avelli, a Jesuit priest, and local indigenous parents who wanted their children to be able to have access to complete school education, the Hogar Javier Boarding School was founded in 1986 by the Jesuits (Compañía de Jesus) with the support of the Apostolic Vicarage of Beni. The objective was to establish a non-profit-making institution to provide accommodation for poor children and adolescents, serve also small communities that do not have a school or which do not run an equivalent course, and supporting them in continuing their studies.

The dynamics of the Boarding school are based on the school timetable, in the hours that the student is not in class, each boarder carries out a series of activities: study, hours of work - for the maintenance and working of the school, and recreation time. The school offers education and training within a Jesuit way of thinking, according great importance to strengthening Mojeño culture.


Over the last few years, the Hogar Javier Boarding school has given support to indigenous small scale farmers in sowing several crops, either in obtaining seeds or with the initial capital required for sowing.

Overall the activities of the Hogar Javier Boarding School are:

1.Providing food and accommodation for the boarders.

2.The school breakfast program provided for 250 poor children from San Francisco.

3.Teaching a whole range of subjects to the boarders: mathematics, language, science etc. following a school curriculum and introducing new issues that the teachers considers relevant. The students from the State school can attend this classes free of charge, even if they are not boarders.

4.Classes and workshops on extra curricular activities such as theatre, singing, painting, music etc.

5. Maintaining the Boarding School, coordinating working groups of boarders for the cooking, cleaning, bakery etc.

6.Video screenings and video club, library service, computer classes, loaning of some of classrooms for the activities of the members of the San Francisco community etc., a small charge being made for the video club and computer classes.

7.Generating funds for the school from a general store and raising cattle.

8.Providing support to small farmers.


Only poor boys and girls are accepted as boarders. Most come from outlying villages or farms where they have no access to school, although Hogar Javier also accepts children from the village of San Francisco who are in conditions of extreme poverty, and who have special academic potential. The boarding school currently has 70 boards , most of whom belong to the Mojeño people. Many of these students have health problems, either due to malnutrition or to a lack of access to health services and health information. Most come from areas where there is neither clean drinking water nor any health service.

One of the school's aims is to counteract students abandoning their studies. in San Francisco it is very common for children to cut short their education due to a series of factors: the poor quality and irregularity of the state education, malnutrition in children who go to school on an empty stomach, the need to work at home in the field from an early age in order to help their parents, early marriages and pregnancies amongst the adolescents which is very common in rural areas, as well as problems of alcoholism at home and domestic violence.



One of the initial aims of the Hogar Javier Boarding School was to offer the boarders training in addition to core of academic studies, whilst at the same time provide an extra source of funding for the school. Today this objective has become even more important as it has been clear that many students would rather follow a technical career than go to University, which means that the students need not only academic training but also technical training through practical courses. On the other hand, those in charge of the school have noticed that malnutrition is one of the causes of the students' underachieving and abandoning their studies. The school does not have enough resources to give the boarders with a diet with an adequate content of protein and vitamins, and only manages to provide such a diet by getting into debt. In fact, the economic sustainability of the school is crucial, as it Is at present in deficit and it represents an economic burden for the Jesuit order.

The Hogar Javier has known of the work of CEAM and HOYAM for some time. In the year 2000 CEAM and HOYAM set up a sewage treatment system at the boarding school at San Francisco de Moxos and also at the San Ignacio boarding school. In 2004, CEAM and HOYAM build a fish farm at the Arajurana Boarding School at San Ignacio de Moxos which has been very productive and has provided an important contribution both to the diet of the boarders and to the financial resources of the centre (this project was co-financed by the Nando Peretti Foundation).

This is the reason why the Jesuits contacted HOYAM-MOJOS to put forward the possibility of establishing a farm for the production of fish, beef and dairy in order to offer the boarders a better quality diet and at the same time bring an excellent opportunity for practical agricultural training in fish farming and beef and dairy husbandry. The farm would also contribute to the economic sustainability of the school.


The object of the current project is to establish a farm for the production of fish, milk and beef at the boarding school at San Francisco de Moxos, in order to bring a substantial improvement to its student's nutrition, to offer an opportunity for technical agricultural training and to guarantee the economic sustainability of the center.


The plan consists of
# excavating four fish ponds of 20x35m ( a total of 2.800 m2 ) to produce each year 1.400 fish weighing over 1kg,
# establishing 20 Ha of sown pasture with a drinking pond,
# purchasing 15 true-bred dairy cows (producing around 7 L of milk per cow per day) which would be raised on the 20 Ha of pastureland
# Purchase 65 one-year-old calves in order to produce 1.357 kg of meat per year (without counting the 45 head of cattle that the school already has, and discounting half of the meat produced as this will have to pay for the rental of the land).


Once established, the projected farm would provide 1,75 L of milk, 494 g of beef and 190 g of fish per student per week, as well as 1,75 L of milk per week for each of the 250 children of the school's breakfast project, and €1,181 to purchase others food. The school's own production of food would allow Hogar Javier to make a saving of €8,295 which would make it economically self-sufficient, in other words it would be able to meet all of its costs without the need of external help and this contrasts with the current situation where it runs an annual deficit that must be met by external aid, especially from the Vicarage of Beni.

Within the project, a small tractor will be purchased in to cultivate the pastureland, to transport the milk, plough and drill the pasture etc. The work involved in milking the dairy herd and of maintaining the dairy coxs and fish farm, will be covered by current school staff and by the students of the school so that they will be able to carry out practical agricultural training, and so fulfill one of the objectives of the boarding school with is to provide technical training. The beef cattle will be cared for by the workers of the owner of the land, who will sign a 10 year renewable contract in which half of the cattle or beef produced will be paid to the landowner in exchange for the use of the land and the upkeep of cattle. The cost of the feed for the fish will be contributed by the families of the student from the over-production of their crops and with blood, a rich source of protein for raising fish, obtained when slaughtering their pigs. Thus the production costs for the fish, milk and meat will be limited to buying vaccines, vitamins, salt, lime and the cost renting the land for the livestock. All of the farm's production will be assigned to feeding the school's boarders and the children of poor families of the area of San Francisco of Moxos.

The Javier boarding school is run by the Jesuits (Compañía de Jesus) and is dependent on the Apostolic Vicarage of Beni. Its objective is to offer a comprehensive program of education and training to the resident children and to the small communities that do not have schools or do not have equivalent courses. The children who join the school are very poorly nourished on a diet based on manioc, rice and banana, and this seriously affects their schoolwork as well as their physical and mental development. In order to counteract this malnutrition the school offers its boarding students a complete food program and also offers a breakfast program providing milk for 250 poor children from the village. However the economic resources provided by the families are very limited as the monthly fees of 1,5 Euros only represent 35% - 40% of the cost of the food program, and it is difficult to cover the resulting deficit .

The Nando Peretti Foundation has co-financed this current project to establish a farm for the production of fish, milk and beef at the boarding school of San Francisco de Monxos in order to substantially improve the nutrition of its pupils and to offer an opportunity for technical agricultural training whilst guaranteeing the economic sustainability of the school, and protect the environment and preserve natural resources.

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