Sustainable greenhouse primary school Laja Tambo

Sustainable greenhouse primary school Laja Tambo

Update October 2019: the aula verde is ready and has been opened! Students and parents have worked very hard in their ‘green classroom’ under the supervision of agricultural engineers Daysi and Veronica. Every week, the children enjoy themselves greatly while working the ground, taking care of plants and watching their crops grow. On 23 October, during their working visit, M. Randag and M. Kamphuis attended the festive opening of the greenhouse; not only were they treated to a dance performance by the children, but also to a delicious meal with lettuce from the school’s own greenhouse! They are all immensely proud as rightly they should be.

 Betty, Veronica, and Daysi taught and supervised the children

Update August 2019: The seedbeds have been prepared and the garden mould added. What will it look like when we will next visit from the Netherlands in October? They are trying so hard!

Update June 2019: The greenhouse is ready, and we are preparing for a next phase! Here you see how the finishing touches are added to the door and the windows.  The next step is removal of part of the soil. Since winter holidays have started, we are waiting for the weather to improve before we will add the garden mould and the greenhouse will be further equipped and prepared for the growing season.

The result: a wonderful roomy and sunny greenhouse!

Then the ‘real work’ begins: students and teachers are being instructed and the seeds beds prepared. We ran into some setbacks here as well but expect to start in August or September.

The construction of the school greenhouse is in full swing! Thanks to a generous donation we were able to swiftly sort out the funding and start construction in August 2018. As usual with our projects, the local people themselves are helping out by digging, carrying objects and making the adobe blocks with which the walls will be constructed. It’s going to be sizeable greenhouse of which the entire community will reap the benefits, though it will be mostly the primary school students and their mothers who’ll be doing the actual work of growing crops in the greenhouse. When the greenhouse is finished, they will first receive extensive schooling on this subject.

On the fifteenth of October, we visited the project with a group of Dutch “Amigos”. We were warmly received by the local teacher and workers who proudly gave us a tour. The walls have been built and construction of the roof will commence once the roof sheets arrive.

Everyone in the village is tremendously happy and the people are very proud of this project that will elevate the health and wellbeing of the community. It is not only healthy to be able to grow your own food, but also good for your sense of self-esteem. Mostly the children will profit from that!

We were treated to a royal welcome and served a meal (with meat and vegetables!) which had been prepared in the school kitchen. It’s clear that the people were making good use of the centro comunitario/centro de madres which was opened here last year. The centre with the school kitchen and the sanitary facilities are in full swing and look very well maintained.

Of course, a speech was given, the children sang for us, and a lot of fun was had by all!

What preceded these events:

Laja Tambo is a small, poor farmers’ community about 26 kilometers away from the miners’ city of Potosí. It is located at an altitude of 3.768 meters and its 270 inhabitants subsist through mining (lead, zinc and tin), cattle breeding, and stonemasonry. At this high altitude, agricultural activity is limited to beans and potatoes whilst horticulture is only possible in greenhouses. The community does have access to clean water and has also had access to electricity for about two years now.


(photo: Wim Opmeer)

Our Motivation

In 2017, Amigos de Potosí, in cooperation with the local populace and government, fulfilled a request by the women of Laja Tama by facilitating the construction of a community center with sanitation and a simple school kitchen. (Project Centro de madres Laja Tambo). 

(Photo: Enrique Paz)

In doing so, we contributed to raising awareness of health issues in the community and aiding in its development. In cooperation with the Red Cross, we organized two campaigns to improve health: 1. Promoting the washing of hands and the brushing of teeth. 2. Combating intestinal parasites, for which 15 children were treated. Of the 22 children in the community, 68% were discovered to be suffering from malnutrition as a result of a monotonous diet lacking in vitamins. Consequently, they suffered from a lack of energy and both physical and mental developmental delays. The desire of their mothers is to grow vegetables which are rich in vitamins so that these can be added to the school lunches, which presently consist of rice, beans and lentils. The previous greenhouse has become unusable, so they now wish to work with the school to resurrect the project and provide an educational experience in the process. The school is home to one class of 18 students and only a single teacher, with its target audience being the entire community of Laja Tambo

 (Photo: Wim Opmeer)

The Plan

Our local coordinator, E. Paz, who previously organized a similar project, has commissioned a budget and a design. We have chosen for a durable design with a roof made out of polycarbonate sheets which will last for decades. In this climate and at this altitude, the UV radiation is so strong that a roof made out of ordinary plastic would have to be replaced after a mere two or three years. As with all our projects, the populace is actively involved in the planning and execution of the project. They themselves lay the groundwork for construction and carry out various tasks to help out once it is ongoing. To shoulder the remaining costs, however, they ask for the support of our foundation. This includes the cost of the design, the building materials for the greenhouse, transport, construction itself and all the items required for the actual gardening (tools, seeds, fertilizer). Additionally, the students, two parents, and the teacher will receive five months of instruction and guidance in biological gardening.

Healthy in the Classroom

This project is a great fit for the goals of our foundation, which strives to improve the living conditions of the miners’ families in and around Potosí. We believe that child labor in the mines is unacceptable. As such, we seek to support projects which promote greater self-sufficiency for the populace or which seek to improve education for young people so that they may have better opportunities on the job market. In doing so, we put the target audience’s own ideas into practice, and they themselves actively help out to bring the projects to fruition. The local people become the owners of the project and are the ones who are responsible for its maintenance and long-term functioning.   

Miners rarely live to be older than 45 and their sons often join them on their trips into the mines at a very young age in order to help out with the labor. This is quite literally a dead end. The only escape is to acquire an education and thereby improve one’s chances on the labor market: being able to speak English or use a computer will open many doors.

Showing initiative, having faith in your own capabilities to improve your circumstances (with a little bit of help from your friends in the Netherlands and other countries) and being willing to work hard to accomplish your goals. Best to start with these sooner rather than later!

Costs and Funding

The costs of the design and implementation of this plan have been estimated to be over € 9.000. The target audience will itself contribute € 1.550 in the form of their own labor. We have already made a formal request to a fund in the Netherlands to aid us in financing this project and we hope we will be able to commence work in June 2018.