Bolivia: Laboratories on medicinal plants for young people in Chipaya
10-12-2019 | di COOPI

Bolivia: Laboratories on medicinal plants for young people in Chipaya

Don Paulino is one of the best known Chipaya experts in the region of Oruro, Bolivia, and he made medicinal plants teaching to young people his vocation - in the schools of Santa Ana and Urus Andinos, Don Paulino speaks in Chipay Taku language and teaches the methods of preparation and the effects of medicinal plants.

If you live in a village at 4,000 meters mamsl, getting to know traditional medicine can make the difference, especially if the first health centre is miles away. "Traditionally, Chipaya medicine supports a preventive approach – people’s wellbeing depends above all on a healthy lifestyle and a correct and balanced diet; plants are only used when the first symptoms appears", explains Don Paulino.

Don Paulino teaches his students medicinal plants applications

Don Paulino is often surprised when his students show a deep knowledge of the traditional medicinal plants, handed down to them by their families: "Lampaya cures stomachaches, coughs and colds", says one of the students; "Yareta treats back or kidney problems", says another.

But Don Paulino's lessons are not only theoretical – students are asked to catalogue the medicinal plants studied in class and, to do so, the teacher collaborates with Violeta Montellano and Marco Arnez who, by adopting the cyanotype technique, make the activity more fun and creative.

This photographic technique uses a photosensitive chemical solution with which the sheets on which the medicinal plants are laid are covered. What is the outcome? After having exposed them to the sun for a few minutes and washed with water, the profiles of the plants will turn blue, on a white background.

Cyanotype technique

The learning and photographic activity is part of the project "Chipaya: memories of water and wind. Towards new forms of community resilience", funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS).

Since 2017, COOPI has been focusing on young people as key players in the empowerment process of the Uru-Chipaya community. In addition, it promotes the ancestral knowledge of the Chipaya people, in particular their traditional medicine, to enable them to pass on this heritage, and it also involves them in community projects, such as territorial management laboratories, which allow them to be included in the decision-making process of the community.