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Linking Research and Training in Internationalization of Teacher Education with the PEERS Program: Issues, Case Studies and Perspectives

Edited By Jean-Luc Gilles

The PEERS program proposes international exchanges adapted to the context of teacher training institutions wishing to take advantage of internationalization in order to link training, research, and practice. PEERS is based on the completion of Research and Innovation (R&I) projects during the academic year, during which international groups of professors and students from teacher training partner institutions collaborate remotely as well as during two placements of one week. For the students, the PEERS program aims to develop competencies in distance collaboration with the help of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), the management of intercultural groups, and the continuous improvement of their activities through reflective thinking and the spirit of research. For the professors the PEERS program aims to better link research and training, to reinforce their skills in the management of international research projects and to foster opportunities for international publications.

The aim of this collective book is to give an overview of the Issues, case studies and perspectives of the PEERS program. The first section entitled "Issues, Opportunities, and Challenges for the Internationalization of Teacher Training in a Globalized, Multicultural, and Connected World", focuses on the foundations and general features of PEERS projects, as well as the context of globalization in the intercultural and connected world in which it is situated.

The second section, "Case Studies and Lessons Learned from the PEERS Project in Southern Countries" constitutes a series of chapters presenting case studies on PEERS projects focused on innovation and cooperation in the developing world. The third section, "Results of Research-Oriented PEERS Projects," considers the results from PEERS projects that have enabled the implementation of theoretical and practical educational research, generally taking the form of small-case research studies or innovations in the design of teaching units. Finally, in the conclusion we propose to present the key points of the three sections that make up this book "Linking Research and Training in Internationalization of Teacher Education with the PEERS Program: Issues, Case Studies and Perspectives".

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Chapter 7: Promoting and Evaluating Polylepis Forest Protection as a Way to Improve Living Conditions in the Communities of San Miguel, Janko Khala, and Ch’aqui Potrero (Maria de los Ángeles Zurita / Sofia Vargas)

Maria de los Ángeles Zurita and Sofia Vargas –

Simón I. Patiño University, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Chapter 7: Promoting and evaluating Polylepis Forest Protection as a Way to Improve Living Conditions in the Communities of San Miguel, Janko Khala, and Ch’aqui Potrero


A project was carried out in three communities in the Andean mountain forest in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in collaboration with the PEERS program. It was executed and evaluated on behalf of the communities involved. In the first stage, we gave ecological stoves to the communities, which were located near Polylepis native forests, to reduce their firewood consumption and to improve their living conditions. These devices can reduce the amount of soot and smoke in rooms. An educational campaign was also developed to improve the communities’ knowledge of the environmental aspects of Polylepis forests. The second stage involved evaluation; this entailed carrying out workshops and making videos showing how conservation knowledge acquired by community members helped in forest preservation and in the fulfillment of the community’s views regarding whether the new stove was an asset.

1. Introduction

Nowadays, natural Andean native forests tend to disappear due to deforestation by villagers inhabiting the surroundings. This is caused by a lack of education about nature conservation and the sustainable use of forest resources. For this reason, raising awareness of these issues←129 | 130→ is a priority to prevent the destruction of forests and the wide range of environmental services that they provide (Guizada, 1996).

Little information on these native Andean forests is available, despite recognition that the Polylepis forests of the region of Cochabamba (Southern slope of Cordillera del Tunari) are hotspots for endemic birds (Fjeldså & Kessler, 2004), that they represent important areas for bird conservation (Soria & Hennessey, 2005), and that they play a very important role in the fragile high-Andean ecosystems. Data on quantification and characterization are especially limited for Polylepis forests, which now exist almost exclusively on rocky slopes (Ibisch & Mérida, 2004).

The importance of the native forests of Polylepis in the Andes lies in several ecological services that they provide (protection and retention of nutrients, water retention and runoff regulation, erosion control), and in their uses (wood for construction, fuel, tannery, and medical applications).

These Andean forests are under serious threat; it has been estimated that they have been reduced to nearly 10 % of their original area (Kessler & Driesch, 1993; Fjeldså & Kessler, 2004; Navarro & al., 2005). The main causes of the losses, which are accelerating, are fires, overgrazing, crop introduction, firewood extraction, and reforestation with exotic species (Pinus and Eucalyptus).

Moreover, a high number of animal and plant species only thrive in close relation with Polylepis forests. Clear examples are the bird species Oreomanes frasseri and the shrub Berberis commutata (Churisiqui) (Hennessey & al., 2013). Among mammals, the marsupial Thylamys pallidior is considered to be restricted to these forests (Yensen & al., 1994), and several rodents such as Akodon kofordi, Oxymycterus hiska, Phyllotis spp., Thomasomys sp. novae, Abrocoma sp. are unique to the forests and depend directly on them (Tarifa & Yensen, 2001).

On the other hand, the traditional use of firewood to cook inside the houses releases large amounts of soot indoors, which has been proven to cause respiratory and ophthalmic diseases.

From the preceding arguments, it follows that conservation of Polylepis forests and the biodiversity they sustain is critical. This project←130 | 131→ aims to contribute to the conservation of Polylepis forests and to improve people’s quality of life by raising consciousness on the environmental advantages of reducing the use of Polylepis trees as firewood and the health benefits of using ecological stoves such as Rocket stoves.

This project foresees the reduction of firewood consumption by using an ecological stove. It has been established that stoves such as Rocket or Lorena stoves are appropriate to save fuel consumption and reduce soot and smoke. Rocket is also the least expensive ecological stove to install.

Energética, a company that was in charge of the manufacture of these ecological stoves, is in Cochabamba. The benefits that this type of stove provides include saving wood, time, and money, creating less smoke inside the house, and preventing accidents from burns to children.

1.1 About the Communities

San Miguel and Janko Khala are small communities with less than 25 families each. Their inhabitants mainly work as shepherds, and they also grow tubers like potatoes, as well as onions and broad beans. Chaqui Potrero is slightly bigger and better organized. Its leaders have very strict rules for governing the community.

The children attend school in each community, where the teacher provides instruction in all the subjects up to the fifth grade. Afterwards, the children transfer to high school, which in many cases is much further away from the community. Students from many communities attend.

The language used in these schools is Spanish. However, the communities speak Quechua, which is also used in the classrooms on occasion. The students have lunch at school, and each takes a snack, which is often a very poor meal. For example, they may take boiled potatoes with cheese or broad beans.

The families that belong to a community are generally more connected and hold monthly or bimonthly meetings, where the community leader presents any problems that have arisen during that period. These issues←131 | 132→ may range from irrigation canal construction or use to others such as theft within the community.

The houses are made up of very small and precarious rooms. The majority of houses have only two rooms: one where everyone sleeps and one where the family keeps supplies and prepares meals.

The families prepare their meals with old-fashioned kitchens that use firewood inside the room. Generally, the children are in charge of starting the fire for the kitchen, running the risk of burns and inhaling smoke, which can cause illnesses such as asthma and other respiratory problems.

In the first part of the study, we wanted to have a complete overview of the quality of life of the inhabitants of San Miguel, Janko Khala and Ch’aqui Potrero. We considered issues such as food supply, education, and the people’s interaction with the environment (how they use natural resources in their daily life).

Two PEERS projects were carried out during the academic periods of 2012 and 2013, consisting of a collaboration between Haute École Pédagogique (HEP Vaud – the University of Teacher Education of State of Vaud) in Lausanne, Switzerland, and Universidad Simón I. Patiño (USIP) in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Both projects were financed by the Simón I. Patiño Foundation, UNESCO, and HEP. For each project, different teams worked remotely, under the guidance of one professor from each university.

1.2 About the PEERS Teams

The 2012–2013 HEP Vaud team was made up of Professor Jean-Luc Gilles, Viktoria Ryjevskaia, Adozinda Da Silva, and Oliver Prosperi. The team for 2013–2014 was Professor Jean-Luc Gilles, Vanessa Campos, Claudia Raymond, and Isabel Xufre. The USIP team for 2012–2013 was made up of Professor María de los Ángeles Zurita, Neolia Barea, Miguel Fernández, Laura García, Rosa Guizada, and Laura Trigo. The team for 2013–2014 was Professor María de los Ángeles Zurita, Andrés Calderón,←132 | 133→ Armando Ferrufino, Daniela Sevilla, and Sofía Vargas. Professor Emilio Aliss coordinate these international projects for the USIP.

1.3 First-stage Objectives

To improve the San Miguel and Janko Khala community’s knowledge of the environmental services of forests and their importance for conservation.

To reduce the consumption of firewood in communities located near the Polylepis forests by installing Rocket stoves in their homes.

To reduce the soot released into the kitchens.

To develop an educational campaign for the communities, with different content and methods for children and adults.

1.4 Second-stage Objectives

To develop and carry out educational workshops for the children in Ch’aqui Potrero.

To provide Rocket stoves to a larger number of families to improve their living conditions.

To make a video of the current living conditions in the community.

2. Methods

This project was carried out in three communities located within the Tunari National Park: San Miguel, Janko Kala, and Ch’aqui Potrero. These locations were selected because of their accessibility and favorable conditions for the project (i.e. people’s willingness to participate).←133 | 134→

2.1 First-stage Design

A consensus was reached with the towns’ residents and an agreement was signed with the municipal government to which the communities belong.

The project coordinator made two trips to contact municipal government leaders from two communities.

A census of the number of households using wood-burning stoves was carried out over a period of 2 days.

Workshop I.: In order to present our objectives to the community and show the importance of Polylepis conservation and the use of Rocket stoves, we carried out a workshop with adults and children separately.

Fifteen Rocket stoves were installed: six were installed in San Miguel (in five homes and the school) and nine were installed in Janko Khala. This activity was carried out with the assistance of Energética, the NGO that provided the stoves for this project.

Activities: A one-day trip to make an inspection of the kitchens (roof, position, parapet…) and three one-day trips to install the 15 Rocket Stoves. The amount of firewood consumed per household was evaluated for the 13 households using Rocket stoves and compared to firewood consumption of 15 households with traditional stoves.

Two one-day trips for evaluation. Environmental education workshops were organized to increase awareness of the ecological services of Polylepis forests, conservation actions that people can apply, and the benefits of using Rocket stoves. At the end of the study, the effects of Rocket stoves on firewood consumption and household contamination were shown to the community’s residents to promote the use of this ecological stove.

2.2 Second-stage Design

The activities described below were completed prior to the workshop. The different materials needed for the children’s interaction in the workshop were prepared in these activities. Most activities were arranged←134 | 135→ in Switzerland by the participating students, and one was prepared by the Bolivian students.

Meetings via Skype: In order to coordinate activities, schedules, and team duties, the teams held meetings through Skype. These were scheduled beforehand with an outline of the topics for each meeting.

Reports: To ensure adequate communication and understanding throughout the meetings, each team wrote brief reports in English of what was agreed during the meetings. With these, we were able to verify that the topics had been discussed clearly and to keep track of the progress made by each team.

Photographs: Each team sent photographs of its work to record progress made on the workshop materials.

Team duties: HEP Vaud students were responsible for the workshop design and development; USIP students were in charge of gathering adequate information needed by the HEP Vaud team to design and carry out the workshop.

Upon arrival in Cochabamba, in October 2012, the HEP Vaud team joined the USIP team to visit the communities. In Ch’aqui Potrero, the workshop began with a presentation in which the HEP Vaud team showed the school children – aged 5 to 14 – how they traveled from Switzerland to Ch’aqui Potrero.

Following this activity, the Swiss students explained some relationships between the kewiña (Polylepis) and other elements in the children’s community. For this segment, the HEP team had prepared a large landscape poster with loose elements (plants, animals, etc.) that the children were to place in their proper positions. While describing these relationships, the children placed the drawings of animals, medicinal plants, and other elements onto the scenery.

For the workshop, the HEP team suggested making a jigsaw puzzle of a kewiña tree for the children to put together. To help the HEP team with the materials, the USIP team prepared the kewiña puzzle, doing so with a photograph of a tree in the community. One by one, the children put the pieces together and the Ch’aqui Potrero scenery was complete.

In the next part of the sequence, the children colored in drawings of the elements that they had seen before in the community scenery.←135 | 136→ Afterwards, they discussed the relationships again to later match them up according to their uses. For example, they would match a kewiña tree with medicine.

In the last part of the sequence, the children and the teams went to gather the appropriate kind of firewood to prepare a hot snack. This activity was used to evaluate how much the children knew about picking out the right type of firewood and using the right sizes for the ecological stoves.

The children showed what they knew about using the Rocket stoves. After gathering the correct type of firewood, they helped prepare breakfast for everyone by heating milk in the stove at school. Everyone enjoyed a snack prepared by the HEP team and the children. Afterwards, everyone gathered in the yard to sing and play.

While the workshop was carried out and the children were engaged in other activities, other members of the teams helped install 14 more stoves in the community.

To conclude the activities, the HEP team put together a video alongside people from the community in order to register their personal points of view about the Rocket stoves and how they helped them. They also discussed whether the community’s expectations of the Rocket stoves had been fulfilled, as well as whether the new stove was an asset or not, and if it had helped in the preservation of the kewiña forest.

3. Results

3.1 First-stage Results

To improve knowledge of the San Miguel and Janko Khala community members on environmental services of forests and their importance for conservation.←136 | 137→

Through workshops given to increase awareness and sensitivity towards the importance of the forests and their environmental services, the children and adults were shown the many benefits of forest conservation. The community, and especially children, learned about the uses of Polylepis trees for nutrient protection and retention, water retention and run-off control, erosion control, construction, fuel, and medicine.

To reduce the consumption of firewood in communities located near Polylepis forests, by installing Rocket stoves in their homes.

Initially, the members of the communities used large branches of Polylepis to fire up their stoves. After the workshops, they learned to substitute smaller branches of other species, like that of Eucalyptus. With this new practice, damage inflicted upon local forests will be minimized.

To reduce the soot released in home kitchens.

This objective produced an immediate positive impact for the members of the communities. A marked reduction of smoke and soot was evident inside the kitchens. Moreover, through further surveys, the residents indicated that there was an improvement in their living conditions as a result of not having smoke indoors.

A follow-up questionnaire is still pending, to be answered several months after installation.

To develop educational campaigns targeted separately at children and adults in the communities.

Through the workshops, we were able to learn that the children acquired an environmental awareness much more quickly than adults, and that the entire population was left with a deeper understanding of the natural richness that surrounds them.←137 | 138→

3.2 Second-stage Results

To develop educational workshops for the children in Ch’aqui Potrero.

The HEP Vaud and USIP teams prepared and executed a workshop for the children of Ch’aqui Potrero, which was successful in its goal of raising awareness of the importance of the Polylepis forests. This was verified by interactively evaluating the children’s knowledge of the topic after the workshop.

To reach a larger number of families with a Rocket stove in order to improve their living conditions.

Thanks to a donation of $1000, 14 more stoves were installed in the community.

To make a video of the current living conditions in the community.

The HEP Vaud team put together a video of the community, showing the current living conditions, testimonies from its members, and comments from the HEP team on the project execution.

4. Project Evaluation

4.1 Positive Aspects

Communication channels: The channels were well established and effective. Not all participants had the same proficiency in the language used for communication. Nonetheless, this problem could be overcome.

Response: Quick replies from both teams made progress smooth and reliable.←138 | 139→

Communication quality: Despite language barriers and the distance (there is a 6-hour time difference between Bolivia and Switzerland), communication was fairly clear.

Improvements from Stage 1 to Stage 2: With the exception of some lack of clarity, communication and organization throughout the project improved.

A rich cultural exchange provided a highly rewarding experience for each member of the teams.

Successful execution was shown by the community members’ increased knowledge and improved cooking practices, as well as their management of natural energy resources.

4.2 What Can Improve?

Clearer initial timetables.

New and improved strategies to overcome language barriers.

An earlier start can lead to more detailed work.

4.3 The Cultural Exchange Experience

For the Swiss students, arriving in Bolivia, and specifically in Cochabamba, meant getting in touch with a reality that they had only seen through the media like television, newspapers and magazines. Having such a close encounter, especially with the children in the communities, allowed them to see how they cope and develop as people, and how they use natural resources in these areas.

On the other hand, the Bolivian students also had very special experiences when they traveled to Lausanne, Switzerland, given that they were able to encounter new technological advances and better developed systems such as transportation and waste management in the city, having visited a wastewater treatment plant and a solid-waste disposal facility.←139 | 140→ ←140 | 141→