My partner José works on a sugar cane plantation near our house. He drives a tractor and cuts cane. Here he is cutting up some sugar cane to eat during a break.
He works five and a half days a week and earns 50 000 bolívares (about 32 US dollars). This, together with my babysitting job, gives us enough money to feed our family, but doesn't allow many extras. He has been told he will get some money for belonging to the army reserve, so we are waiting for that.
We bought our house with a loan from the government at low interest. We've paid it all off. It is too small for us now that we are seven, with my partner's brother also living with us. If we could afford it, we would build an extension to the house. Since we have a large lot, there is enough space.
Here I am preparing arepas, cornmeal cakes, for dinner. Angela, my 15-year-old daughter, is helping me while Ingrimar, who is 10, is watching TV.
Our TeleFood project
To earn extra money, I joined a project two years ago: raising pigs and selling the piglets. Here is the pigpen. We built it ourselves with material provided by FAO's TeleFood programme.We got zinc sheets, cement, steel bars, sand and concrete blocks. We were six in our group. The women dug the foundation and the men built the pigpen. We got five pigs, four females and one male.I heard about TeleFood from my girlfriend Santa Cedeño, who heard about it from the local office of the Ministry of Agriculture. Santa said we were going to learn how to grow pigs, to feed them cassava, corn and sugar cane that we could grow ourselves.
Our TeleFood group
This is Juan Landaeta feeding one of the pigs. We asked him to join the group because he had a large garden where we could build the pigpen.We do an equal amount of work although Juan won't help when the piglets are born. He says he can't stand the sight of blood. It doesn't bother me. Each sow has an average of eight piglets, twice a year, which we sell for 35 000 bolívares or 22 US dollars each.We learned a lot about pig raising, how to castrate them, cut their tails and to remove their incisor teeth so they can't bite the other pigs. Because the pigs are a good breed from the university, people in the settlement buy and raise them, so it has been good for the whole settlement.
Benefits from TeleFood
My daughter Eudi, who is 13, was getting headaches at school. She couldn't read the writing on the blackboard, and with books hard to find and very expensive, the students rely on being able to copy lessons from the blackboard. With the extra money from selling piglets, I took Eudi to the eye doctor for an examination and bought her eyeglasses. I had to sell two piglets to pay for it.With other TeleFood money, I have bought flu medicine and clothes for the children and things for the house.
Our children all go to school. Angela, here in a black blouse, goes to high school with José and Eudi. Ingrimar is in grade four. My partner and I also went to school and we feel it is important that our children get an education.Eudi, the one with the new glasses but who is too shy to be photographed, has exams this week - in nine subjects. She likes Spanish best, but also physical education, especially volleyball. Math is hard, but she is doing okay.
The younger children go to school in the mornings, and in the afternoon the classrooms are used by the older students. They all have lunch at school.
Once a week I take the bus to Las Vegas, the nearest town, to do my shopping. Tonight, we will have cheese and black beans, a typical Venezuelan dish. So I will buy the ingredients for that as well as more cornmeal.
As I shop for the whole week, I also buy breakfast food, oatmeal porridge and milk, and staples such as butter.Pasta is a family favourite for lunch on the weekend. I prepare it with sausage and tomatoes. We often eat yucca or potatoes.
Here I am having my blood pressure checked by the nurse at the clinic at the end of our street.Health care is good in Campo Alegre. There is a resident nurse and a doctor comes once a week from San Carlo, the nearest large town. I take the children to the clinic for their vaccinations or if they are sick.
Seven months ago I had an emergency. I had an ectopic pregnancy and had to be rushed to the hospital. I was sent by ambulance from this clinic to the hospital in San Carlo, where I was operated on.
A better life
The extra money from the TeleFood pig raising project really benefits my family. It is hard to provide things like clothes and a few extras for four children.
Without outside help we would never have had the opportunity to learn new skills or get involved in the activity at all. I enjoy the business side of pig raising too.