Interview with Raul Valenzuela, YLAI 2017 Fellow: Expanding Community Gardens and Composting in Peru
Q: How have you used your YLAI experience to impact your business/organization and your community in the past year?
A: I used my YLAI experience in two ways: a) to reduce poverty in a group of extremely low-income families and b) to diversify the business model of my small composting business, which is my full-time job. We have more than 1,400 customers including houses, apartments, schools, and company dining areas.
Q: What were the best outputs you could get out of your Reverse Exchange experience and how was your community impacted?
A: First, the Reverse Exchange experience allowed me to develop our first community garden. We taught over 20 extremely low-income families a) how to make compost from food scraps (generated at homes and thrown on the streets), b) how to use the compost to start a community garden and c) how to grow healthy food. Nowadays, they keep composting and regularly selling it to my business, and they even are selling the food to other neighbors. They are generating an extra monthly income of 12%. Second, my Host helped me craft the idea of a food scraps pickup service that nowadays I have and give me over 20% of my monthly income. Thirdly, my host helped build my first semi-industrial composter that nowadays is one of my main selling products. I have a lot to thank YLAI for.
Q: Have you created any follow-up events or activities after the Reverse Exchange? How have these initiatives impacted your business/organization and community?
A: The community garden serves as an example that compost can reduce poverty, as it can grow food and become a way of extra income. Therefore, it has served me as a “product” to “sell” to companies that want to contribute to a different kind of social good. Hence, the community garden is now part of the business model of “Lima Compost”, and because of that, I keep regular contact with the neighbors of the urban community where it is located.
Q: Have you made any improvements to your business or organization since the program ended?
A: Indeed, I have. The YLAI and Reverse Exchange experience helped me boost my business. It’s my full-time job now. The YLAI experience has also helped me develop projects, services, and products that are part of my current sales.