Social Issues

Ice a prized commodity for indigenous fishermen in Peru’s Amazon region

By Carla Samon Ros

Datem del Marañon province, Peru, Sep 17 (EFE).- Solar-powered ice-making plants now stand like an oasis in the middle of the desert for two Kandozi indigenous communities in the heart of Peru’s Amazon region.

Located on the banks of the Pastaza River, the villages of San Fernando and Musa Karusha depend for their livelihoods on artisanal fishing in the Abanico del Pastaza – a massive wetlands complex in the northern Amazon province of Datem del Marañon – and on the sale of that food product in regional markets.

Fishermen in those territories return every day from work with their boats loaded with at least 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of fish, and that merchandise is then transported by river and sold in the nearby cities of Tarapoto and Yurimaguas.

Salt had mainly been used to preserve the fish due to a lack of refrigeration in those remote indigenous communities only accessible via an hours-long boat trip along the river, a reality that makes ice a coveted commodity and prized treasure there.

But since May of this year, solar-powered ice-making plants are allowing the fishermen of San Fernando and Musa Karusha to maintain the cold chain and thereby conserve and transport tons of fresh fish with greater ease and quality and at a lower cost.

“We used to bring ice from Yurimaguas, and it wouldn’t get here. It took days and days, but now we have the ice plant and it’s more profitable because there aren’t so many expenses now,” Guillermo Yumbatos, a resident of San Fernando and vice president of the Kandozi Organization of the Huitoyacu River, told Efe.

Gunter Yandari, president of an association of artisanal fishermen from Musa Karusha, said he used to bring 200 bars of ice from Yurimaguas at a price of 15 soles ($3.60) per unit, though noting that much of it had melted after a three-day trip under a blazing sun.

“We now produce 25 bars of ice a day, approximately a half-ton. It won’t be lacking anymore,” Yandari told Efe.

Those plants were installed thanks to support from the Fund for the Promotion of Peru’s Natural Resources (Profonanpe), a private environmental fund that provided each community with 120 solar panels and a plant that produces 500 kg of consumable ice every eight hours.

“The panels capture solar energy, and with energy converters we obtain 10,000 watts that we use to produce ice. We pump water into the tanks and purify it with a sand filter and another carbon one,” Bertha Huiñapi, a Profonanpe biologist who is in charge of the plant in San Fernando, told Efe.

One day’s worth of ice production enables the preservation of one ton of fish, which is later transported by boat inside refrigerated boxes that keep the product fresh for up to seven days.

Yet after all that effort, fresh fish at market stalls is piled up on aluminum tables with no refrigeration.

“The engineer from the ministry wants us to put ice on top, but if we do that people don’t buy from us. They don’t want it,” one seller, Adela Seijas, told Efe while trying to shoo away dozens of flies. EFE


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