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From the field-Bolivia

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Javier Hurtado: Social Entrepreneur (1955-2012)

Javier HurtadoBolivia lost a visionary businessman on Aug. 27 with the untimely death of Javier Hurtado, a sociologist, author, activist, former cabinet minister and the owner and chief executive of the Irupana Andean Organic Food Company that revitalized several traditional Andean foods to appeal to health-conscious consumers. Hurtado, who received his Ph.D. in sociology from a German university, spearheaded several IAF-funded projects. The first of these, in the early 1980s, was a year-long evaluation of IAF grantee Radio San Gabriel, which served an Aymara audience scattered across the altiplano. More recently, between 2004 and 2012, Irupana collaborated with IAF grantee organizations and their farmer constituencies. The IAF’s support led to  improved infrastructure, equipment and post-harvest technology and stronger producer associations. This resulted in better quality quinoa that commanded a higher price in export markets. Irupana also supported the recovery of cañahua, a nutritious food that had been unappreciated in urban Bolivia. The final year of IAF funding saw the introduction of natural pesticides and fertilizers as an alternative to the use of chemicals on farms in the program.

Under Hurtado, Irupana became Bolivia’s leading exporter of quinoa, whose international popularity has had a substantial economic impact on well-being on the altiplano. Hurtado himself turned the classic adversarial producer-buyer relationship into a win-win partnership that benefitted each side. Through its Instituto Bartolina Sisa, Irupana developed programs to improve the quality of life for farmers as well as production and profits. This multifaceted exercise of social responsibility brought Hurtado and his stellar microindustry recognition at forums sponsored by the Grassroots Business Initiative Program of the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank. He was a regular participant in the World Economic Forum of the Davos Group. Irupana won awards for its contributions toward conservation and the development of organic coffee in Bolivia. Over many years, in the hinterland of the altiplano, in La Paz and in Washington, D.C., Hurtado shared with me his insights into and aspirations for an environmentally-sound, indigenous-led model for development for Andean communities. He always offered penetrating observation on ways to move forward with the responsible production of healthy food and with social justice. Hurtado constantly thought outside the box, challenging our basic assumptions about development, foreign aid and the effective mobilization of Andean social capital. I cherished his friendship and collegiality and I am grateful for all he shared about his beloved Bolivia. Above all, as a social entrepreneur par excellence, he demonstrated how humane and environmental values can mesh effectively with the marketplace.−Kevin Healy, IAF representative for Bolivia.