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The bridge to economic progress
On the banks of the Madre de Dios river in the Peruvian jungle, lies Puerto Maldonado. The lives of this sleepy town’s some 100,000 inhabitants changed radically six years ago when Peru’s longest bridge (723 metres) was inaugurated. The bridge connects the Brazilian and Peruvian ends of Interoceanic Highway, which runs from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts.
One of the businesses that has benefited from the economic growth of the town is that of the Pacheco family. “My father started a slaughterhouse in 2001. At the time, there was fierce competition and circumstances were difficult. However, a few years ago, the government tightened the regulations governing slaughterhouses. As a result, slaughterhouses in this region started closing down one after another. I began to fear that my father’s business would not meet the stricter requirements either and so went online in search of assistance. I was inspired by one of PUM’s TedTalks to visit its website,” says Paul.
Difficult working conditions
Soon afterwards, PUM expert Nol Nieuwenhuis travelled to Puerto Maldonado. Nol: “I have seen many slaughterhouses in my life, but I was nevertheless shocked by the situation I found there. According to European standards, it would not even be called a slaughterhouse. Farmers simply dropped by throughout the day and paid to have their cows and pigs slaughtered. Business averaged around 300 head of livestock a week. Then came a legion of buyers who strolled among the carcasses to select the choice cuts. The hygienic conditions in which slaughter, work and processing took place left much to be desired. Furthermore, the wrong sorts of materials were used, such as wood, which is of course difficult to keep clean. The conditions in which the ten employees had to work were difficult to say the least.”
Nol identified various areas for improvement which could be tackled relatively easily and required only small investments. Topics such as cleaning schedules, how to disinfect the room, the replacement of materials, and the repair of broken wall and floor tiles all came up for discussion. Long-term recommendations were also issued, such as the purchase of a plant to treat the slaughterhouse’s waste water.
‘PUM provided us with absolutely crucial and essential support.’
During the years that followed, father and son Pacheco worked hard to implement the recommendations issued by PUM expert Nol Nieuwenhuis. Paul: “We invested in new equipment and stuck faithfully to Nol’s cleaning schedule. We erected a glass curtain wall which allows the buyers to select the meat they require without actually entering the slaughterhouse.” Paul also proudly explains about the employees’ facilities: “We constructed separate changing and shower rooms, as well as building a “comedor” at some distance from the slaughterhouse.” Paul Pacheco’s wife, Martha, cooks delicious fresh meals for all employees in this canteen each day. The canteen premises are also used to provide training to the current slaughterhouse workforce of 25. Paul: “PUM provided us with absolutely crucial and essential support. We have implemented all the recommendations made during Nol’s visit in 2012, and quite successfully too. Frigorifico Manu is currently the only slaughterhouse left operating in Puerto Maldonado and the surrounding area.”
Business is booming. It slaughters around 2,000 cattle and pigs per month for the local and regional markets. Now that the town’s accessibility has improved, we have also begun to explore the possibilities of exporting to neighbouring countries. The cowhides are salted, refrigerated and transported to Arequipa, where Paul’s sibling, Elmer, runs a tannery.
Waste water purification
The remaining point to be addressed was the treatment of the slaughterhouse’s waste water. Johan Janssen, an expert in the field of waste water treatment, visited the site last year. Johan: “Now that the slaughter volumes have increased, the way in which the waste water was previously treated using a basin is no longer adequate. The basin simply overflowed, allowing unfiltered waste water to run into the lake”. Johan Janssen examined the existing situation, established which regulations were applicable in this field in Peru, and carried out research into both the possibilities of resolving the issue and the equipment required. This ultimately led to the purchase of a first stage water treatment plant (a curved screen) which was partly financed by the Hans Blankert Fund (PUM’s fund for small-scale investments). The machinery purchased in the Netherlands was recently shipped – via the Interoceanic Highway – to the business in Puerto Maldonado, where it will shortly be put into operation.