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Dairying in Chile

For some reason, the dairy industry has entered my radar over the last year.  I have had an enjoyable association with Dairy NZ looking at measuring impact which included a couple of visits to Hamilton New Zealand and out of left field came an invitation to visit Chile to talk about improving technology adoption in the dairy industry.

My two major work interests are agricultural extension and program evaluation and these occasions with the dairy industry provided me with terrific opportunity to pursue both areas.  For this update, I will focus on Chile.  As you would have seen in an earlier blog, we had the opportunity to travel to South America last year – but missed out on Chile, so it was rather nice to receive an invitation to visit and learn a little about what was happening in extension there.

My first stop after Santiago Airport was Osorno.  What I found was a landscape not unlike New Zealand – which I had just left!  Lakes, green pastures, snow capped mountains (including volcanos!) and lots of dairy cows!  And on top of that – quite a German culture.  Apparently the country recruited from Germany in the 1850s to develop the region that the indigenous people had abandoned after the volcanoes had erupted.  What I heard was that new settlers were given two oxen and a track of land and told to go to it!  Now, six generations later there are beautiful German farm houses built from wood, farm families speaking German as well as Spanish – and a thriving dairy industry!  Two sets of food and customs together.

After a chance to look at the lakes and eat an enjoyable meal by a lake with Daniela (my host) and her daughter, I then got down to the business of working with Cooprinsem staff to explore technology transfer issues.  Daniela, her colleague Mario and I ran four workshops with staff to look at what extension practice could offer them in better undertaking their work with farmers.  The Cooprinsem is a 42 year old company (cooperative totally farmer owned), that supplies goods and services to mainly dairy farmers and technology transfer was a key component.

Then we moved to the beautiful town of Puerto Varas to prepare for the national dairy seminar put on by the Consorcio Lechero (how is your Spanish?) which was held on the Thursday.  Speakers included a New Zealand consultant, Jeremy Savage as well as a Fonterra representative who was keen to develop the industry further for the export opportunities.

My messages related to the need to consider the adoption cycle of farmers and their context when encouraging adoption and how to approach this – as well as the need to develop national strategies and coordination between the players to achieve national targets. Daniela was very helpful in ensuring that my presentation was relevant to the mostly dairy farmers who were present – and for that I was very thankful!  I was impressed by the simultaneous translation – what gifted people!  Following the seminar, smaller workshops explored the main topics around increasing competitiveness endeavouring to determine the next steps that must be taken.  A good process I thought.

I had taken a short break to buy a watch for my wife, Robyn – she likes to have “different” watches made locally rather than mass produced.  At the hotel that night, I opened the wrapped parcel to find it empty!  I believed I had been ripped off and my new friends were concerned that it provided a bad view of Chile.  However, when I got back to shop where I bought it, I found a distraught and relieved shop owner who explained she had changed boxes because the first was broken and had wrapped up the long one – she had not slept and had rung the hotels asking if they had an Australian man staying there!  So all good!

So, that was my Chilean experience. Very interesting and eye opening and an opportunity to meet and work with some very special people.  I wonder where this job of mine will take me next?